Even if you do not drive much, you likely already know that accidents involving large trucks can often have fatal results, as the aftermath of such accidents are regularly featured in news stories across the nation. In a recent example right here in West Virginia, a tractor-trailer truck carrying coal ash struck another truck on Interstate 64 on Christmas Eve. As a result of the collision, I-64 was closed for four hours. Tragically, one of the drivers was killed.
Sadly, such fatal truck accidents are not a rarity, according to a report recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, the report found, that the number of such accidents increased over previous years in 2012 (the latest year where data is available). According to the report, the number of people killed in truck accidents nationwide increased to 3,921, which is an increase of 140 from the year before.
Unexpectedly, the report did not find that the increase in fatalities can solely be attributed to more drivers of automobiles and smaller vehicles being killed in truck accidents, as one may expect. Instead, the NHTSA's report uncovered that more truck drivers are being killed in accidents as well. The report found that the number of large truck drivers killed in accidents increased from 640 to 697 during 2012.
To address the problem of fatal truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that regulates trucking safety, has identified several possible causes and has implemented or proposed regulations that it believes would reduce the number of truck accidents.
For several years, fatigue among truck drivers has been blamed for truck accidents. Due to the time demands inherent in a long-haul trucking job, the agency believed many drivers were sacrificing sleep to meet their delivery deadlines. To address this concern, the FMCSA changed the hours of service regulations last year. Under the new rules, drivers may work no more than 70 hours per week and must have an uninterrupted 34-hour rest period once this limit has been met. As these rules only recently went into effect, it is too soon to see whether they are effective at reducing truck accident fatalities.
In addition to driver fatigue, the FMCSA has identified speeding as a leading cause of truck accidents. As a result, it has proposed regulations that would require trucking companies to install speed limiters on their trucks, which the agency hopes will reduce the number of speed-related truck accidents.
Finally, the FMCSA has determined that drug and alcohol use is a major cause of trucking accidents. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, about 35 percent of truck drivers killed in accidents have alcohol or illegal drugs (e.g. marijuana or amphetamines) in their systems. Currently, the FMCSA has not proposed regulations to curb the problem, but there is bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would allow hair testing for truck drivers' drug testing. This type of testing is more accurate, as it allows testers to identify regular drug users that would otherwise pass the urine test that is currently required.
Consult an attorney
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, you may face a long period of hospitalization and rehabilitation, as well as the staggering medical bills that accompany it. An experienced personal injury attorney can work to ensure that you receive adequate compensation from the responsible party for your injuries.