Any commercial truck accident can be fatal. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2020, over 4,000 deaths occurred due to large truck crashes.
But when do most of these truck accidents occur? The truck and tractor-trailer accident lawyers at Blackburn Romey are here to give you insight into why tractor-trailer accidents are so prevalent in Indiana.
Most weekday large truck fatalities occur on Thursdays, with a total of 6,618 crashes taking place between 2011-2020. At this point in the week, truck drivers are fatigued from traveling, resulting in an uptick in crashes.
Most truck accidents occur during the day, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the peak time for truck drivers to be on the road. Unfortunately, these times correlate with rush hour and school drop-off and release times.
While data clearly shows that the highest number of fatal crashes involving drunk drivers increases on the weekends, these are accidents related to passenger car operators. The vast majority of these accidents do not involve commercial truck drivers.
In a recent year, the FMCSA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the large truck causation study. This study analyzed 963 crashes, involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles. Each crash involved at least one large truck and resulted in at least one fatality or injury.
The following ten factors were identified as major causes of truck accidents:
The majority of accidents examined in the sample were attributed to driver errors. This could include anything from unfamiliarity with the roads, speeding, lack of judgment, or fatigue.
The secondary causes of the truck accidents often involve mechanical failure and adverse road conditions. Truck drivers’ abilities to handle these situations also determine the severity of the crashes.
Tractor-trailers have a greater chance of crashing as opposed to passenger vehicles. A semi-truck with an empty trailer can weigh 35,000 pounds, while a truck that is fully loaded can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.
Besides a tractor-trailer’s weight, most trucks are 72 feet long and 102 inches (8 feet, 6 inches) wide. Considering its sheer size, a large truck is unable to stop at a moment’s notice. In fact, a large truck traveling at 65 miles per hour may take up to two football fields (200 yards) to come to a complete stop if it is carrying a fully-loaded trailer.
Unlike passenger cars, an 18-wheeler is comprised of the cab and trailer, which can become disconnected from one another under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
Due to a commercial truck’s sheer size, it is more prone to crashes.
The most common types of 18-wheeler crashes are:
Commercial truck drivers have special protocols that they must follow. Truck drivers must adhere to the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The HOS regulations restrict how many hours a truck driver can be on the road. Regulations are different depending on if a driver is carrying cargo or passengers.
Commercial truck drivers are required to track their driving time and breaks. All time is documented in a logbook. By tracking their hours, drivers are documenting when they are “off-duty,” “on-duty,” and when they are resting (documented in the logbook as using the “sleeper berth”). “On-duty” time means that the driver is completing additional tasks but not operating behind the wheel.
Drivers transporting cargo, known as property-carrying drivers, are restricted to driving a maximum of 11 hours after being off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. In the event of bad weather or adverse road conditions, drivers are allowed to extend their driving time by up to two hours.
Although the FMCSA puts these parameters into place, commercial truck drivers are still obligated to reach their destinations in a certain amount of time. In order to deliver items on time, truckers consistently drive at dangerous speeds, putting others’ lives in danger.
If a truck driver violates the hours-of-operation (HOS) regulations, they can face serious consequences.
The FMCSA imposes civil fines for commercial drivers who violate HOS regulations. The penalty for any violation can range from $1,000 to $16,000. If a truck driver commits a hazardous waste violation, the fine could be upwards of $75,000.
A string of violations could affect a commercial truck driver’s compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score. A low CSA score could result in higher insurance premiums and more frequent audits from the Department of Transportation (DOT).
A commercial truck driver is required to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). According to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, a driver that has a CDL is allowed to operate a vehicle with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more.
CDL operators are permitted to drive vehicles that are intended to carry 16 or more passengers and/or hazardous waste materials.
Which Counties in Indiana Have the Highest Truck Fatalities?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the following ten counties in Indiana had the highest truck fatalities in 2020*:
*These fatality statistics are per 100,000 people.
In Indiana, speeding large trucks came in sixth on the list of vehicles involved in collisions. In 2020, large trucks made up 3.6% of all vehicles involved in collisions in Indiana.
When reviewing injury statistics in 18-wheeler crashes, 192.4 injuries per occupants occurred in speeding trucks versus 41.5 injuries per occupants in trucks following the posted speed limits. These injury rates were per 1,000 vehicle occupants.
Data sampled from 2016-2020 demonstrates that per 1,000 persons involved in speed-related collisions, fatalities dramatically increased in 2020.
Clearly, a speeding truck is at a high risk of getting into an accident. When any vehicle operator is speeding, he or she loses maximum control of the vehicle. Taking into account less than ideal road conditions, having a lead foot can have dire consequences.
Depending on the circumstances, a truck driver may be responsible for an accident. If either party involved in the crash did not exhibit reasonable care, they may be found ultimately responsible. In order to prove liability, the following elements of negligence must be satisfied:
Although the trucker may have caused the accident, the truck driver’s employer also may be held responsible for the collision. Since the trucker was working under the scope of his or her employment, responsibility falls on the employer. This is known as vicarious liability.
In some cases, blame for the accident may be shared by more than one party. For instance, if a driver was speeding but there was a defect with one of the brakes, both the driver and the truck manufacturer may share responsibility for the crash.
Studies show that more truck fatalities happen on Thursdays. Although many of these crashes are due to truckers’ poor decisions behind the wheel, you should not have to pay the price.
A tractor-trailer accident can be catastrophic, but your losses should not be. If you have been the victim of a truck and tractor-trailer accident, contact us today.