Freight traffic on the highways is at an all-time high, with 15 million commercial trucks transporting 70 percent of goods each year.
But will all of that traffic, the United States has seen an increase of 20 percent in truck-related crashes in the past ten years and these crashes are at their highest rate in 29 years. Traffic accidents involving trucks kill approximately 4,000 people each year.
Traffic crashes, in general, have seen a decrease, but crashes involving trucks have seen an increase.
A Traffic Causation Study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA) over a 33-month period studied the reasons behind, and factors involved in 120,000 truck-related crashes. The survey found driver error, particularly fatigue, to be a primary reason behind a majority of the accidents.
Truck driver error
The study found that driver exhaustion was the main contributing reason in truck accidents. Commercial drivers are under pressure to meet strict delivery deadlines and often operate their vehicle without adequate rest in order to make the timeline. Federal regulations are in place to prevent truck driver fatigue, like limiting the number of hours they can spend on the road in a single day, but the rules aren’t always followed.
Excessive speed is also a factor in crashes, as unrealistic schedules incent drivers to hurry.
In addition to fatigue and speed, the study categorized the four main areas of driver error that contributed to 87 percent of truck-related accidents:
- Non-performance. The driver fell asleep at the wheel or was impaired by a medical condition.
- Recognition. The driver was distracted.
- Performance. The driver panicked or overcompensated.
- Decision. The driver was following too closely or misjudged the speed of others.
With truck travel and freight demands on the increase, truck crashes and the resulting fatalities are likely to continue. Truck drivers are often at fault in truck-related motor vehicle crashes, but sadly many of these fatalities involve occupants in the passenger vehicles. When sharing the road with commercial haulers, use extreme caution and give them the space they need.