Truck Accidents on the Rise Nationwide
Recently two men died in a Charlotte trucking accident when their street-sweeping truck reportedly skidded off Interstate-77 before sunrise one rainy Sunday morning. The truck careened into a cluster of trees, and The Charlotte Observer reports it was several hours before the truck was discovered.
The tragic crash highlights a troubling upward trend in trucking accidents in North Carolina and throughout the country, according to the latest report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency reports there were 4,311 large truck and buses involved in deadly crashes in 2015, which is an 8 percent uptick as compared to a year earlier. What's more, it's a 26 percent spike in the number of fatal crashes involving these larger vehicles (those weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds) since just 2009. Granted, 2009 was a marked low from the peak in the last two decades of 5,231 in 2005.
But the figures do tend to show travel with these trucks and buses is more dangerous than ever. Specifically when officials looked at deadly crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, there was an increase of 1.7 percent, from 0.138 to 0.140.
What's more, there was a 62 percent increase in the number of large truck and bus crashes resulting in serious personal injury from 2009 to 2015. This is despite the fact that vehicle miles traveled by trucks increased just 0.3 percent. The total number of police-reported truck accidents that year was 415,000, meaning about 1 percent resulted in a death. About 20 percent, or approximately 83,000, resulted in some kind of injury.
As far as fatal bus crashes go, the breakdown of dangers was this:
- Intercity buses - 13 percent
- School buses - 41 percent
- Transit buses - 33 percent
Obviously with larger vehicles, there is the potential for more damages. That's why the FMCSA imposes such stringent regulations on drivers and carriers of large trucks and buses. Operators must obtain special licensing, are required to abide certain federal hours of service rules and can be penalized severely for infractions that might usually be minor had the offense been committed by a passenger car driver.
It's also one of the reasons trucking companies have been very calculated in the way they structure their organizations. One of the primary goals is to limit their liability in the event of a serious trucking accident. That's why many truck drivers are independent contractors, as opposed to employees of the trucking company.
As far as crash types, about 20 percent of all deadly crashes were single-vehicle but involved a bicyclist, pedestrian or other non-motorized vehicle. The majority of truck accidents (about 65 percent) were two-vehicle crashes, with those in the other vehicle (most usually a passenger car) taking on the brunt of property damage, injuries and fatalities.
While we tend to think of highways as being the most dangerous places for trucks, the federal researchers found that 6 out of 10 fatal truck crashes happened on rural roads. By comparison, about 25 percent happened on interstate highways.
Most serious crashes occurred during the day, which does make sense as this tends to be when there are more vehicles sharing the road, particularly during morning and evening rush hours.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that in 2015, there were more than 7,250 accidents involving large trucks in the state, and another 1,639 bus accidents (half of those involving school buses). Of those, 93 were fatal.
Because truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, we encourage anyone injured in these instances to immediately seek counsel from an experienced injury lawyer who can help maximize the potential for damages.