The U.S. trucking industry continues to grow despite the “I needed it yesterday” mindset of the 21st century. It is a fact that 70% of all goods spend time in the back of a truck, which means that business is good for trucking lines and fleets. Unfortunately, it also means a shortage of drivers, and those working have tighter schedules than ever as they try to cover the work. According to industry experts, there was a 52% rise in truck crashes, and 74% of all motor vehicle fatalities involve large trucks killing drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles. Crunching these numbers and watching trends, they predict that truck collisions with smaller vehicles will become the fifth most common cause of death by 2030.

Driver error is a leading cause

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a 33-month in-depth study examining 963 cases pulled from 120,000 severe or fatal crashes involving 141,000 large trucks. Three common conclusions were:

  • Speeding: This caused 23% of all truck-related accidents, often related to driving too fast for the road conditions. Moreover, speeding big rigs are 670% more likely to cause injury than those driving at appropriate or posted speeds.
  • Braking: Nearly one-third (29%) of all crashes involved braking problems. It translates to a 170% increased likelihood that brakes (often poorly adjusted or incorrectly applied) were the primary reason for crashes.
  • Not knowing the route: Trucking drivers don’t drive the same route as much, relying on navigation technology to safely get them there. Twenty-two percent of crashes involved unprepared for a hazard (such as a problematic turn or steep hill) on the route. Drivers are twice as likely to get in a crash on an unknown road versus a known one.

Crashes often involve complex issues

The causes of the crashes seem straightforward, but the large size and complexity of the trucks, their impact in a collision with smaller vehicles and the often severe injuries resulting from these crashes involve many lethal variables. There are also a growing but stretched $600 billion trucking industry and insurance carriers reluctant to pay out the necessary large settlements for damages. It’s a complex and interlocking set of issues that often force victims and their families to get help.