Large truck crashes continue to take a deadly toll across the U.S.

In recent years, deadly large truck accidents have increased across the nation, and reports suggest that this trend may not reverse in the near future.

Today it's not uncommon to see headlines about large truck accidents. Many people in Kansas City may think this is largely due to the nature of these accidents, which often result in catastrophic or fatal injuries. However, data indicates these stories may be becoming more prominent because these accidents are occurring more frequently.

CNBC reported in 2014 that fatal large truck accidents have increased since 2009, even while fatal passenger vehicle accidents have fallen. Sadly, underlying factors that are unlikely to change in coming years may be driving this deadly trend.

Alarming accident rates

According to CNBC, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data indicates deadly truck accidents occur about 11 times daily. Each year, these accidents claim 4,000 lives and cause over 100,000 injuries across the country.

From 2009 to 2012, the number of fatal truck accidents rose 18 percent. The improving economy is one potential reason for this change. However, FMCSA data shows that the number of trucks and miles those trucks traveled actually decreased during the same years. This means that other factors most likely contributed to the increase in fatal accidents.

Many preventable vehicle or driver issues can cause truck accidents. These include equipment malfunctions, poor vehicle maintenance and driver distraction, impairment or fatigue. The following data suggests that these issues may be fairly common:

  • In 2012, over 2.1 million trucks - or over one-fifth of all trucks - were removed from service due to FMCSA safety violations.
  • The same year, over 170,000 drivers were taken out of service for the same reason.
  • According to estimates from one industry trade association, just 10 percent of trucks employ active safety technology to mitigate accident risk.

Alarmingly, reports indicate that many known truck accident risk factors may persist in coming months or years, leaving innocent drivers in danger.

Unresolved risk factors

Ongoing shortages of experienced drivers may create a heightened risk of truck accidents. According to CNBC, freight tonnage is expected to increase significantly through 2025. The trucking industry may have to hire as many as 100,000 new drivers annually to meet demand. With more inexperienced drivers on the road, the risk of accidents may increase sharply.

Driver fatigue is another variable that often contributes to truck accidents. Unfortunately, lawmakers recently suspended an FMCSA regulation designed to address this issue. The regulation required drivers to log two overnight rest periods during their weekly "restart periods." This requirement effectively limited drivers to working 70-hour weeks. Now, drivers may work more without resting during the hours when their body clocks demand sleep.

The rule suspension is only effective until September 2015, and proponents believe it could offer safety benefits. CNBC explains that flexible rest schedules let truckers drive at night and avoid daytime congestion, which could lead to fewer accidents. However, the rule suspension could also lead to more accidents involving fatigued drivers.

The risk in Missouri

Data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol indicates that injuries and fatalities from commercial motor vehicle accidents decreased overall from 2005 to 2012. Still, more fatal crashes were reported in 2011 and 2012 than in 2009 and 2010, reflecting the national trend. During 2011 and 2012, a total of 233 lives were lost in these accidents.

Legal recourse may be available to people who have been hurt because of negligence on the part of drivers or trucking companies. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in such an accident should consider consulting with an attorney about legal options.

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