The U.S. trucking industry’s safety record is much improved from decades ago. Legislation in the 1980s required more roadside inspections and gave states money to carry most of those out — and that was even before technological improvements made trucks much safer.
Yet, fatal crashes involving large trucks in the United States increased 42 percent from 2009-2017.
The boost in traffic deaths related to big trucks comes despite the use of high-technology safety features and the most comprehensive oversight focused on the trucking industry to date.
The trend of more truck fatalities despite stricter oversight has officials wondering why, especially after a fiery truck crash that killed multiple drivers reported by The Denver Post.
In 2017, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a jump of 42 percent over the 3,432 in 2009, according to the National Traffic Safety Administration.
Boost in truck inspections
Federal and state agencies responsible for supervising about 3.5 million roadside inspections of large trucks each year began rolling out the most sophisticated system ever used in the U.S. to track mechanical and safety violations nationwide. Colorado was among the earliest participants at the beginning of stricter oversight of large trucks.
This has helped authorities to crack down on the most egregious repeat offenders to try to reduce big-truck risks on the roads.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), a U.S. government agency, helps state troopers in Colorado and in other states with a truck inspection monitoring system. The system tells state police, whether at weigh stations or during traffic stops, which drivers or companies have red flags that require more frequent inspections.
FMCSA data showed that 58,474 roadside inspections of varying intensity were performed in Colorado during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, most of which were done by state police. Colorado State Police said its truck inspections have increased by more than 90 percent since 2009.
In nearly a quarter of the inspections in 2018, trucks were sidelined until violations were fixed. Sidelining ranged from minutes to days, the FMCSA said.
Still, while the number of fatal crashes in Colorado was down slightly in 2017, fatal crashes more than doubled in the Centennial State from 2009-2017, from 35 to 80. Those wrecks killed 87 people.
Driver error is a leading factor in truck crashes
Despite the extra oversight, the total number of fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses in the U.S. hit its highest total in 10 years, 5,005 in 2017. The last time the total entered the 5,000-range was in 2007, when it reached 5,116.
Driver error is the prevailing factor in most crashes. That includes errors by drivers of cars involved in truck crashes, not just truck drivers.
The reasons for that, in the review of why there are more truck fatalities despite stricter oversight, are familiar ones: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving recklessly or focusing on phones instead of the road.
Officials’ review of deaths involving large trucks includes a search for answers related to a deadly Colorado crash on April 25, 2019.
Four people were killed after an “an apparently out-of-control semi-trailer” plowed into more than two dozen stopped vehicles on Interstate 70 in Jefferson County in Colorado. Before the crash, Houston truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos told police he lost his ability to brake while coming down I-70’s steep mountain descent into the city. It could have been due to mechanical failure, as his attorney said, or improper use that caused the brakes to overheat, which experts say is more often the case.
Contact The Herrera Law Firm today if you've been injured in a truck or car accident, or for help with other personal injury and oil rig cases.