According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the rate of truck crashes and fatalities has begun to increase. In 2011, 3,757 people died in collisions with trucks. Nearly three times as many people die in truck accidents as die in aviation, boating and railroad accidents combined. The nearly 11 million trucks that travel U.S. roads each year make up only 4.7 percent of all passenger vehicles, yet are involved in 12.4 percent of all fatal crashes. Fatalities (per miles driven) are 17 percent higher for trucks than for passenger vehicles.
This escalating safety issue is driven by an economic model that is fundamentally unsound. Truck drivers – compensated by miles driven, not hours worked – are pushed to ignore safety measures, delay repairs and drive in a fatigued state.
Despite the significant and increasing amount of money devoted to trucking inspection, the task of reducing the risks from dangerous trucks is proving too much for regulators. There are simply too many dangers for inspectors to catch.
The civil justice system is vital in holding negligent trucking companies accountable, and provides compensation to those killed or injured by unsafe trucks. However, archaic insurance rules undermine the economic incentives to safety provided by the courts. The insurance market itself is unable to function properly – offering lower premiums to safe companies and higher premiums to companies with dangerous histories – because outdated minimum insurance levels keep premiums artificially low for even the most dangerous companies.
As the number and size of trucks on U.S. roads grows, so does the danger to other road users. Fundamental, market-based change is needed if thousands of innocent people are not to die in vain.
- Nearly three times as many people die in truck accidents as die in aviation, boating, and railroad accidents combined.
- 3,757 people died in trucking accidents in the U.S. in 2011.
- In addition to the number of trucks on the road, the size of trucks on the road is set to increase- some will be longer than a Boeing 737 and weigh 20 times more than the average passenger vehicle.
- Long hours take a toll on drivers. Driver fatigue is the leading contributing factor in truck driver death cases and 20% of drivers have admitted to dozing at the wheel at least once a month.
- More than 28,000 trucking companies with safety violations operate on U.S. roads.
- In April of 2014, the FMCSA released a report to Congress that concluded the costs of injuries and fatalities arising from crashes far exceed the minimum insurance levels interstate operators are required to carry.
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