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Commercial Truck Accidents Increasing at an Alarming Rate Nationwide

Experts In This Article

The trucking industry plays an integral role in the U.S. economy. Truck transport frequently represents the most efficient and cost-effective way to carry goods and materials. Today, almost 70 percent of all products in the U.S. reach their destination by truck.

Yet, while trucking provides numerous benefits, it is not without risks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), commercial truck accidents have risen almost 50 percent over the past decade. And every year, those crashes devastate the lives of injured victims and families who lose loved ones.

In this blog, we look at the alarming rise in truck accidents. We explore the data, common causes of commercial truck accidents, and the role a knowledgeable truck accident attorney can play in curtailing that trend by helping injured victims and grieving families fight for justice and financial compensation.

Commercial Truck Accident Statistics – The Troubling Data

Commercial Truck Accidents

Due to their sheer weight and size, commercial trucks tend to cause catastrophic damage when they crash. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 4,100 Americans die in large truck accidents every year one death every 15 minutes. Truck occupants account for about 16 percent of those deaths, passenger vehicle occupants comprise 67 percent of them, and bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians make up the remainder.

According to FMCSA reporting, the number of fatal and injury-causing large truck crashes has risen steadily over the past decade, an alarming trend that represents a reversal from what had been a downward trajectory.

Today, according to IIHS, the data on commercial truck accidents reflects that:

  • Approximately 130,000 individuals suffer injuries every year due to a truck accident.
  • Around 11 percent of all motor vehicle deaths occur because of a large truck crash.
  • Almost 74 percent of deaths in large truck crashes involve tractor-trailers, while the rest involve single-unit trucks.
  • Around 51 percent of deaths in large crashes occur on major roads other than freeways and interstates, 34 percent occur on interstates and freeways, and 15 percent occur on minor roads.
  • The number of 18-wheeler crashes has increased in the past few years, despite a general decline in automobile accidents.

By any measure, these statistics demonstrate that commercial truck accidents have become a serious health and safety hazard on U.S. roads, with the heaviest toll falling on innocent crash victims and their loved ones.

What’s behind the nationwide rise in commercial trucking accidents?

Trucks have traveled U.S. roads since shortly after the advent of automobiles. And the trucking industry as we currently know it has existed for decades. But if truck transport is nothing new, what accounts for the alarming rise in commercial truck accidents in recent years? Here’s what we think might explain at least some of the recent trends.

Aging Truckers and Rising Demand

The trucking industry is currently mired in a decade-long labor crisis resulting from two clashing trends. First, the workforce itself is aging. The average age of a commercial trucker is significantly higher than the average age of a generic American worker. An older workforce translates into higher retirement rates, more time lost to health issues, and a growing number of drivers whose skills are past their peak.

At the same time, demand for trucking services has exploded, driven by the economy’s shift away from brick-and-mortar retailers to online shopping. Increasingly, the trucking industry must deliver goods individually to consumers’ doorsteps instead of in bulk to shopping centers. That means more cargo to carry, more routes to run, tighter schedules, and long shifts for trucking companies and their employees.

In other words, a growing proportion of the trucking workforce is nearing retirement age at the wrong moment. Just when the commercial trucking industry needs more experienced drivers than ever, increasing numbers have begun to age out of their jobs.

Pressure to Hire Inexperienced and Unqualified Drivers

Trucking companies faced with this state of affairs have no choice but to recruit new drivers. But the industry has struggled to attract sufficient numbers of younger drivers. Commercial truck operators blame regulations for part of that difficulty.

The minimum age to drive a truck in interstate commerce (across state lines) is 21, which means commercial trucking firms cannot recruit new drivers straight out of high school. Instead, it must convince newly eligible workers to leave their current jobs and consider trucking.

But the industry also has itself to blame. It reportedly struggles to retain the drivers it hires. And the industry has lagged in making itself attractive for female drivers, who make only a tiny percentage of the truck driving workforce. Any company recruiting from only half the potential labor pool is bound to struggle with filling open positions.

As a consequence, commercial truck operators feel mounting pressure to hire inexperienced drivers or to otherwise dial back their minimum hiring qualifications. Companies also have growing incentives to limit the amount of time they spend training drivers and to instead send them out on the road as soon as possible to meet the ever-rising demand.

Overloaded and Crumbling Infrastructure

Commercial trucks need roads on which to travel. More than a half-century ago, the federal government invested massively in building the interstate highway system, which spurred exponential growth in truck transport. But that infrastructure is now showing its age, and in many instances, it’s buckling.

In many large urban areas, highways and major arterial roads no longer have sufficient capacity to handle traffic volumes. In other areas, road surfaces, bridges, and highway overpasses have begun to crack and crumble and are no longer safe.

Inadequate infrastructure doesn’t just impede the flow of commercial truck traffic. It also causes extra wear and tear on trucks and their parts. Rough, busy roads lead to more truck tire blowouts, brake failures, and other mechanical difficulties.

The Result: A Perfect Storm for Commercial Truck Accidents

Viewing these converging factors together, you can see why truck accidents have steadily risen in recent years.

Virtually every aspect of commercial trucking has seen a trend toward less safety and more accident risk:

  • Aging truckers have a higher likelihood of making mistakes or becoming fatigued behind the wheel, just as the demands of their jobs are spiking.
  • Inexperienced and unqualified truckers who are prone to errors simply because they have not spent enough time on the road are driving more hours than ever.
  • The roads commercial trucks travel are getting more crowded and are in worse shape than ever in the nation’s history.

To put it bluntly, not only is it hardly surprising that truck accidents continue to rise, but there’s also little reason to feel optimistic about the situation improving in the foreseeable future, without substantial pressure being placed on the trucking industry, government agencies, and other stakeholders.

How Legal Liability Can Help Slow the Rise in Commercial Truck Accidents

Stemming the rising tide of commercial truck accidents nationwide calls for responses on multiple fronts. The trucking industry must take affirmative steps to shore up the training and experience of its workforce. Policymakers, too, must do what they can to enforce regulations and to improve conditions on the nation’s roads.

The pressure for those stakeholders to act, however, must come from accident victims themselves through the efforts of their truck accident injury attorneys. By forcing at-fault truckers, trucking companies, government agencies, and others to bear the direct costs of their negligence that leads to truck crashes, victims and their attorneys supply the necessary pressure that will drive much-needed safety improvements and reforms forward.

Here’s how it works. Under the laws of every state, anyone who causes a truck accident through careless or reckless conduct will typically face legal and financial accountability to the accident’s injured victims. Lawyers for those victims hold the at-fault parties accountable by investigating accidents, building strong cases, and taking legal action on their clients’ behalf, demanding payment for crash-related injuries and losses.

In the long run, the prospect of owning up to the steep costs inflicted by dangerous commercial trucking practices and road conditions will create the incentive those parties need to clean up their acts. But without that pressure, nothing will change, and innocent commercial truck accident victims will continue to suffer from worsening conditions on the nation’s roads.

The nationwide rise in commercial truck accidents will only stop if enough victims of those crashes—with the help of experienced commercial truck accident attorneys—demand and secure payment for the harm they have suffered.

Potential Compensation for Commercial Truck Accidents

In many cases, the law entitles victims of commercial truck accidents to receive significant financial compensation from the parties at fault.

With the help of a skilled attorney, a commercial truck accident victim can often recover payment for:

  • Past, current, and future medical expenses related to treating a truck accident injury and any resulting health complications, including costs of hospital stay, doctor visits, surgeries, prescription medications, and physical therapy
  • Other expenses that truck accident victims would not have incurred if the crash hadn’t happened, including costs of repairing and replacing damaged property and of paying for services to help with daily activities like childcare and transportation
  • Lost wages that the victim did not earn as a result of getting hurt in a commercial truck accident and missing work, including the value of paid-time-off days used
  • Lost future income that the victim likely will not earn because of injuries suffered in the truck crash, such as when injuries cause a disability that prevents the victim from working
  • Pain and suffering damages, which compensate the victim for discomfort, mental health challenges, inconvenience, loss of quality of life, and harm to intimate relationships resulting from the crash and the injuries the victim suffered in it

In addition, depending on the circumstances of the commercial truck crash, a skilled attorney may secure punitive damages, which punish at-fault parties for extreme or intentionally harmful actions and deter others from committing these acts. Likewise, in some cases, statutory damages—payments required for a violation of a statute—may also supply additional compensation to a victim.

In the tragic case of a commercial truck crash causing the death of a victim, the victim’s surviving spouse and/or family members may also have the right to pursue financial compensation for their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit.

How an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a commercial truck crash, the most reliable way to obtain financial compensation and to do your part to slow the rising trend of truck accidents is to hire an experienced commercial truck accident attorney.

The attorney’s role is to take the necessary steps to hold the at-fault parties in your case legally and financially accountable to you for the physical, emotional, and financial harm you suffered.

Those services may include:

  • Investigating the truck accident to determine how it happened and to identify all parties who may owe you compensation
  • Evaluating your injuries and losses to determine the appropriate amount of compensation to demand on your behalf in a legal action
  • Answering your questions and providing you with guidance in making important decisions relating to your finances, insurance coverage, legal rights, and medical care
  • Preparing and filing the necessary paperwork to initiate legal actions demanding compensation on your behalf
  • Appearing in court on your behalf to fight for your rights to compensation
  • Negotiating with defense lawyers and insurance companies on your behalf to secure a favorable financial settlement of your claim
  • Collecting money due to you through a settlement, judgment, or jury award

By providing you with some or all these important legal services as appropriate for your case, a skilled attorney can put you in the strongest possible position to obtain maximum financial compensation from the parties at fault for your truck accident-related injuries and losses. And by holding those parties accountable, you can keep the pressure on the trucking industry and policymakers to make the changes necessary to keep our roads safe.

Contact a skilled commercial truck accident attorney today for a free case evaluation.

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