Semi-Truck Accidents: An Overview
Commercial trucking, an industry that’s integral to the success of the American economy, touches our lives on a daily basis. From the groceries we eat, to the household items we use, to the gasoline powering our cars, most products are transported in large semi-trucks. Fortunately, most trucking companies exercise sound judgment in maintaining their trucks and running their businesses. Similarly, most truck drivers are courteous, hard-working professionals. We’re all grateful for their contributions to society.
Unfortunately, however, some trucking companies have been known to take short-cuts that negatively impact truck safety. Additionally, on some occasions, truck drivers are reckless, negligent, or lack proper training. When trucking companies and their drivers cause motor vehicle accidents, the results can be catastrophic. Due to the size, height, and weight of large semi-trucks, the magnitude of the injuries and property damage can be increased significantly. In this article, we’ll provide some illuminating statistics on truck crashes, which help illustrate why those who fail to meet their responsibilities in this industry must be held accountable for their actions.
Important Truck Crash Reporting Requirements
Both federal and state laws have mandatory truck crash reporting requirements. These reports allow the government to carefully track and regulate this dangerous industry. Specifically, federal law requires a report to be filed any time a truck crash results in a death, injury, or disabling damage to a vehicle. Oregon law requires truck drivers to file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report following an accident resulting in any of the following:
- Truck damage exceeding $1,500;
- Physical injury, even if minor;
- Damage to any person’s property in an amount exceeding $1,500;
- Damage to another vehicle exceeding $1,500; or
- Damage causing a vehicle to be towed from the accident scene.
Statistics Illustrating Trucking Dangers
Nationally, in 2014, 88,000 large trucks were involved in injury crashes, and 3,744 involved death. This represented a 21 percent increase from the previous year. Large trucks were involved in 346,000 property damage crashes, which represented a 29 percent increase from the prior year.
In 2014 in Oregon, more than 1,400 truck crashes occurred which involved death, injury, or disabling damage to a vehicle. This represented an 8.48 percent increase from 2013. The truck was determined to be at fault in more than 50 percent of the crashes. There were as many as 16 truck crashes on Oregon roads in a single day, and one company alone was involved in 19 crashes for the year. Thirty-five people died from these crashes, and 568 more were injured. A truck crash occurred on the roads of Oregon almost every six hours. Property damage resulting from truck crashes totaled more than $148 million.
Possible Causes of Truck Accidents
Some trucking accidents result from safety issues involving the truck itself. For example, a truck may have unsafe tires or brakes that are not operating properly, or the truck’s cargo may have been loaded improperly. In some instances, the safety issues were overlooked due to inadequate inspection procedures.
Of course, many trucking accidents are caused by the negligence of the truck driver. Just as with car accidents, a truck accident may be caused by speeding, following too closely, driving dangerously, or violating other traffic rules of the road. Sometimes, drivers are not medically fit. In 2014, 29 truck drivers drove off the road in Oregon while adjusting the radio or reaching for coffee.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (and as also reported by the Oregon Department of Transportation), some important conclusions can be drawn from a study of truck crashes:
- Decision errors and recognition errors represented common driver mistakes; and
- Fatigue, speeding, and driving too fast for conditions were important factors.
Understanding Your Rights
If you’re the victim of a truck accident, it’s only fair that the negligent party be held responsible. However, knowing how to proceed can be complicated. The truck driver may be an employee, independent contractor, or owner-operator. The truck may be leased. Numerous federal and state regulations may be involved. Insurance questions may arise. The lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are experienced with these issues, and can help you sort things out. Please call with any questions, or for a free consultation.
Oregon Motor Carrier Transportation Truck Safety Hotline – (800) 248-6782 (reporting hotline for motorists who observe truck safety issues). An incident can also be reported online at http://www.oregontruckingonline.com/cf/mchotform/
Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Reporting form: www.odot.state.or.us/forms/dmv/32.pdf
Oregon Truck Accident Statistics: www.oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/Pages/SAFETY.aspx#OREGON_Crash_Reports_&_Stats
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 2014 Large Truck Crash Facts: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2014