Semi-truck accidents can be the most dangerous thing on the highway. Trucks with a full load can weigh between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds. Cars can weigh from 3000 to 4000 pounds.
Huge semi-truck trailers are a fact of life. Life as we know it would not exist if not for these behemoths that rule the highways.
Motorists, naturally, try to avoid semi-trucks because they appear to be so threatening. Approximately 450,000 accidents occur yearly that involve semis and various vehicles. Nearly 5,000 people will lose their lives every year in semi-truck accidents as a result.
Industry experts estimate that between 2013 and 2025, the total tons carried by semis will increase by almost 25 percent.
There are a number of reasons that semi-trucks present are a danger on the roads.
1. Semi-trucks are much heavier than the average vehicle.
It is only logical to assume that passenger vehicles involved in an accident will receive more damage, and that passengers are likely to be more seriously injured. The United States imposes a maximum load of 80,000 pounds spread out over 18 wheels.
Consider the average vehicle weighs 3,500 pounds, and a pickup truck weighs 8,500 pounds.
This is a huge weight difference and an accident can mean the difference between life and death for the typical vehicle owner. A semi-truck’s weight makes it far more difficult to handle and maneuver in an emergency or tight maneuver. Some states compound the danger by issuing permits to trucks with over-the-load-limits.
2. Semi-trucks are much longer, and their length adds to the weight of these vehicles.
Two or more trailers can add additional weight. Such configurations are often referred to as “over the road trains,” and for good reason. The crash rate increases by 10 – 15 percent when compared to smaller sized semi-trucks. There is also the fact that these longer semis take longer to pass, which increases the chance of a passing vehicle having an accident.
3. Semi-truck accidents are likely to be more deadly despite advances in vehicle safety.
Vehicle occupants are far more at risk for a serious injury—or even death when the accident involves a semi-truck trailer.
4. Semi drivers sometimes drive over the allowable hours allowed.
This presents a hazard as fatigue sets in. The chances of an accident increase greatly. For every eight hours of driving, it is recommended that drivers take at least a 30-minute break, or more, if needed. They can only, legally, drive for 70 hours a week.
However, there is a strong likelihood that some drive considerably more hours. Today, there are vacancies in the trucking industry, and many on the job work additional hours to make up for the shortage. There is always pressure to deliver their product on time.
Driving while sleepy or tired can be just as deadly as driving while drunk. A driver’s reaction and judgement is impaired regardless of personal driving skills or experience.
5. Improper or faulty truck maintenance are additional factors that can cause fatal road accidents.
Any truck is expected to be well-maintained if on the road, but that is not always the case. It is simply a fact that some truck companies will take shortcuts and bypass critical maintenance protocols on occasion.
Maintenance considerations include lights, signals, tires, braking systems, hydraulic systems, transmission systems, and much more.
6. Improperly storing cargo is a big problem.
Freight may not be balanced properly as companies try to cut costs to deliver more load than is safe. This makes a tractor trailer harder to control by any means when trying to brake. These trucks can easily jackknife and overturn because they are not balanced properly.Uneven weight places stress on brakes and tends to make big rigs more difficult to maneuver, steer, and handle. Each state has federal weight, size, and loading limits. While state rules may vary, they all have one thing in mind—safety.
Uneven weight places stress on brakes and tends to make big rigs more difficult to maneuver, steer, and handle. Each state has federal weight, size, and loading limits. While state rules may vary, they all have one thing in mind—safety.
7. Negligent and reckless driving is often the cause for semi-truck road accidents.
Not every company has the same screening procedures. Consider there is a shortage of drivers and unqualified or undertrained drivers just compounds the issue. Some semi drivers have accidents because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some take drugs to stay awake on long hauls.
Still, there are others who become distracted talking on their cell phone. Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal, but rig drivers are human just like everyone else.
8. Big rigs are dangerous as well because of large blind spots.
This applies regardless of how many mirrors a truck has. These are spots where it is impossible to see other vehicles on the road. Their biggest blind spots are in the front and rear. Thousands of cars are sideswiped each year as a result. There is little that can be done—safety on everyone’s behalf is the key.
9. Naturally, big rigs take longer to stop than typical passenger vehicles.
When on the open road, they are likely traveling at higher speeds. Three hundred feet is the normal distance it will take a car to stop at 65 mph. A semi-truck will eat up almost 600 feet to come to a halt at the same speed. Empty trucks will skid much further than fully loaded trucks because there is less traction.
10. It also takes longer for big rigs to accelerate than a regular passenger car or truck.
This can make a huge difference when rigs are merging onto the highway. The most opportune time for semi-truck accidents to occur is when truck drivers merge onto a highway and miscalculate the distance. It is easy for other merging vehicles to rear end a semi in this scenario. They simply do not have time to stop.
The best offense is always a good defense. Drivers should always be alert and avoid driving too close to any big rig. When passing, make sure the maneuver is done safely and quickly. It is recommended to never pass a semi in a parallel traffic lane. It is too easy for the semi to swerve in your lane.
Adequate following distance is also essential. When you see a semi weaving erratically, stop and pull over to the side of the highway. Give it plenty of room because you can never know the reason why is weaving. When it comes to semi-truck accidents, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Semi-Truck Crash Stats
Most semi-truck accidents will occur on major roads. You would think most accidents would occur on interstate and freeways. However, traffic usually flows on freeways and interstates, while many roads have stop-go traffic. Semi-truck accidents also occur on minor roads, which are typically city streets or country roads.
Nearly 50 percent of all truck crashes occur from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. So, it appears that crash probabilities are evenly distributed over a 24-hour period. There are fewer accidents between 9 a.m. and noon.
The reason is most likely that millions of people have made it to work and there are fewer vehicles on the road. During lunch is when the number of accidents begin to spike again. In truth, sharing the road for all drivers can be a matter of life and death.
In conclusion, if you follow these tips, you will be a lot safer sharing the road with tractor trailers.
Look Out for Blind Spots
Keep an eye open for blind spots. Large trucks need plenty of room to make proper turns. Many trucks will have a decal posted stating that if you cannot see the truck’s driver in his side-view mirror, then he or she most likely cannot see you. Always stay visible and keep at least four car lengths between you and the semi-truck.
Avoid Tight Squeezes
Never try to squeeze into a space. The last thing you should ever do is try and squeeze between two semi-trucks. If a large truck attempt to make a turn, never try to beat it to the punch and zip past it. Many semi-truck accidents when trucks are attempting to turn right at a street corner. While these semi-truck accidents are not usually fatal, they are certainly not pretty. Always remember that trucks need plenty of room to maneuver.
There Is a Right and Wrong Time to Pass a Semi
Large trucks can travel just as fast as a typical vehicle. When attempting to pass, make sure that your vehicle can accelerate quickly. Never attempt to pass a semi-truck around curves or if the highway is not visible for miles ahead.
Drivers should also be careful and note that even a highway that appears to be a straightaway may have hidden dips. Many fatal semi-truck accidents occur in this scenario. The same caution should be taken if approaching a hill. You can never tell what is just over the horizon, and there will be little time to react if a vehicle comes barreling down upon you.
Stay safe. A life is a precious thing to lose. If you are involved in a serious accident or loss of life occurs in semi-truck accidents, seek the services of a qualified attorney immediately. They have the knowledge and skills to help you navigate the rough times.