Each year, the American economy thrives on the revenue generated by semi-trucks and tractor trailers hauling goods and products to every corner of continental North America. In 2014, revenue from trucking equaled more than $610 billion and estimates predict that that number may double by the year 2015.
Unavoidable Tractor Dangers
As most people already know, there are an amazingly high number of tractor-trailer accidents on the road every year. Even though big rig drivers must be professionally trained and certified, there are a number of additional factors that make them dangers on the road.
Size – By law, a tractor-trailer’s complete weight can reach up to 80,000 pounds. At more than 16 times the average passenger car, the majority of tractor-trailer accidents are fatal.
Braking – Semi trucks require a minimum of 335 feet braking distance before coming to a complete stop.
Maneuverability – Tractor-trailers are notorious for their lack of maneuverability. Due to their large size and heavy weight, they take much longer than the average vehicle to change direction or stop.
Cargo – While the weight of most tractor trailers are one of the biggest concerns, it is their cargo that also lends to the danger. Many tractor trailers are responsible for transporting chemicals or dangerous substances that are flammable.
Nearly 98% of all semi truck accidents result in a fatality, and each year about 5,000 people in passenger vehicles die in tractor trailer accidents. Unfortunately, a large majority of these accidents could be avoided. The most common causes of major trucking accidents are caused by simple truck-driver errors. Read the analysis of fatal truck accidents here.
Here are some of the most common causes of major tractor trailer accidents:
- Poor driver training – While semi drivers are required to pass professional driving requirements, a shortage in professional truck drivers has led many companies to employ under-trained drivers.
- Blind spots – Large tractor trailers have many blind spots and it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that they are clear before turning or changing direction.
- Mechanical failures – Tractor trailers have many components that are not found on standard passenger vehicles and require that drivers keep them properly maintained, otherwise, they are prone to unexpected break downs.
- Under-ride accidents – One of the most deadly types of tractor trailer accidents occur whenever a vehicle slides underneath the trailer of a big rig, is some states there are laws mandating that semi trucks have trailer guards to prevent this type of accident.
- Jack-knife accidents – When a semi truck loses control, one of the most common occurrences is that it ‘jack-knifes‘ or the trailer slides to a right angle of the tractor, which is one of the leading causes of additional accidents.
- Unbalanced loads – Due to the massive size and build of tractor trailers, it is extremely important that drivers ensure that their loads are balanced to prevent turnovers or poor control.
- Distracted driving – Just like when driving a passenger vehicle, anything that causes the driver to look away from the road is a distraction. However, when a truck driver is distracted the consequences are much higher.
- Speeding – Truck drivers are often pressed to meet rigorous deadlines for delivering their cargo, which can tempt them to break the law and speed.
- Driver fatigue – Overworked drivers tend to be less focused and more likely to make trivial mistakes that could result in a major accident.