Deaths from crashes involving large trucks on U.S. roads could hit a six-year high when the first figures for 2005 are released this spring, according to the Transportation Department's preliminary estimates.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed or injured on U.S. highways due to tractor-trailer accidents and auto accidents.
Tractor trailers – large trucks that weigh 20-30 times more than passenger cars – account for only 3 percent of registered vehicles on the roads, yet are involved in 9 percent of all fatal auto accidents (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
Tractor trailer and Truck accidents are caused by a variety of factors including vehicle safety, driver skill level, and driver fatigue. Common sense dictates that a properly trained and licensed driver of these large trucks will improve performance and reduce auto accidents. However, a Federal Highway Administration study in 1996 concluded that the trucking sector is not providing adequate training for new drivers of large trucks. Specifically, the study determined:
Less than one-third of new drivers of Tractor Trailers and other large trucks are properly trained.
Only half of the large truck training courses offered by private and public training schools are adequate in content and duration.
Only 10 percent of trucking companies offer sufficient training for their new drivers.
In 1984, the Department of Transportation released its Proposed Minimum Standards for Training Tractor-Trailer Drivers, but, unfortunately, the new standards were made voluntary instead of mandatory. Under the proposal, drivers would receive 320 hours of instruction – half of which would be behind-the-wheel and on-the-road. Currently, drivers with a CDL license are not required to have on-the-road experience.
The Coalition For Commercial Truck Safety
The Coalition For Commercial Truck Safety is a group of concerned citizens dedicated to reducing truck accidents on Florida's roads and highways by implementing minimum safety standards for training large truck drivers.
In an effort to reduce auto accidents involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks, CCTS will work toward the following goals:
Work with the Florida legislature to require minimum safety standards as proposed in the 1984 Department of Transportation regulations for tractor-trailers.
Work with other like-minded organizations dedicated to achieving greater tractor-trailer and road safety.
Provide education to the public regarding the need for mandatory safety standards for tractor-trailers.
CCTS's Advisory Board is comprised of individuals whose lives have been altered permanently by an auto accident involving a tractor-trailer, and who are dedicated to reducing the likelihood of future accidents. Lawyer Robert Gordon – and his law firm Gordon & Doner have represented injured individuals and family members of loved ones who have died in numerous truck accidents. He is Chairman of the Group's Board and continues to play a pivotal role in championing this cause.
Facts About large truck accident s
THE HUMAN COST
Across the Nation:
Deaths and Injuries: In 1999, an estimated 1,027,000 people were involved in 451,000 large truck accidents. Of those, 5,362 were killed and 142,000 injured; a third suffered severe brain damage or loss of a limb. That constitutes more than 16 truck-related injuries an hour, and more than 14 truck-related deaths a day. (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways [CRASH])
Truck Drivers Involved in Truck Crashes: Of those involved in truck accidents, 528,000 were truck occupants. 759 were killed and 32,000 were wounded. (CRASH)
Children Involved in Truck Crashes: 609 under-18s were killed in large truck-related crashes in 1999, with an estimated 20,000 injured. (CRASH)
Trucks With a Gross Vehicle Weight of Greater Than 10,000 lbs: Tractor-trailers weighing more than 10,000 accounted for the majority of accidents, deaths, and injuries. Such trucks were involved in 412,000 crashes, which resulted in 4,831 deaths and 127,000 injuries. Of these deaths, 552 people were under 18 and 671 were truck occupants. (CRASH)
Although large trucks represent only 3 percent of all registered vehicles on the road, they were involved in over 25 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
Top 10 States for Injuries Involving Large Trucks: During 1999, 8,877 of the 142,000 people injured nationwide in tractor-trailer auto accidents were in Florida, the third highest rate of truck-related injuries in the nation. (Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation)
Top 10 States for Fatalities of Children 0-18 Involving Large Trucks: During 1999, Florida ranked second (behind Texas) for having the most fatalities of children ages 0-18 involving truck-related auto accidents. (Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation)
The Deadliest County: During 2001, Palm Beach County, Florida, ranked first in traffic accident fatalities involving large trucks and fourth in truck-related crashes. This is the deadliest toll throughout all of Florida's 67 counties. (The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Palm Beach Post 7/13/02)
COMMERCIAL DRIVER'S LICENSES (CDLs)
Not A Guarantee Of Experience: A CDL does not indicate that the holder is a trained or experienced truck or bus driver. It merely indicates that the holder has passed minimal skills and knowledge tests concerning the type of vehicle he or she proposes to drive. (Federal Highway Administration)
Employers Must Take Responsibility: It is incumbent upon a prospective employer of a commercial vehicle driver to ensure that their driver is properly trained to operate that employer's trucks or buses and to handle that employer's freight or passengers. (Federal Highway Administration)
Stronger Oversight Needed: U.S. Department of Transportation has recommended stronger oversight of the CDL operations in Florida due to lax and inconsistent testing procedures as well as fraudulent activities by some of the testing entities. (Federal Highway Administration)
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, fatigue and lack of sleep may be a factor in 30-40 percent of all large truck accidents.
Fatigue was the probable cause in 31 percent of crashes that resulted in the truck driver's death (NTSB).
In a 1992 survey, 19 percent of tractor-trailer drivers said they had fallen asleep at the wheel during the previous month (Journal of Public Health Policy).
Many truck drivers feel pressured to drive as many miles as possible in as short a time as possible, causing them to break hours of service rules (1989 Motor Carrier Safety Study).
A 1987 survey determined that 28 percent of large truck drivers were on schedule, which required drivers to speed and/or violate hours of service regulations (1989 Motor Carrier Safety Study).
The NTSB recommended that the FHWA change hours of service regulations so that drivers are given enough opportunity to get the sleep they need to avoid driving fatigued (NTSB).