It’s an issue that is largely ignored by the media. Most people don’t come in contact with it until it’s too late. It’s truck safety – or lack thereof. The American Association for Justice (AAJ) just released a press release tackling the issue. To better get its point across, the AAJ used statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). After all, the government’s numbers speak for themselves.
The report can be found here, but I’ll go over some of the highlights. Large trucks total 4% of all passenger vehicles, yet are involved in 12% of vehicle fatalities. Over 4,800 people died in accidents involving large trucks, and another 86,000 were seriously injured.
Two things a truck company would say about these statistics. First, large trucks on the road much longer than most other passenger vehicles, so proportionately they would be involved in more accidents compared to other vehicles. Second, accidents involving trucks are mostly due to the fault of the other driver. While the first point does have some validity, the second point doesn’t have any statistical support. Time and time again I deal in accidents involving the negligence of a truck driver, or his (or her) company.
The AAJ really highlights the problems of the industry and its effect on driver safety. Above all, the very low profit margin of the trucking industry leads to problems. 9 in 10 trucking company startups go belly-up within a year. This tough economy, along with inconsistent diesel prices, has only made things worse. Companies are devising more and more ways to cut corners, in an effort to increase profit.
A few ways that the companies increase profit is by making the driver’s salary Dependant on the speed at which they deliver the goods. This reward-for-speed may be fitting in other industries, but it is irresponsible in the trucking industry. This in turn rewards drivers for speeding, fudging driver’s logs, reckless driving, and driving in hazardous conditions. I have personally handled a case were three semis with NO deadlines drove over 180 miles in ice, fog, blowing snow, before piling up on I-40 in Wilson County. Two trucks were totaled. A passenger was so severely injured he will never work again. Some companies also routinely overload trucks, which is both illegal and highly dangerous. In a Florida example given in the report, the company continued to do so even after the driver complained of the practice.
One glimmer of good news from this report is the statistic that Tennessee has half (7) as many companies in violation of safety requirements per 100,000 population compared to the US average (15). With a population of over 6.2 million, though, that means Tennessee is still home to approximately 430 trucking companies violating safety requirements right now.
These stats don’t really mean much to most people. The ATA says the accidents are decreasing and blame the trial lawyers for over blowing the story. Bunk. Why are the accidents decreasing? Because the Trial lawyers such as myself are making the trucking companies aware that if they or their drivers misbehave, there will be significant financial consequences. But for those involved in an accident due to the disregard for safety of a trucking company, these numbers are all too real.