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11% hike in truck accident fatalities: 3 times more than boating, aviation & train wrecks combined

Written by Steve Gursten Posted August 21st, 2013

Why a change in the transport industry economic model is needed to reverse the dramatic rise of people killed in truck crashes

truck on highway, truck accident increase

Truck accidents and truck accident-related fatalities have increased 11% following several years of decline, according to statistics released by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA). The most recent data available is for the year 2011, where 3,757 people were killed in truck accidents.

This is a shocking figure.

This number marks an 11.2% increase since 2009. To put those 3,757 fatalities in perspective: That’s nearly three times as many deaths than in boating, aviation, and train accidents combined.

There’s certainly a correlation between the increasing number of truck accidents and the recovering economy.  As the economy continues to recover, the number of trucks operating on the highway increases. Currently, there’s actually a truck driver shortage among American transport companies to the tune of approximately 130,000 people.

But more trucks and truck drivers on the road does not have to mean that more innocent people will die. As an attorney, I have seen that the vast majority of these crashes that result in fatalities were completely preventable. If mandatory safety violations are followed, as they are intended, there’s no reason why more trucks on our roads must mean more people losing their life in horrific trucking accidents across our nation.

Unfortunately, if the status quo is extended as it exists today, then more trucks will translate into more preventable truck accidents. And more preventable deaths and more preventable injuries from these accidents.

Transport trucks account for a disproportionately high number of traffic accidents in America.  Trucks only account for approximately 4.7% of all vehicles on the road, but are involved in 12.4% of all fatal crashes.

The attorneys of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable have litigated transport truck crashes and we know how these trucks cause crashes and how these crashes are in turn defended and settled by the motor carriers and their insurance companies.  We also know that most truck crashes are caused by human error and  negligence, like driving fatigued, or by truck drivers who are driving under the influence of illegal drugs and alcohol.

There are many reasons why some dangerous truck companies continue to break the rules. We’ve discussed some of the reasons truckers drive fatigued previously on this blog, such as sporadic schedules and industry culture.  Though the reasons are many, they’re all accentuated by the same common denominator —  the underlying economic model where drivers are compensated by miles driven rather than hours worked.

This incentive to pump out more miles pressures motor carriers and truckers alike to perform at all costs – even when those costs mean throwing safety to the wind.

Regulation of the industry has proven difficult.  Our truck accident attorneys and legal contributors have said time and time again, all the regulation in the world will not stop bad companies or unsafe truck drivers from cutting corners on safety in exchange for a bigger bottom line – if there’s no penalty for breaking these rules and no enforcement of the rules. A rule without enforcement is just a suggestion. Maybe a better  approach would be changing the economic model of the highway transport industry in America today.

Compensation based on hours rather than mileage would help.  And higher insurance policy limits would help too. It would level the playing field for  the truck companies who do play by the rules.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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