Potentially, every vehicle traveling on the road can be dangerous. However, heavy, large commercial vehicles have a greater risk of causing catastrophic injuries and deaths on the nation’s roadways. Statistics maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that,on average,12 percent of all accident-related fatalities involve a heavy truck.
Heavy trucks are designed to carry large loads and large quantities of cargo to destinations all across the United States. Even though the vehicles are designed to be heavy haulers, they have strict limitations on carrying the load safely. Improperly secured cargo or overloading can be particularly dangerous, especially if the truck is traveling at high speed. This is because the load can easily shift while in transit or heavy cargo can cause the truck to tip over particularly if it is center of gravity is shifted too high to keep the truck or trailer upright.
If the load becomes unbalanced while the truck is being loaded or in motion, cargo can easily fall off the truck onto workers and innocent bystanders or into the lanes of other drivers. It is crucial to note that as the commercial truck becomes heavier, it takes a significantly longer distance to stop the vehicle completely.
Height and Weight Limitations
The sheer size and weight of heavy commercial vehicles limit the truck’s ability to traverse bridges and highways that were not designed to handle the excessive weight. In many incidences, the height of the load on the truck is too high to pass under some bridges for travel across an overpass. Because of that, every route for heavy load trucks must be approved by the DOT (Department of Transportation). This is because truckers can easily face unforeseen problems while driving, which can lead to a disastrous or catastrophic event.
Hazardous Driving Conditions
Many locales require pilot cars to guide heavy trucks along their route, where transporting is usually limited to daytime driving only. Moving heavy cargo on large trucks limits the vehicle’s ability to stop during dangerous or hazardous conditions, and minimize the driver’s ability to maintain control.
To reduce the chances of causing an accident, it is often advisable to reschedule the driving event when moving oversize cargo during potentially bad weather conditions. This is because reduced visibility, slippery surfaces and hazardous road conditions can force the large heavy commercial vehicle to stop quickly or require maneuvering out of the way to avoid a disastrous calamity. The menace of undesirable driving conditions is often intensified when the trucker is fatigued for any number of reasons including driving long distances.
According to statistics maintained by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), nearly 9 out of every 10 truck accidents involving injuries and fatalities are due to truck driver error. In addition, approximately one out of every three crashes involving heavy trucks happen because the truck driver ran out of distance in their travel lane before striking an object. Another one third of all truck-related accidents are due to loss of control caused by shifted cargo, speeding, or roadway conditions or some type of failure in the vehicles operation.
Factors leading to driver mistakes are usually divided into four specific categories that include:
- Trucker Performance – Catastrophic accidents can occur if the trucker panics, exercises poor directional control or overcompensates steering during apotential accident event.
- Non-Performance – Truckers suffering physical impairment, distraction, fatigue or falling asleep behind the wheel account for one out of every seven catastrophic truck-associated accidents nationwide.
- Distraction or Inattentiveness – Accidents can happen if the trucker becomes distracted, inattentive or fails to observe or predict a problem adequately.
- Poor Decisions – The trucker can cause an accident when driving too fast, following too closely behind vehicles ahead or misjudging the speed of other motorists on the road.
Other factors involving trucker performance that lead to collisions, crashes and accidents include vehicle unfamiliarity, a lack of adequate truck lights or use of prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs. In addition, many serious heavy truck accidents are caused by brake failure, limited visibility due to weather conditions, falling cargo and driver errors caused by blind spots.
In many situations, truck driver inexperience leads to serious and catastrophic accidents that kill and injure innocent victims every year. Additionally, many heavy truck accidents are inherently more dangerous when the trucker travels on smaller roadways across the nation.