The Deadly Problem
The most common causes of large truck accidents are driving too fast for road conditions, straying from the lane of travel, failure to keep a proper lookout, following too closely, driver fatigue, mechanical defects, tire blowouts and shifting cargo caused by negligent loading. Large trucks are big heavy vehicles and are different from cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks. A large truck weighs more than 10,000 pounds and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. They can weigh 40 times more than an automobile.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are abandoning planned regulations that require testing for fatigue-inducing disorders for truck drivers and train engineers. Safety experts say that millions of lives will continue to be at risk for accidents caused by fatigued commercial drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have found that driver fatigue is a factor in one third of all commercial truck crashes. Sleep apnea can cause daytime drowsiness and is to blame for multiple train derailments and deaths. The Metro-North Railroad found that 11.6 percent of its engineers suffer from sleep apnea.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that half of the fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles involve underride accidents where the top half of the car is sheared off. Airbags and safety harnesses provide no protection in underride collisions. Underride accidents occur when a car collides with the rear or side of a truck-trailer and submarines underneath. The force of the impact combined with the weight of the trailer can crush or shear off the car's roof. Occupants often suffer severe or fatal head and upper torso injuries and sometimes decapitation.
Every winter, many people are severely injured or killed by commercial semi-truck drivers who violate the law by driving in adverse weather conditions. It takes longer to stop and is more difficult to turn without skidding when the road is slippery. If the road is very slippery, truck drivers should not drive their trucks at all. Many big rig truck drivers do not slow down during bad weather. Most catastrophic bad weather truck accidents could have been avoided if truck drivers would have followed the law. The law regarding commercial trucking in bad weather is in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Section 392.14: Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.
Truck platooning is an aerodynamic approach to cut fuel consumption by reducing wind resistance. Two big-rig trucks speed down the freeway only 30-50 feet apart leaving no real gap between them with the lead truck in control. The reduction in aerodynamic drag of two-truck platoons provide significant fuel savings. Proponents of truck platooning allege it allows the second truck to react more quickly and accurately when the lead truck must respond to an obstacle ahead.Several European Countries are attempting to lead the way in what they call smart truck driving. In Germany, Mercedes is testing three big rig trucks platooning in what is termed Daimler's Highway Pilot Connect System. The trucks are controlled by the lead vehicle through wireless communication. If the lead truck's collision avoidance system activates its brakes the following trucks will do the same.In Mountain View, California, Peloton Technology is an early leader in this field. They make hardware and software that allows the trailing truck's brakes and acceleration to automatically synchronize with the one in front.
TRUCK DRIVER fatigue is a factor in one-third of all truck crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). A survey of long-haul truck drivers reported that 66 percent of drivers acknowledged experiencing fatigue on at least half of their trips. Thirteen percent of drivers reported actually falling asleep at the wheel.