Is there anyone who drives regularly on the highways who has not had a perilous encounter with a large tractor trailer truck? Unlikely. Maybe when seeing an 18 wheeler in your rear view mirror closing fast, or watching a double tractor trailer weaving in and out of lanes or passing traffic at 80 miles an hour, you wondered whether large trucks really cause much death and injury in addition to the traffic delays reported daily due to an overturned large truck. The answer to the question is an alarmingly loud, “yes.”
While most big rig drivers are well trained and careful, there are enough reckless truck drivers to create tragedy for too many peole in their cars, just trying to move from one place to the next. The United States Department of Transportation reports the following death and injury statistics from large truck (over 10,000 pounds total weight) accidents in Massachusetts alone in 2004, the most recent year for which final data is available: 912 trucks involved in accidents, causing 41 deaths and 504 injuries. Excessive speed was the single most common cause of large truck accidents causing injury or death. Speeding is encouraged by companies pressuring drivers to deliver more goods, faster, and by the related problem of drivers going for too many hours without sleep. Thomas M. Corsi and Richard E. Barnard, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, identified a number of areas essential to safe trucking, including careful screening of drivers, proper training, safety rewards, punishment for unsafe driving, adequate monitoring and maintenance of the fleet, to name a few. Personal injury lawsuits can make some impact by holding companies that allow unsafe practices to be held accountable. Serious reduction of the carnage caused by large trucks must come from the federal government and from within the transportation industry.