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Why are large truck crash fatalities continuing to rise?

Amid some good news recently from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that traffic fatalities were down by 1.8 percent in 2017 over the previous year, there was some troubling news regarding trucks. The number of people killed in crashes involving large trucks (those weighing at least 10,000 pounds) rose by 9 percent during that same period. Straight (single unit) trucks saw the greatest jump in fatalities at 19 percent. Moreover, the number of large truck fatalities rose by more than 40 percent since 2009.

Safety advocates reacting to the latest data note that while passenger cars are increasingly packed with safety features like lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking systems, safety standards for trucks remain lacking. In fact, Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety (AHAS) said that the trucking industry has been successful at loosening existing safety regulations. Additionally, industry lobbyists are working to lower the minimum age to 18 for drivers who cross state lines.

The public policy group also points to the lack of federal regulations requiring technology that could cut down on the number of crashes implemented in these massive vehicles. We’re behind the European Union (EU) in making things like automatic emergency braking mandatory in large trucks, even though that feature has been proven to reduce fatalities.

A proposed regulation for mandating equipment to limit the speed at which these trucks could travel remained stagnant during the last two presidential administrations. It was set aside by the current administration.

Interestingly, the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) blamed the rising fatality rate on too much regulation. He says, “Over-regulation is pushing out the safest, most experienced drivers.” He also noted a “lack of focus on training of new drivers.”

Families who lose loved ones in crashes involving commercial trucks can find themselves going up against large, well-funded trucking companies that know how to fight claims by victims and surviving family members. That’s why it’s essential to have experienced legal guidance as you seek the compensation you need and deserve from companies and drivers who bear responsibility for the crash.