Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the rate of fatal truck accidents here in the U.S. has actually fallen by 50 percent from 1994 to 2010, putting trucks on par with passenger cars in terms of overall vehicle safety.
As encouraging as these numbers are, however, statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that over 14,000 people nevertheless lost their lives in truck crashes from 2009 to 2013, and, even more discouraging, that almost 25 percent of these fatalities involved trucks that had previously been issued citations for safety violations.
As if all this wasn't shocking enough, FMCSA data also shows that one out of every six trucks pulled over for inspection during this timeframe was found to be in such poor condition that it was deemed unsafe to drive.
Why then is the U.S. continuing to have such major problems with trucks that are perhaps not fit for the road?
According to many vehicle safety advocates, the primary problem is the pattern of irregular enforcement among the 50 states, meaning a truck may be more likely to be cited for faulty headlights or brakes in some states and more likely to be cited for irregularities in logbooks or defective turn signals in others.
Here, they claim this reality can be traced to the structure of the current system in which the FMSCA dictates national safety standards and basic requirements, but essentially leaves enforcement up to the individual states. Indeed, the agency performs a cursory review of state enforcement plans submitted every year and allocates funds for those that are complaint.
"You've got kind of a lot of different things working against safety," said an official with the Truck Safety Coalition. "It's a huge industry, with an agency that's not very big trying to regulate it."
To illustrate how the system can fail, consider a truck that plowed through multiple vehicles, crashed into a Pittsburgh-area home and injured four people back in October 2012 due to what was later determined to be faulty brakes.
As it turns out, this same truck had been cited and pulled from the road a month earlier here in Tennessee for multiple violations, including bald tires and brakes that were improperly adjusted.
Here's hoping that the federal regulators start paying closer attention to this important safety issue in 2015.
If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident that you believe was caused by the negligence of the driver and/or trucking company, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.
Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Is that big rig road worthy?" Andrew McGill, Dec. 21, 2014