Illinois was the site of 991 deadly motor vehicle crashes in 2013. Of those, 142 involved a semi truck. Fatal semi accidents have risen every year since 2009 and have trended generally upward for many years. While total traffic fatalities have dropped, the share of those fatalities involving large trucks has gone up. There are now more than 5.6 million licensed commercial vehicle drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the industry is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. The problem of truck fatalities is only going to increase.
While safety regulations in the trucking industry are subjected to vigorous lobbying by truck companies, it is still a heavily regulated industry. How effective those regulations are is a matter for debate. Enforcement of driving hours restrictions is complicated by the way some truckers keep their log books. A log book maintained by hand can be easily manipulated. Such manipulation is unlikely to be discovered until a fatigued driver causes a tragic accident. A truck improperly loaded or maintained could be discovered in a random stop. But again, it is quite likely to go unnoticed unless the driver gets into an accident.
The vast majority of car and truck accidents are caused by driver error. When the driver of a passenger vehicle makes an error, the consequences can be deadly. When the driver of a commercial truck weighing 10 times as much as a pickup truck makes an error, the chances of a fatality grow. The sheer size of a truck protects the truck driver in a vehicle to vehicle collision, but it greatly increases the danger to passenger vehicles.
To be effective, laws must be enforceable and enforced. A truck driver and trucking company must expect to get caught if they break the rules. Otherwise, the regulations will not improve safety. They will only help grieving families collect compensation after a deadly accident has occurred.
Source: Central Illinois Proud, “Behind the Wheel: Truck Driving Safety,” 25 February 2015