Report: Many trucks endanger motorists by forgoing safety technology

Many large trucks fail to use safety technology that could help prevent accidents, which could explain why deadly truck crashes are becoming more common.

Over the last several years, strides in vehicle safety technology have had noticeable effects in West Virginia and other states. According to The New York Times, from 2009 to 2013, national car accident fatalities declined about 3 percent, largely due to the advent of technology to detect and prevent accidents. Unfortunately, much of this life-saving technology still hasn't been incorporated into some of the most deadly vehicles on the road.

CNBC reports that large truck accidents now kill over 4,000 people and injure over 100,000 others in a typical year. Some of these accidents may occur due to unusual or unforeseeable circumstances. However, sadly, many more may occur because trucking companies choose not to invest in accident-prevention technology.

Dangerous decisions

The New York Times states that large trucks in the U.S. fail to make use of various proven technologies, such as anti-lock brakes and collision-avoidance systems, that passenger vehicles utilize. According to CNBC, the American Trucking Association estimated in 2014 that an overwhelming 90 percent of trucks lack active safety technology.

The limited use of electronic stability control technology provides a troubling example of how trucking companies often operate without available safety systems. According to The Detroit News, after this technology became mandatory in passenger vehicles, it saved an estimated 2,200 lives in just three years. However, if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hadn't recently mandated that truck tractors use this technology, only an estimated one-third of them would have installed it by 2018.

Sadly, in many cases, trucking companies operate without technology that could address known industry risks. For example, accidents that involve heavy trucks are often catastrophic due to the weight differential between trucks and other vehicles. These trucks are involved in a disproportionate number of deadly motor vehicle accidents. Still, according to The New York Times, about 97 percent of the trucks belonging to the heaviest weight class lack collision-avoidance technology.

Alarming safety trends

Given these issues, it is not surprising that truck accident fatalities have not fallen in recent years. In fact, according to CNBC, from 2009 to 2012, when car accident fatalities were decreasing, annual truck accident deaths rose an alarming 18 percent. This trend may only continue in coming years, as freight tonnage is projected to increase 23.5 percent between 2013 and 2025.

Troublingly, in recent months, lawmakers have also considered several measures that would decrease the regulations truck companies must comply with. According to The Baltimore Sun, these changes include:

  • Mandating that every state allow longer double trailers on the roads
  • Permanently reducing the overnight rest requirements that truckers must meet during their weekly "restart periods"
  • Preventing government-mandated increases to minimum trucking company insurance requirements, which were last changed 30 years ago

This movement toward laxer regulations could leave motorists in significant danger. Sadly, even if these proposals fail to pass, statistics suggest that large truck accidents may still affect many people in West Virginia this year.

Remedies for victims

When deadly or injurious accidents happen because trucking companies failed to take reasonable measures to prevent them, victims may have legal recourse. However, in West Virginia, accident victims must make claims within two years of the accident date. Consequently, anyone who has been harmed in a negligence-related truck crash should consider meeting with an attorney soon after the accident to discuss potential remedies.