Although semi-trucks only account for about 6.5% of all accidents, they account for 11% of motor vehicle deaths as every day someone is injured in an auto accident that involves a semi-truck.
These vehicles, also known as 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers, are a combination of a tractor and trailer and they’re used to carry freight across long distances. They move over 70% of the United States’ freight (by weight), so they’re heavily relied on.
As necessary as they are, there’s still the problem of crashes that occur every day. Semi-trucks’ total weight can go up to 80,000 pounds, which is one of the reasons why they’re so much more difficult to drive than a car.
Fortunately, new technologies that have emerged over the years are looking to cut down on the incidence of motor vehicle crashes involving semi-trucks, and here are some of those technologies.
Also known as self-driving cars/trucks/etc., artificial intelligence (AI) allows vehicles to independently drive and maneuver through traffic. For many, this seems like a great idea to have autonomous semi-trucks since truck drivers often suffer from fatigue on the road— which is a major contributor to crashes. Over 5,000 truck drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2018, while many others were injured on the job. Driver fatigue makes a pretty good argument for more autonomous 18-wheelers.
However, others argue that autonomous vehicles will eliminate the need for human drivers altogether. Instead, autonomous 18-wheelers should be more like airliners, with an experienced truck driver constantly monitoring the autonomous vehicle.
While many semi-truck accidents are typically the fault of the truck driver, some are also the fault of passenger vehicle drivers. There are even individuals who try to collide with semis on purpose. Fortunately, collision mitigation systems are becoming more and more advanced, monitoring for potential crashes and avoiding them.
This type of technology monitors what’s going on inside of a truck and around it within a short range. Semi-trucks have much larger blind spots than other types of vehicles (two large blindspots on either side of the truck plus one in the front and one in the back), making it harder to see one to multiple vehicles at a time. Truck drivers can see traffic in real-time, making the roads much safer.
This is a type of crash avoidance/mitigation technology that lets truck drivers know if they’re about to crash into a vehicle in front of them. Using cameras, radar, and sensors, the truck’s brakes can be automatically applied if the driver doesn’t respond in time. This can help prevent an accident from occurring, or reduce its impact. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this technology can decrease the amount of semi-truck deaths by 60%.
These are devices that will allow semi-trucks to travel the highways at a certain speed. This is helpful in the sense that traveling at slower speeds will allow truck drivers to have more time to slow down, but it could also mean that these semi-trucks will be moving slower than the rest of traffic— which can lead to more accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends trucks that weigh over 26,000 pounds have this feature.
Another cause of fatal vehicle crashes involving semi-trucks is a problem with the actual truck. Truck drivers are supposed to pull over and inspect their truck if they assume that there might be a problem. However, with truck drivers being on very strict time constraints, many choose to forgo an inspection and wait until later when there’s more time. This can lead to preventable accidents.
Now, smart technology allows for self-monitoring systems that alert drivers of minor issues before they become bigger issues. This has decreased the amount of semi-truck accidents, along with other “non-smart” improvements, such as the ABS (anti-braking system), which has been a standard feature since 1997. Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers if you’ve recently been involved in an accident involving a semi-truck.
So there are technologies that have been and are continuing to be created to help decrease the amount of semi-truck crashes on the highways. While autonomous vehicles are still in the testing phase, other smart technologies are being implemented and successfully creating safer roadways for both passenger vehicles and truck drivers. Still, there is more that can be done to almost completely eliminate the occurrence of these deadly crashes.