High truck accident numbers highlight a serious problem

Both in Nevada and across the United States, the high rate of accidents involving trucks represent an increasing concern. To illustrate this problem, a woman, her mother, and her two young children were recently killed when they were caught between two tractor trailers and a fire broke out, according to NBC News. The crash occurred when the semi in front of the mother’s car slowed down and the semi behind the passenger vehicle failed to follow suit. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 100,000 people are injured every year in truck accidents. Furthermore, truck accidents result in nearly 4,000 deaths every year. In other terms, on average, fatal truck accidents occur nearly eleven times per day in the United States. To make matters worse, fatalities due to truck accidents have increased since 2009.
(article continues below infographic)

truck_accident (1)

Increased demand a problem

The increase in truck accidents over the past several years corresponds to a recovery in economic conditions since the financial crisis in 2007-2008. Increases in the demand for goods requires more goods to be shipped through American highways, which puts more trucks on the road and increases the probability of truck-related accidents. Combine the higher volume of trucks in transit with the pressure applied to truck drivers to punctually deliver the goods they carry and the result is more injuries and deaths. Despite the macro explanation for the increasingly high numbers of truck accidents in the United States, every truck accident is caused by a specific set of behaviors or malfunctions, from negligent truck drivers to the external environment. Understanding what these problems are is necessary if they are to be solved. According to interviews with regulators, attorneys and industry participants conducted by CNBC, the specific issues in play include tired drivers, failure to screen for problem drivers and inadequate safety technologies on roads.

No easy solution

While any activity that causes thousands of deaths and even more injured victims per year represents a serious problem, multiple factors render an easy solution infeasible. According to the American Trucking Association, due to higher demand for shipped goods, there are over 30,000 unfilled truck driver jobs in the United States. On top of that, trucking companies struggle to control turnover among existing drivers in their employ. The imbalance in this labor market results in a higher risk of both overworked, tired drivers and less qualified, less safe drivers. Until trucking companies can find a way to more safely satisfy higher demand within their labor constraints, this problem may continue.