Just a few days ago, a semi-truck driver was killed on Interstate 35 near Salado, Texas. He was parked beside the road and got out of his vehicle when he was hit by another semi-truck. The driver of the second truck struck the rear of the parked truck before striking the driver of the first vehicle who was standing by his cab. The crash is still under investigation, but there has been no evidence that the driver of the second semi was speeding or that the parked driver standing by his rig had done anything to put himself in danger.
In yet another recent fatal accident involving a semi-truck, the driver was slowing down in a construction zone when his rig was plowed into from behind by a driver of a new Nissan Maxima. The Nissan driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
These are just examples of the hundreds of deaths that occur every year in Texas in crashes with semi-trailers even though the driver of the rig was not exceeding the posted speed limit.
Statistics for Semi-Truck Accidents
In 2015, the most recent year for which there are statistics, there were 2,746,882 semi-trucks registered in the U.S. They traveled nearly 280 billion miles.
Of all fatal crashes on the roadway, nearly 12 percent involved semi-trucks with 593 people being killed in Texas, up from 570 who were killed in semi-truck accidents in 2014. Semi-trucks were involved in approximately 8 percent of all injury accidents,
More than half of all crashes involving large trucks occur on roadways other than freeways and interstate highways. More fatal crashes involving large trucks occur on Tuesdays between noon and 3 p.m. than any other time. There are a number of reasons why semi-trucks traveling at the posted speed limit still may pose a significant danger.
Tires are Not Designed to Travel as Fast as the Posted Speed Limit
Texas recently increased the speed limit on some highways to 85 mph. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that tires on these big rigs are not safe at that speed. Some tires are safe at a speed up to 81 mph, but most are only rated safe up to 75 mph.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) executive vice-president, Dave Osiecki says that, “Raising speed limits at the state level is a bad idea beyond 65 mph.” He notes that the stopping distance between 65 mph and 75 mph for a large truck is significantly different. A semi driver going faster than 65 mph may misjudge the stopping distance, plowing into vehicles in front of the big rig.
Driving at high speeds on tires that are only designed for lower speeds, along with the lack of tire maintenance, have been found to be the main reasons for blowouts. If a large truck has a blowout while traveling at a high speed, the risk of losing control of the vehicle is great.
In August 2017, the blow-out of a tire on a semi-truck was blamed for the death of an El Paso man. The big rig jack-knifed, went across the highway barrier and rammed into the oncoming BMW driven by the man from El Paso. The BMW driver died later that day, while the semi driver was uninjured.
Driving Too Fast for the Road Conditions
Even if traveling slower than the posted speed limit, road conditions may require a slower speed. For example, driving through potholes, dodging debris on the road, going too fast around a curve, and other obstacles, can cause cargo to shift, making the rig hard to control. The driver then may veer off the road into the other lane or even across the divider into oncoming traffic.
Failing to Understand Braking Time
A fully loaded semi-truck will have a greater braking time and distance due to the heavy load. This may result in them running into the vehicle in front of them, which often causes a chain reaction involving other vehicles.
This is what happened earlier this year when one person was killed and two seriously injured. According to witnesses, a semi-truck driver was unable to slow down fast enough and rammed into another vehicle. This caused another semi to plow into the first one, followed by a chain reaction, ultimately involving the two semi-trailers and three other vehicles. Interstate 30 was shut down for hours for both eastbound and westbound traffic for the accident scene to be cleaned up.
Poor Decision-Making by the Big Rig Driver
A driver may be closely following the speed limit and still make bad decisions. Some examples include:
- Following too close so the driver is unable to stop in time when faced with an obstacle or a slowing or stopping vehicle in front of the rig.
- Passing when it is not safe.
- Misjudging the speed of other vehicles.
- Being unfamiliar with the cargo so that a sudden movement causes it to shift, which may cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash.
If you were injured in a crash with a semi-trailer, contact one of our experienced attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm. We offer a free consultation and can be reached online or at 888-353-3619.