California drivers share space with thousands of commercial vehicles every day. Most of the freight transported across America makes at least part of its journey in the back of a large transport truck. Big trucks can weigh as much as forty tons and pose a major safety risk to vehicles and property in their path. While truckers are required to pass tests and have specialized training, motorists have no way of knowing whether a truck is driven by a highway veteran with decades of safe driving under their belt or a new hire fresh from an eight-week training course.
There were 4,761 people who died in large-truck crashes in 2017, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. This marks a 9 percent increase from the previous year as well as a startling 29-year high. Truckers and truck fleet owners in California and across the U.S. have spoken up on what they believe are some of the factors in this increase, and the first has to do with a federal guideline.
California motorists may be concerned to hear that brake violations are the most common safety issue found by inspectors examining commercial trucks. Because of the size and weight of semi trucks, they pose a particular danger to others on the road in case of a crash. Drivers and passengers in other vehicles are more likely to suffer severe injuries or even fatalities in case of a collision. Therefore, it's particularly important that trucks are able to put on the brakes in a dangerous situation.
Fatigue and distraction are major contributing factors for many trucking accidents in California. Nationwide, nearly 100,000 crashes are believed to be caused by fatigue alone each year. Trucking companies are taking measures to reduce the number of accidents caused by fatigue and distraction with new technology.
Large trucks were involved in accidents that killed 4,300 people in 2016. That was a 28 percent increase from 2009, and it has led to calls to make these vehicles safer. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the accidents that led to the deaths could have been prevented or mitigated with collision avoidance technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that it is testing such technology, and it could make California highways safer.
The good news from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that the overall number of 2017 car crash fatalities in the nation decreased to 37,133 from 37,806 the previous year. This works out to a 1.8 percent decline in fatal accidents on roadways throughout California and the rest of the country. The largest declines were among bicyclist-related accidents at 8.1 percent and motorcyclist-related accidents at 3.1 percent. Deaths from passenger vehicle crashes decreased by 1.4 percent.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts periodic roadchecks. During the events, truck drivers in California and throughout North America are subject to being stopped and to undergo an inspection of their vehicle and possibly one involving the driver's certificates and overall fitness to drive.
Fatal accidents involving large truck drivers have risen nationwide since 2009. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, nearly 4,500 fatalities occurred in accidents involving large trucks in 2016. In 2009, the fatality figure was approximately 3,500. Because of the increase, people in California and elsewhere are looking into the causes of these crashes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety and Accountability program is designed to identify unsafe trucking companies in California and around the country, but trade groups say that the data used by the government watchdog is unreliable and the safety scores assigned to truck operators are misleading. Congress took action in 2015 by including a provision requiring the FMCSA to revise the CSA program in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, and a report published on July 4 reveals how the agency plans to comply with this requirement.
California commercial truck drivers are the third most dangerous in the country, according to data from Verizon Connect. The ranking is based on safety factors such as braking, cornering and acceleration.