The average compact car weighs between 3000-4000 pounds. The average 18-wheel tractor trailer truck weighs around 30,000 pounds, and can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds in the United States. Unsurprisingly, commercial truck accidents are the cause of a disproportionate number of fatalities.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, in 2011 alone there were over 10,000 accidents involving commercial trucks. Most of the deaths and injuries involving large trucks are the occupants of the passenger vehicle rather than the truck driver. The issue is in the vulnerability of the people traveling in the smaller vehicle.
A number of factors contribute to the disproportionate severity of truck accidents. One of the most glaring is the weight difference between commercial trucks and standard motor vehicles. As cars become lighter with advances in technology, as well as pressures to increase fuel efficiency, those cars become more susceptible to sustaining heavy damage. Imagine an 80,000 pound semi-truck colliding with a 3000 pound compact car. The truck ways over 25 times as much as the compact car. Given the weight difference, along with highway speeds, the result can be devastating for those travelling in the smaller vehicle. The driver of the smaller vehicle is left at the mercy of the behemoth truck.
In addition, partly due to their weight, trucks have significantly lower braking ability than the standard car. According to studies, it takes a truck approximately 40% longer to stop as compared to the braking time of standard passenger vehicle. The factors that contribute to this are weight, bobtailing (driving the truck without a trailer attached, which causes them to drive differently and can make them more dangerous), and road conditions. Given this, truckers must give themselves significantly more space to stop, however, this does not always occur. This lack of respect for their own truck’s braking ability significantly contributes to the prominence of truck accidents.
Finally, trucks travelling with trailers also have a susceptibility to jack-knife, which is when the trailer swings around toward the front of the truck while the truck still continues to drive forward. Typically, trailers are close to 70 feet long and this sweeping motion of the trailer can cause severe damage to cars and drivers around the truck.
As the standard car weight decreases with manufacturers continuing to use lighter materials in order to increase fuel efficiency, drivers become even more prone to injury from the negligence of truck drivers who drive monstrous trucks in comparison. What would be just be a fender-bender between two standard cars can turn into a fatal accident for the standard car driver when a truck is on the other end of the accident.
For these reasons, it is important that truck drivers and trucking companies are held accountable for their negligence when they cause accidents that injure or kill people. By seeking out talented plaintiff attorneys, those injured (or families of those involved in fatal accidents) can seek justice when the proper precautions are not taken and these trucks turn into monster trucks.