America’s highways are unsafe because trucking companies routinely violate safety standards, keeping unsafe trucks and drivers on the road. These are not minor violations, but include practices like routinely overloading trucks, failing to maintain brakes and tires, using unqualified and untrained drivers, and paying drivers in a way that encourages them to exceed speed limits and driving hour limits. Given the crucial role of brakes, it is hard to comprehend that defective brakes account for more than 50% of all violations!
Those are just some of the conclusions contained in a new report just released by the American Association for Justice. Researches analyzed more than a million lines of data obtained from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The full report Warning! Safety Violations Ahead may be read here.
When big heavily loaded trucks hit cars, the cars and their occupants usually lose. That’s just the law of physics. So consumers have the right to expect trucking companies to be especially vigilant about equipment maintenance and safety. But many needless injuries and deaths are caused because truckers ignore equipment problems. One egregious example is the truckers who fixed a leak in the air brake line with a toothpick and electrical tape. As any thinking person would expect, the “fix” failed after a short time, causing the needless death of a motorist.
The study found that more than 28,000 trucking companies are operating on U.S. roads with safety violations, representing over 200,000 trucks. Truck crashes caused over 12% of all motor vehicle deaths, even though trucks make up only 4% of all vehicles on the road. And that statistic is not a result of trucks covering more miles, because trucks cause deaths per mile driven that are 56% higher than those caused by all vehicles combined.
Many companies are no more concerned with your safety than drivers like that. For example, a truck crossed the center line and hit a GMC Yukon, killing four people. The driver was an illegal alien with a history of arrests and safety violations. After the crash, he admitted to his employer that he had exaggerated his truck driving experience, had a fake social security number, and was in the country illegally. The company kept him driving for another eighteen months. That company, which operates over 150 trucks, has a history of safety problems and accidents. It is truly scary that companies and drivers like that are on the road endangering us every day.
Trucks cause over 90,000 deaths and injuries a year. Many of those accidents are caused by companies that violate safety standards to maximize profits. Despite those huge numbers, the study suggests that the safety violations are more pervasive than the data show because a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that almost a third of commercial motor vehicle crashes are not reported to the federal government, although states are required to report them.