Fatal truck accidents are on the rise locally and nationally, surging since the pandemic started. The increase is especially alarming because the expectation was that there would be fewer deadly crashes because there was less traffic as more people stayed home during 2020 and the following months.
recently reported that commuters along Loop 820 were witness to a fireball of flames three days before Christmas last year. Travelers could feel the heat from the flames after a fuel tanker and a truck delivering animal waste collided. The crash caused an intense fire that burned for three hours. Little was left of both trucks when the fire ended. One person died and two others were injured.
The newspaper stated that while state traffic officials are trying to make travel safer, the “Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex’s booming growth and crisis in the trucking industry are complicating their mission. “
Recent truck fatality trends in Texas
According to Michael Morris, the director of transportation at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, travel safety improvements reversed when the pandemic started in March 2020. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that even though the number of miles drivers traveled dropped by more than 13 percent in 2020, the number of traffic deaths rose more than seven percent from 2019. The upward trend, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, continues to increase in the first quarter of 2022.
The 12 counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth region — Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, and Wise counties — have seen a similar increase in traffic deaths involving commercial vehicles. The number of deaths involving a commercial vehicle increased from 78 to 90 (from 2019 to 2020). Ninety-two people died in 2021, not counting December, in commercial vehicle accidents.
Why are commercial truck fatalities spiking?
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram tried to analyze some of the reasons for the increased number of deaths involving commercial vehicles. Some of the factors include:
- People are driving faster and with less caution. Because there were fewer people on the road during the pandemic, more people were driving recklessly. According to Morris, greater speeds increase the likelihood of a fatality. Morris stated that cars were taking more chances by trying to “weave around large trucks.” While traffic has returned to normal as more people are leaving their homes, traffic congestion has increased AND the reckless behavior is still continuing.
- More anger. Lance Simmons, the director of engineering and safety operations for the Texas Department of Transportation said, “It seems like there is a lot more anger out on the road.”
- Enforcement difficulties. One sergeant said that it’s difficult to stop speeding drivers on expressways because it’s difficult to find a safe place to conduct a traffic stop.
- Staying ahead of Texas’ population growth is difficult. More people means more traffic and more construction.
- Driver fatigue. Drivers who work long hours develop “road hypnosis.” Carlos Mendez, a former truck driver and organizer with Teamsters Local 745 in Dallas, said, “Following endless yellow road lines, watching cars pass and listening to the constant hum of the truck engine gives you this almost trance-like state.” The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does regulate the hours commercial truck drivers can drive. Generally, drivers can’t be on duty more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 days. The FMCSA also requires that drivers get off the road if they have driven more than 11 hours in a 14-hour shift.
- The truck driver shortage. There’s a severe shortage of truck drivers. Many drivers are working longer shifts than they should. Autonomous trucks are still a long way off. Many older truck drivers have decided to retire.
- Less experienced drivers. “Prior to the pandemic, retirement accounted for 54% of the driver shortage, according to a 2019 report from American Trucking Associations.” Replacing older drivers with younger drivers is dangerous. Experience does matter when it comes to driving commercial trucks. Mendez states, “You can be struggling. You really don’t have the experience to be in the rig. I think that’s the biggest danger that we’re seeing now…It’s a gumbo of disasters waiting to happen.”
The news article states that Simmons, Morris, and other traffic experts are meeting regularly to try to find solutions, including:
- Focusing on the hotspots and using engineering to find solutions.
- Providing better rest stops for commercial truck drivers.
- Public education campaigns to alert drivers about how to travel alongside commercial vehicles.
The Biden administration is also working to recruit veteran truck drivers, make it easier to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and increase driving apprenticeships through a program called the “Trucking Action Plan.”
Can you help if my loved one died in a commercial truck accident?
Our Dallas truck accident lawyers understand how traumatic it is when a loved one dies due to a truck accident. We demand compensation for all your economic and personal losses. We file claims against the truck drivers, truck owners, shipping companies, truck brokers, truck part manufacturers, and others when their negligence or lack of care causes the death of a loved one. We also file personal injury claims and product liability claims on behalf of survivors who suffer catastrophic or serious injuries.
At Slack Davis Sanger, we understand why commercial truck accidents are so deadly. We work with investigators, examine truck logs, and conduct discovery to show just how the accident happened and who is responsible. We work with financial professionals who understand the criteria for determining the value of a wrongful death claim and with the doctors who treat survivors. To speak with a seasoned Dallas truck accident attorney, call us at 888-340-4028 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.
The firm handles cases involving catastrophic personal injuries and deaths. Our work spans three decades of handling airplane and helicopter crashes, truck and car accidents, oilfield and construction accidents, and other devastating accidents. We try lawsuits throughout the country in both federal and state courts and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. To date, we have handled or tried cases in 47 states, read more about our attorneys and firm.