Most accidents involving large commercial trucks and smaller vehicles occur when truckers are following too close to the vehicle ahead.
Commercial Truck Crashes
Large commercial trucks often weigh up to 12,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and cargo. When traveling at highway speeds of up to 65 miles per hour, these trucks can cause significant damage to surrounding vehicles and deadly injuries to other drivers and passengers, if a collision occurs. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), when a commercial truck is following another vehicle too closely, and the front vehicle slows down or stops quickly, a deadly crash is usually imminent. When traveling at 55 mph, the average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer in ideal conditions is 196 feet. That’s 63 feet more than the average stopping distance for most passenger vehicles.
Large trucks need additional space between vehicles for safe braking. To prevent serious accidents, injuries, and fatalities, large commercial trucks should follow these trucking guidelines for safe following distances:
- When traveling less than 40 mph, allow at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length between the truck and the leading vehicle.
- When traveling more than 40 mph, allow at least two seconds for every 10 feet of vehicle length between the truck and the leading vehicle.
- When approaching stops such as traffic signals, stop signs, railroad crossings, and pedestrian crosswalks, stop at least 20 feet behind the leading vehicle.
- During inclement weather conditions with low visibility and slippery roads, double the following distance guideline based on speed in normal conditions. Braking distance is significantly impacted by road surfaces, road debris, and weather conditions such as rain, fog, ice, and snow.
Commercial trucking is an important, but dangerous occupation. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012 more 300,000 accidents and 100,000 injuries involved large commercial trucks. In 2014, Time Magazine ranked truck driving number 8 on the list of the “10 Most Dangerous Jobs.” In 2014, over 3,600 people died in commercial truck collisions on U.S. roads and highways. 72 percent of collisions involved tractor-trailers, and 68 percent of fatalities were passengers in motor vehicles.
People involved in large commercial trucking accidents usually suffer severe injuries, if they survive the crash. A truck accident lawyer often sees injury victims who sustain life-long disabilities that result in job loss, large medical bills, and ongoing medical care and rehabilitation.