Headlines concerning truck accidents often focus on truck drivers. Distracted drivers and truck drivers who are suffering from fatigue due to lack of sleep draw headlines. But many accidents involve trucks that cannot be safely operated by any driver. Trucks that are not properly maintained or that are loaded improperly are a danger to the truck driver as well as everyone else on the road. The regulations in place to ensure that trucks are maintained in proper working order are proving insufficient to protect the public.
A recent review of data recorded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that roughly 390,000 semi truck accidents occurred between 2009 and 2013. Those accidents led to approximately 14,000 deaths. The trucks involved in those fatal accidents often had checkered pasts. Around one in four had a history of safety violation citations prior to the fatal crash. A truck pulled over for inspection has a one in six chance of being deemed unsafe to drive.
New Jersey suffers the highest rate of truck crashes per mile traveled in the nation. While New Jersey certainly suffers from levels of congestion and weather challenges that not all states can match, there is no good reason why it should suffer three times the rate of accidents of a state like Pennsylvania. Part of the problem likely comes from the way truck safety is enforced.
At what point is a truck pulled off the road? It's a question largely left to individual states to decide. Various states seem to prioritize certain elements of truck safety differently than others. Inspections must be conducted by people who understand the FMCSA standards for truck safety and have the time and resources to identify when a truck is unsafe.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Is that big rig road worthy?," by Andrew McGill, 21 December 2014