Many of the over 9 million trucks on the roads in this country are operating with serious safety problems, according to a recent study performed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Twenty-eight motor carrier companies, representing more than 200,000 trucks, were found to have trucks in violation of federal safety laws. These violations include defective brakes, overly worn tires, excessive loads, and undertrained or impaired drivers. All of these factors contribute to the likelihood of a serious truck accident.
While the public is largely unaware of the problems with the nation’s large truck fleet, it is at significant risk due to these safety violations. Although trucks make up fewer than 4 percent of vehicles on the road, they are involved in 12 percent of motor vehicles fatalities, with over 4,000 deaths and 80,000 serious injuries occurring every year. Government data shows that many trucking accidents are not reported, suggesting the numbers above are underestimates. Citizens of Massachusetts, with its older highway system, are left at risk.
Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable, and would be avoided if trucking companies fully complied with safety laws. Unfortunately, many companies fail to perform critical maintenance and repairs in order to save money. As the government’s inspection and enforcement resources are limited, the chances of being caught are small, and the companies that are forced to take its trucks off the road simply change their name and continue operations as before.
Compounding this unsafe situation is the fact that many trucking companies carry insurance in amounts that are inadequate to compensate the victims of trucking accidents, especially when someone is seriously injured or there are multiple victims. Congress set the minimum level of insurance for tractor trailers at $750,000 in 1980, and has not changed it since. Although many companies carry higher amounts, carrying the minimum insurance is common in small trucking companies, which is of great concern, as 87 percent of the companies in violation of safety standards had fleets of ten trucks or fewer.
Feel free to contact our Boston personal injury law firm if you have any questions about truck accidents.