A fully loaded big rig can weigh more than 15 times as much as a typical car. The average weight of a passenger vehicle is about 2.5 tons, while a semi with a full trailer can legally weigh up to 40 tons.
The stark weight disparity between a commercial tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle can cause complex accidents involving multiple victims and resulting in fatalities and/or serious injury. Victims of an at-fault truck driver or trucking company can face enormous medical bills, an extended recovery period, and even drastic life changes.
The massive weight of a tractor-trailer also requires more time to stop than a passenger vehicle. If a vehicle and a big rig are both driving at 40 mph and start braking at the same moment, the tractor-trailer will travel about 45 feet further before coming to a complete stop.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks are more likely to cause fatal multiple-vehicle crashes. Reflecting this increased risk, trucks that haul freight must carry insurance coverage based on the weight of the truck and the hazards of the material being hauled.
In 2018, 82 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks were multiple-vehicle crashes, compared with 62 percent for fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles. Statistics for the same year showed a three percent increase in fatalities from truck accidents.
As an emergency response to the global pandemic, the State of California issued truck overweight permits for transporting essential goods. This permit allows up to a maximum of 88,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, instead of the usual 80,000-pound limit.
Americans for Safe and Efficient Transportation, a coalition representing truck companies and freight shippers, is pushing for a national increase of truck weight limits. The group advocates raising the current maximum to 97,000 pounds, spread over six axles.
Multiple factors can contribute to a collision involving a big rig, including vehicle failure, overcompensating while steering, tailgating, and driver fatigue. According to an FMCSA crash causation study:
The trucking industry transports about 96 percent of commercial goods consumed in the Sacramento region, according to a 2015 Caltrans analysis. According to the American Trucking Association, virtually everything that is consumed or purchased travels by truck at some point on its journey to the consumer. Trucks not only serve as a primary method of transportation but also as a key link for rail and water shipments.
The nation’s freight transportation industry is expected to increase over the next 30 years. The demand for cheap products and a national “just-in-time” delivery network has placed trucking companies under pressure to move heavier and heavier loads.
While half of the large freight trucks operate within just 50 miles of their origination, trucks used for long-distance freight movement usually haul multiple trailers, are heavier, and drive five times more miles per year than single-unit trucks.
Due to reduced traffic congestion on roadways from shelter-in-place orders, freight trucks have been traveling faster. Increased vehicle speed is playing a bigger role in the crashes that are taking place.
In response to freight demands due to the global pandemic, the FMCSA suspended some longstanding restrictions on work hours. Truckers moving essential goods, such as health care supplies and food supplies, are no longer are prohibited from working more than 70 hours in an eight-day period and are not required to take a 30-minute break, every eight hours. Independent truckers are calling for full deregulation of all shipments, not just commodities deemed essential, to eliminate confusion.
Amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, truckers are also facing long hauls with few available bathrooms, limited access to food, and a lack of places to park when tired, since many rest areas have been closed. Fatigued drivers are at a higher risk of causing a collision.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a serious truck accident, it is important to consult with a qualified lawyer. A Sacramento truck accident lawyer from our firm can promptly secure evidence supporting your case, such as investigating the accident scene and collecting black box data and driving logs to prove the driver or his or her employer was negligent.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers have helped numerous victims of negligence and will evaluate your claim during a free, no-obligation consultation. We provide our qualified legal services on a contingency basis, which means you only pay if we recover compensation for your claim.