Three different families came together recently to press lawmakers in North Carolina to push for stricter requirements on truckers. Specifically, the family members advocated for increases in the amount of insurance truckers must carry, limits on truck weight and size and a requirement that tractor-trailers have more underride guards.
The families worked together with the Truck Safety Coalition to push for these tougher guidelines on large commercial vehicles which they say will save lives. Every year 4,000 people die in crashes with tractor-trailers while another 80,000 are injured.
One of those gathered to push for the safety requirements was Jennifer Tierney whose father died in a truck crash that she says was entirely preventable. Tierney and the others said they only way to lower the number of deaths caused by truck accidents each year is to finally change the federal trucking guidelines which have been largely untouched for two decades.
The Truck Safety Coalition says that as trucks have gotten larger and heavier in recent years the number of trucking fatalities has increased. The organization noted that multi-trailer trucks are more than 30 percent more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than single trailer trucks. These newer and larger commercial vehicles are not only more dangerous for North Carolina drivers, but they are also damaging to the nation’s roadways and bridges, stressing an already overburdened infrastructure.
Another issue the group said needs careful attention is the requirement for underride guards. Though improvements in vehicle safety features has helped decrease the number of crash deaths in the past several decades, all the safety features are useless when the front of a passenger car ends up underneath a truck. When this occurs, the top of the vehicle’s passenger compartment gets crushed because the structures designed to absorb the force of a crash are bypassed. The airbags and safety belts are then not able to do their jobs, and people inside can experience life-threatening head and neck injuries. The problem is a serious one, with NHTSA data showing that in 2011, 260 of the 2,241 passenger vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes died when the fronts of their vehicles struck the backs of trucks.
Legislators who are presented with data showing that relatively simple changes could save lives should strongly consider the measures. Tractor-trailers are responsible for thousands of lost lives every year and anything that can be done to lower that number should be seriously considered.