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Are fatal truck accidents on the rise?

The year's end brings end-of-year reports in many industries, both corporate and governmental. Unfortunately, those reports don't always contain good news.

According to the annual traffic-injury report prepared by the U.S. Transportation Department, large-truck crash fatalities rose for the fourth straight year. Across the country, 3,964 Americans died from accidents involving big rigs. Many of those crashes involved motor vehicles, although pedestrian accidents with large trucks were also included in the total count.

According to a spokesperson from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one factor contributing to the increase in fatalities might be truck driver fatigue. Unfortunately, Congress recently suspended part of a group of regulations specifically targeting drowsiness behind the wheel. 

The regulations contained various hours-of-service rules. For example, some of the regulations required truckers to get minimum hours of rest and prohibited them from working beyond an hourly ceiling in any given week. One provision that won't be enforced, due to the recent Congressional action, banned truck drivers from working 82 hours in an eight-day period.

The special licensing required of commercial truck drivers is evidence of the extra duty of care they owe to other drivers on the road. However, drivers are also under pressure to meet delivery deadlines and other efficiency goals set by their employers. Those competing interests may encourage negligent behavior, such as driving when drowsy, speeding or other unsafe trucking practices.

Yet going up against a truck driver and his or her company's insurance carrier can be intimidating. Truck companies may have aggressive insurance carriers that will attempt to minimize valid claims submitted by an accident victim. An attorney can fight to get a crash victim the compensation that he or she deserves under the law.

Source: Carrier Management, "Large-Truck Crash Deaths Increase for Fourth Year," Dec. 24, 2014

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