Truck part defects, distractions/driver errors, and passenger vehicles can all contribute to big rig truck wrecks. Stricter regulations and public service announcements only go so far in making the roads safer. Today, new technology is stepping in to minimize crash risks associated with human error. Driverless 18-wheelers are still a few years away, but these new technologies deliver immediate and powerful safety precautions.
If you were recently injured in a truck accident, contact a Houston truck collision lawyer for guidance on what to do next.
Large Truck Wreck Statistics
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 4,067 people died in large truck wrecks and 116,000 people suffered injuries in large truck wrecks during 2015. Most people who died were driving passenger vehicles. In Harris County in 2015, commercial vehicles were involved in 5,887 crashes including 34 fatal crashes, 37 fatalities, and 141 incapacitating injuries. In the counties surrounding Harris County (Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery, Chambers, Waller, and Brazoria), large trucks were involved in 1,965 crashes during the same year.
Wrecks may involve one or many contributing factors, but the reality is clear – 18 wheeler wrecks are exceedingly common. They interrupt traffic, injure people, and cause tragic deaths. Many passenger vehicles now feature safety technologies including backup mirrors, lane sensors, and seatbelt reminders. The same technology and additional measures hold promise for large commercial truck safety, too.
Advancements in Truck Technology
Daimler is a pioneer in the autonomous trucking movement. The truck maker has now road-tested self-driving Freightliner trucks in Nevada and in Europe, and the Uber-owned semi-autonomous vehicle called Otto can handle most of the heavy lifting on its own. A few years will pass before these technologies become commonplace, but there are several other technologies that increase the current safety levels of driver-operated trucks around the country. Some of the advancements used in Texas today include:
- Automated sensors at weigh stations. Electronics at weigh stations don’t completely eliminate the need for manual inspections, but they do support station inspectors who may see around 2,500 trucks per day. At a weigh station in San Antonio, inspectors rely on sensors and random manual inspections to catch commercial vehicle problems. Workers may remove trucks from the roadways after using the combination of resources to identify flat tires, brake problems, and axle problems, among other things.
Since large trucks need significant brake power to avoid rear-ending passenger vehicles who zip in and out of traffic, quickly identifying faulty brakes can save lives. Technology speeds up the inspection process and increases the likelihood that an inspector will catch a potential problem.
- Blindspot erasing cameras. Most vehicles have blind spots, but tractor-trailers may not see large spaces around the truck – a significant hazard in traffic. Cameras enable truck drivers to identify cars in blind spots and act accordingly.
- Automatic speed and braking regulators. Many trucking companies put governors on commercial vehicles to prevent speeding and enforce driving regulations. Some also include cameras/sensors that will apply the brakes if a collision is imminent.
- Lane sensors. In passenger vehicles, moving out of a lane or too close to another vehicle may trigger an alert. In large trucks, these sensors keep truck drivers on the ball and away from potential roadway hazards.
- Interior cameras and sensors. Safety features in development go beyond immediate crash avoidance and into routine maintenance. Developers are incorporating sensors into internal systems that alert trucking companies immediately in the event of a failure or service need. Some of the most serious accidents occur when truck brakes fail, tires blow out, or pieces fly out from under the vehicle. Comprehensive sensors could reduce or stop many of these incidents.
Every year, technology brings new advancements to the field of commercial transportation. Hopefully, the assistive changes will ease the burden of a truck driver’s job and reduce the number of wrecks that occur throughout the year. Sensor-based technology may even prevent trucks from wrecks that passenger vehicle drivers cause. With the new technology in development and in the marketplace, the future of trucking safety looks bright.