When Big Rigs Cause Big Problems
Vehicular accidents can range from minor fender benders to severe, fatal crashes. Crashes involving tractor-trailers, due to their size, weight, and other factors, can be particularly dangerous for the motorists involved.
Unfortunately, tractor-trailer crashes in Arkansas and throughout the United States are not uncommon.
The most recent complete data available from 2017 showed that there were 4,657 fatal crashes involving large trucks that year.
There were also over 56,000 large trucks involved in injury crashes, and over 100,000 large trucks were involved in tow-away crashes.
One bit of good news? In Arkansas, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has generally decreased from 2007 to 2017.
That doesn’t mean they don’t happen frequently still, which is why it’s so important to understand tractor-trailer wrecks if you’re in one.
The experienced truck accident attorneys at Minton Law Firm have put together a guide on truck accidents below: why they’re dangerous, how common accidents are in the U.S., who regulates truck drivers, and more.
What is considered a “tractor trailer?”
A tractor trailer is also commonly called a semi-truck, large truck, big rig, or commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), these vehicles consist of a power unit designed to draw or pull a semi-trailer.
Without the attached semi-trailer, the truck tractor has no cargo-carrying capability. A truck tractor can pull one, two, or even three semi-trailers at once.
Why are tractor trailer wrecks so dangerous?
Based on the definition of tractor trailers above, you can see why accidents involving these large vehicles might be so dangerous.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a “large truck” as any medium or heavy truck, excluding buses and motorhomes, with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds.
Compare that gross vehicle weight rating to a smaller, common vehicle like the Nissan Altima, which happens to be the most popular car in Arkansas and in America. Its exact GVWR depends on the model, but the 2019 version was 4,328 pounds.
When a large truck greater than 10,000 pounds collides with another vehicle or stationary object or loses control on a turn or steep incline, it may be a much more severe accident than if a smaller vehicle was involved.
In April 2020, a driver died in an accident involving three tractor-trailers in Arkansas. The driver was driving his own tractor-trailer on Arkansas 318 near Oneida when two other tractor-trailers in front of him came to an abrupt stop. A pole in the trailer in front of the driver’s vehicle came through his windshield, fatally striking him.
Truck wrecks can be even more catastrophic due to the cargo they often carry.
The FMCSA found that in 2017, hazardous materials cargo was present on 3% of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes. They were also present in two percent of large trucks involved in nonfatal crashes.
Gasoline, fuel, oil, and other flammable liquids were the most common type of hazardous material, present in 63 percent of fatal crashes and 45 percent of nonfatal crashes.
When hazardous materials spills or leaks in an accident, it can be even more dangerous for drivers, bystanders, or objects in the area.
In this crash on Interstate 40 near Brinkley, you can see that one of the tractor-trailers caught fire, as well as the debris from the accident involving two commercial trucks and one passenger vehicle.
What are some causes of tractor trailer accidents?
- Another vehicle, person, animal, or object present or encroaching in the large truck’s lane
- Loss of control or movement
- Vehicle-related issues, including tire issues or poor maintenance
- Driver impairment due to fatigue, illness, drugs, or alcohol use
Speeding and distraction/inattention were the most common factors noted in fatal crashes from 2017.
In March 2020, the driver of a semi-truck in Huntsville traveled off the roadway at County Road 2340, struck a road sign, and overturned the vehicle. He was killed.
The exact cause of the accident was not released, and conditions were reported as cloudy and dry when the crash happened. It’s not clear if the driver was distracted, fatigued, or there was another reason for the crash.
Who governs commercial truck drivers?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) works within the Department of Transportation to “prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries,” according to their website.
To do so, the FMCSA enforces safety regulations, improves technologies and safety information systems, increases safety awareness, and more. The FMCSA works with federal, state, and local enforcement agencies, as well as labor and safety interest groups and the motor carrier industry.
Regulations, laws, and rules by the FMCSA can be found online. There are many different laws that encompass a broad range of topics, but examples of categories include driver qualifications and testing; required lamps, brakes, and other vehicular systems; and securing cargo.
The FMCSA recently made updates to the existing hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, truckers sought more flexibility and safer rules for hauling medical supplies, relief supplies, food, and other emergency equipment.
The updates prevented drivers from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a half-hour break. Because driver inattention and distraction are common factors in tractor-trailer wrecks, as well as driver impairment, this change to regulations is important to note.
Finding an attorney in Arkansas following a tractor-trailer accident
If you or a loved one is injured in a tractor-trailer accident in Arkansas, you need a truck accident attorney to help you understand your legal rights and options following the incident.
There can be multiple parties involved other than the truck driver, including their employer, the vehicle manufacturer, auto repair or maintenance shops, and more.
Determining the liable party for your injuries is extremely tricky. It’s important that you have someone on your side to help you navigate your claim and fight for fair compensation.
Arkansas residents can call the Minton Law Firm at 501-794-0001 for a free consultation, or fill out a contact form on our website. For more resources and news updates, like and follow Minton Law Firm on Facebook.