Every year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) publishes a report on vehicle crashes throughout the state. It’s an important resource for understanding the problems we’re facing on our highways and what we need to do to make our roads safer.
The most recent publication available is the 2021 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics report. It’s the clearest picture we have of current accident statistics in Pennsylvania.
Here is a summary of its findings regarding heavy/commercial truck accidents.
#1. 2021 Brought the Second-Highest Number of Truck Accidents in PA Since 2005.
There were 7,244 heavy truck crashes in Pennsylvania in 2021, an increase of 1,126 collisions from 2020. While the lower number of accidents in 2020 could be attributed to COVID-19 shutdowns, 2021’s numbers were still above those for 2019. They were also higher than every other year since 2005, other than 2018 when they peaked at 7,336.
2021 also brought the second-highest number of fatalities in the past 5 years, causing 144 deaths.
#2: In Crashes Caused by Vehicle Failure, Brake Problems Were the Leading Cause
Keeping track of the most common causes of 18-wheeler collisions is a key part of making our roads safer. By understanding the cause of trucking crashes, we can address the problem at the root—and hopefully, keep more people alive. PennDOT’s report included interesting information regarding truck crashes that were attributed to vehicle failure.
The top four factors for truck accidents involving vehicle failure were:
- Brake-related problems
- Tire/wheel-related problems
- Total steering system failure
- Unsecure or overloaded trailers
These four issues reveal a common problem in the trucking industry: low maintenance and overloaded trailers, both of which are tied to company profit margins. Legally, companies are required to regularly check and maintain their brakes and tires. This costs time, which costs money.
Meanwhile, some companies may overload their trailers to try to make more deliveries in a single trip, thus generating more revenue. Overloaded trailers wear down the brakes and tires even more, lowering the likelihood of getting maintenance while increasing the likelihood that the truck will crash. Overloaded trailers can also affect overall maneuverability, particularly in heavy weather or on roads with steep grades or curves.
#3: Most Trucking Accidents Happen on Non-Interstate Highways
Around 55% of trucking accidents in Pennsylvania take place on state highways that are not designated as interstate highways. Interstate highways, trucking companies often point out, were originally built for truckers. But in Pennsylvania, more than half of heavy truck accidents happen on our state highways, which were made for commuting and travel.
The second most common location for heavy truck accidents in Pennsylvania is on interstate highways. In 2021, 26.8% of collisions occurred on interstate highways in the Commonwealth. Just 10.6% of trucking accidents took place on local roads, and 7.1% occurred on turnpikes.
#4. Truck Drivers Are Least Likely to Lose Their Lives in a Collision
In 2021, just 2.2% of truck accident fatalities were heavy truck occupants. That means in fatal truck accidents involving large trucks, 97.8% of the victims were other motorists, pedestrians, or motorcycle riders.
The reason for this vast disparity is the size and weight difference between heavy trucks and typical passenger cars or light trucks. A fully-loaded semi may weigh 80,000 pounds or even more with an oversized permit. It may be carrying extremely heavy or even hazardous cargo. The height of the trailer may also be an issue, with some car versus truck accidents ending in underrides (where the smaller vehicle gets lodged underneath the trailer. The top of a car may be crushed or sheared off completely in such a collision.
You’re a Person, Not a Statistic
At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we recognize that our clients are not just numbers or statistics. They are real people with real problems, who are often going through the most difficult times of their lives. Regardless of where or how a trucking accident took place, trucking companies need to be held accountable for their negligence. The victims of trucking accidents often suffer serious and permanent injuries that they cannot afford to treat; shipping companies need to be made responsible for the millions of dollars in damages they cause.
Our truck accident attorneys represent injured motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and truck drivers themselves who have been injured in collisions caused by no fault of their own. We have been fighting for injured Pennsylvanians for the past 100 years, and we have no intention of stopping.
If you were injured in a serious trucking accident, speak with Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC today to discuss your recovery options in a free consultation. We take no fee unless we win your case, so there’s no risk or obligation!