TRIP, a national Transportation Research Nonprofit, recently published its December 2023 report titled “America’s Rolling Warehouses: Opportunities and Challenges on the Nation’s Freight Delivery System.” Statistics in that report show that large truck travel is up in our state, and Arkansas is fourth in the nation for big truck fatalities per 1 million miles driven.
Below, we share some insight into why tractor-trailer crash deaths are steadily increasing in our state and what advocacy groups and regulators are doing to make sharing the road with 18-wheelers safer so that we don’t continue to be part of these statistics.
Why Are Increases in Truck Fatalities Occurring?
One theory researchers have about what has caused the recent uptick in large truck crashes in Arkansas has to do with the rise in e-commerce sales that have occurred since the pandemic began.
Another theory forwarded regarding the increase in truck-involved crash fatalities is that there is way too much traffic congestion, which has only worsened, given what has been described as an “inadequate investment” of resources into improving our roads and related infrastructure.
As for the head of research who worked on the project, he suggests that the reason that Arkansas ranked so high on the list is not only because a lot of freight moves through the state but specifically on our rural roads.
To that end, at least 34% of rural highway traffic comprises what the researchers call “combination trucks,” which means that our state ranks third in that respect. Wrecks occurring in these areas tend to be deadly because there are often significant delays in emergency crews making it to the crash scene and, in turn, getting to injured victims so they can receive life-saving care.
Who Dies in Tractor-Trailer Collisions?
Statistics show that between 2017 and 2021, there were 91 people killed in crashes involving trucks, with 67 of those victims being drivers in other vehicles like passenger cars. The researchers found that, perhaps surprisingly, most of those fatal crashes aren’t caused by the truckers but instead by the car drivers themselves. Why?
Apparently, an overwhelming number of the motorists involved are ultimately deemed to be intoxicated. The researchers found that many of the drivers crossed into a truck’s lane, leading to the crash.
Factors such as how veteran truckers are having more pressures placed on them to push past feeling tired or to speed, if necessary, to make timely deliveries shouldn’t be ignored either.
Also, if you add into the mix that new tractor-trailer drivers are increasingly joining the ranks as others are retiring, you have a prime breeding ground for increased crashes.
What Is Being Done to Curb Truck Crashes in Arkansas?
The Arkansas Trucking Association and the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) are independently working on strategies to improve our state’s freight safety. Some of the approaches they’re in the process of implementing include looking to increase:
- Parking facilities that can accommodate large trucks (as they’re currently lacking)
- The presence of non-weight-restricted bridges that may make it easier to move freight about on more of our state’s highways
All of this is particularly important considering the weight of goods is expected to increase by 63% in the next few years. The cargo’s associated value will, too.
Concerns Trucking Industry Representatives Have About Crashes and Curbing Them
As for those in the trucking industry, the Arkansas Trucking Association contends that the crash data for incidents involving trucks is often a bit misleading because they refer to how many accidents occur per a certain amount of people versus per commercial mile driven. The organization puts forth the idea that, if looked at through an alternate filter, Arkansas would easily fall near the bottom (instead of the top) of the list.
Additionally, the trucking organization argues that while Arkansas is good about funding projects to improve safety on our state’s roadways, inherent challenges exist when determining which projects to fund.
To this end, they cite the 2020 half-cent sales tax increase that passed, which raised $285 million, nearly a third of the ARDOT’s budget in 2023. Those funds were specifically earmarked for local roads, highway, and bridge improvement projects, but knowing where to invest them so they will serve the highest possible purpose is challenging.
As for improvements, both the advocacy group and government agency are looking to implement them specifically in rural areas. One of those plans includes making improvements to parts of I-40 that run between Little Rock and West Memphis, where at least 20,000 trucks circulate daily. ARDOT recently secured a so-called “intelligent transportation system” contract, which is expected to improve both reliability and safety along that portion of the interstate.
However, despite our state’s rural industries being what drives our economy, roadways in those regions of our state are the ones that often are improved last. There’s hope that the Renew Arkansas Highways initiative will make some inroads in that respect, though.
Seeking Help if a Truck Crash Injured You or Caused the Death of a Loved One
When you look at crash statistics, you likely never envision one of those numbers accounting for you. However, we all take chances each time we head out on the road. Anyone at any time can get seriously hurt or lose their life. While we certainly don’t wish you any ill will, we want you to know that there is help for those who, unfortunately, suffer from injuries in truck crashes.
A Little Rock trial attorney can meet with you during a one-on-one consultation to discuss your accident and your injuries or the loss of a family member and your options for potentially securing a settlement. So, contact us, McMath Woods, P.A., by email or phone to speak with an attorney about your rights, free of charge.