Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit: Kansas City, Missouri

There are approximately 415,000 crashes involving large trucks, such as semi-trucks or 18-wheelers, every year in the United States. Of those crashes, approximately 1% or 3,500 will result in a fatality. Another 20% or 83,000 of those large truck accidents result in an injury. Kansas City, Missouri is at the center of the United States, and as a result, many semi-trucks drive through Kansas City and the surrounding area. Horrific semi-truck accidents continue to make the news in the greater Kansas City metro area. Many of these accidents are caused because specific rules and regulation that apply in Missouri and other states were not followed. Below are various facts about semi-trucks and some of the more important Missouri semi-truck regulations.

How Often do Semi-Truck Accidents Happen?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes an annual report on crashes and injuries involving large trucks and buses, known as the Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts (LTBCF). The FMCSA’s most recently published report is from 2015. The report notes that in 2015 there were 4,311 large trucks and buses involved in fatal accidents. Large truck related fatalities increased in 2015 by 8% from 2014, but were still far lower than the all time high in 2005 of 5,231. From 2005 through 2009, fatal crashes involving large trucks decreased 34%. However, the rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks, such as tractor trailers, increased 20% from 2009 to 2015. During the same time period, injuries involving large trucks declined 33% and then rebounded 62%!

When are Fatal Semi-Truck Accidents Most Likely to Happen?

Large truck driving dangerously on a dusty road outside of Kansas City.
Semi-truck driving fast down a dirt road west of Kansas City, Kansas

 

  • 60% of all fatal crashes involving a semi-truck happen on rural roads (back roads).
  • 65% of all fatal accidents involving a large truck happen in the day time (6am to 6pm).
  • Fatal 18-wheeler accidents happen 1.4 times more often a day on a Monday through Friday (13% of fatal accidents are on the weekend).

Which Large Trucks are the Most Dangerous?

KC, MO Large Tractor-Trailer Truck with Flammable Gas
A semi-truck carrying flammable gas in downtown Kansas City, Missouri

 

  • Singles (Single semi-trailer behind a tractor truck): 65% of fatalities involving a large truck.
  • Doubles (2 semi-trailers): 3% of fatal large truck collisions.
  • Triples (3 semi-trailers): 0.1% of all fatal large truck crashes.

What are the Most Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents in the Kansas City metro area?

  • 33% of semi-truck fatalities involve driver-related factors.
    • Speeding is the most frequently cited factor.
    • Distraction and sleeping are second most common.
    • Over and under-steering
  • Vehicle-related factors account for approximately 6% of trucking fatalities.
    • Tires are the most frequently cited factor.
  • Failure to adjust speed to account for:
    • Curves in road
    • On and off-ramps
    • Increased load weight
    • Condition of breaks
    • Road surface
    • Intersection conditions

Large Cement Truck in Kansas City, Missouri

Semi-Truck Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue and distraction result in a large number of semi truck accidents every year. Semi truck accidents due to driver fatigue result in a high rate of fatalities, because the semi truck driver never slows down. Multiple studies have uncovered that a vast majority of semi truck drivers drive an average of over 11 hours per day! Most semi truck accidents that occur in Kansas City metro area happen after the driver has been driving the semi-truck for 10 hours or longer. Studies have also revealed that truck drivers are twice as likely to be obese (over 60% of semi truck drivers are obese), and that obesity is linked to poor sleep (sleep apnea) and increased fatigue. Having a regular sleep schedule and consistently sleeping between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. greatly reduces the level of fatigue that semi-truck drivers report. However, it is difficult for many semi truck drivers to maintain regular sleeping patterns, in part due to the stimulates an overwhelming number of truck drivers take in order to stay awake and maintain focus on the road. Semi truck accidents related to driver fatigue and distraction are completely preventable! Unfortunately, semi-truck drivers are paid by the mile, often resulting in the driver continuing on for far too long. Transportation companies need to enforce driving hour limits and semi-truck drivers need to follow such driving limits in order to prevent even more needless semi truck accidents.

Scientific Studies on Semi-Truck Driver Fatigue

Results from this study showed that shifts with more sleep time between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. were involved with a lower driving risk and better driving performance than shifts with less sleep time between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The study also found that increased years of commercial vehicle driving experience were associated with a decrease in crashes, near-crashes, or crash-relevant conflicts. Finally, an association was also discovered between an increased BMI of the truck driver and an increased risk of accidents. The authors note that exercise during the day will improves sleep.

A Belgian study found that “Poor sleep quality was significantly associated with poor self-perceived health, unrealistic work schedule, low job satisfaction, and less driving experience.” The study authors recommended “comprehensive countermeasures to improve working conditions and organization are needed, as well as health promotion interventions, to ensure the safety and well-being of truck drivers.”

It was determined that “a link between obesity and fatigue, which is a major safety issue surrounding commercial motor vehicle operations given the long hours these drivers spend on the road.”

62 crashes or near crashes were evaluated to determine the impact of driver fatigue. 58 of the crashes or near crashes occurred during the 10th and 11th driving hours. The authors conclude that driver fatigue may have been a potential contributing factor in these wrecks.

It was determined that 85% of truck drivers drive over 11 hours a day. The results also indicated “a high prevalence of sleep disorders, use of alcohol and psychostimulant drugs, and accidents.” The authors warned of the “urgent need to develop primary prevention programs and campaigns and to improve control by authorities. Transportation companies and truck drivers should follow what the legislation determines about length of time driving, work schedules and shifts, because of the high number of truck drivers on long distance drives who do not get adequate rest. It is important to rethink life and working habits.”

How to Drive Safely Near a Semi-Truck

Semi trucks are very large vehicles, making them much more difficult for a driver to safely operate in comparison to a normal passenger vehicle. To drive safely in the presence of a semi-truck, it is necessary to know the limitations of a semi truck and to drive defensively around them. Multi-lane highways, such as those that surround the Kansas City, metro area are particularly dangers.

Blind spots for a semi-truck driver on a Missouri highway

Stay Out of Semi Truck Blind Spots and “No Zones”

The easiest rule to remember when it comes to semi truck blind spots is that if you can’t see the semi truck’s side view mirror, the driver can’t see you either. Try to spend as little time as possible next to a semi truck, because the driver can’t see you and it could be deadly if the driver decides to change lanes. The semi truck driver’s blind spot extends much farther on the passenger side (right side) of the semi truck than on the driver’s side. Don’t forget, blind spots aren’t only on the sides of semi trucks, the driver also can’t see you unless you’re more than 30 feet behind the semi truck or over 20 feet ahead of the semi. Make sure to get a good distance in front of a semi truck before pulling back in front of the semi, because it takes an 18-wheeler truck a significant amount of time and distance to slow down and come to a complete stop.

Safely Passing a Semi Truck

When passing a semi truck, your goal should be to remain in the semi truck’s blind spots for as little time as possible. In order to spend as little time as possible in the semi truck’s blind spots, use your turn signal and get into the passing lane  more than 30 feet in advance (at minimum two car lengths). Only pass vehicles on the left hand side, especially semi trucks. Semi truck drivers expect you to pass on the left hand side of the road and have much less visibility to their right side. Before starting to actually pass the semi truck, let any other cars in front of you fully pass the semi truck first. By allowing any vehicles in front of you to pass the tractor-trailer truck first, you eliminate the chance of the vehicle in front of you slowing down and trapping you in the semi truck’s blind spot. While passing the semi truck, it is also advisable to briefly speed up, to again minimize your time in the truck’s blind spots. After you get out of the semi truck’s blind spot (parallel with the driver), then you can slow back down. Finally, don’t rush to get out of the passing lane and in front of the semi. It is important that you slow back down to your normal speed before pulling back in front of the semi. Immediately pulling back in front of a semi and then slowing down is dangerous and forces the semi truck to unnecessarily brake or change lanes. Allow two car lengths at the very minimum before pulling back in front of a semi truck. If you can’t see the semi truck driver in your rear view mirror, he can’t see you either! Even if the semi truck driver can see you, it doesn’t mean that there’s enough distance for the semi truck to stop in time if there’s a sudden slow down in traffic. Additionally, exercise additional caution when passing a semi truck while going down hill, as the semi truck will continue to pick up speed and have difficultly stopping.

Caution Wide Turn Semi-Truck Mud Flaps in Kansas City, Missouri

Anticipate Wide Turns

Semi-trucks require a lot of extra room to turn. The turning radius of a semi-truck is approximately 55 feet. The large turning radius of a semi-truck can impact vehicles in the lanes next to the semi-truck and those that the truck is turning into at an intersection. Don’t pull past the white box or white line at an intersection, tractor-trailer trucks require the additional space to turn. Be alert even at red lights, at times reversing at an intersection is necessary to avoid semi trucks that are forced to take wide turns. Finally, never try to pass a semi truck while it is turning! It can be tempting to pass a semi truck while it is turning, because most semi trucks slow down significantly to safely make a sharp turn. However, a semi-truck will occasionally have to come out of its driving lane while turning, which greatly increases the chance of an accident. Allow the semi-truck driver time to safely make their turn, and then decide if you want to pass the semi. Saving a few seconds is not worth risking an accident with a semi-truck!

Semi-Truck Underride Guards

The large empty space created between a semi-truck’s trailer and the trailer’s front and rear wheels create an additional danger for vehicles driving near a semi-truck. This area is called the “underride” and is associated with a large number of semi-truck fatalities. The underride allows passenger vehicles to go under the semi-truck during a wreck. Additionally, the bottom of the semi-truck’s trailer is at head level for many passenger vehicles. The increased danger posed by a semi-truck’s underride has been known for well over 50 years. In response, the United States Congress passed federal standards regarding semi truck underride guards in 1953.These standards are not just mandatory in Kansas City, but nationwide.

Semi-Truck with an Underride Guard driving through Kansas City, Missouri

Scientific Research on Semi-Truck Side Underride Guards

30,243 fatalities between light vehicles and combination trucks were identified in The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1994 through 2010, an average of 1,779 fatalities per year. 331 yearly fatalities were attributed to side impact with tractor trailers. 68 of the 331 side impacts also involved the side underride. 65 of the 68 yearly side underride fatalities involved Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI). The authors then determine that the “ratio of underreporting of side underride crashes in the FARS database to be a factor of 3.1. Therefore, the annual number of side underride fatalities with passenger compartment intrusion is estimated to be 202 (63 x 3.1) for side impact crashes involving a light vehicle and combination truck. (this estimate includes crashes of all speed ranges and all types of combination trucks.)” It was also concluded that “non-fatal serious injuries to light vehicle occupants in side underride crashes involving combination trucks are extremely rare.” In other words, a passenger will typically die from their injuries sustained during an underride crash involving a combination truck.

206 crashes involving passenger vehicles impacting the side of a large truck from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) were compared to data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to determine the potential for side underride guards (SUGs) to reduce passenger vehicle occupant fatalities and injuries. The most severe injuries were produced from truck side impact in 143 of 206 crashes. It was found that side underride guards could have reduce the severity of injury or prevented death in 76 of the 143 wrecks.

A study was conducted to assess the cost to benefit of rear-impact guards after North Dakota’s legislature passed a law exempting the state’s agricultural truck fleet from the federal safety programs requirement for rear-guards on large trucks. The study found that the “public safety benefits for rear-impact guards are higher than the estimated lifetime cost for the equipment and maintenance of $8.1 million.”

Photographs from 1993 in Indiana were used to estimate the incidence of fatal crashes in which passenger vehicles underrode the fronts, sides and rears of large trucks. 98 crashes were evaluated in total and compared to the same 98 crashes reported in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). It was found that the reporting system was flawed in capturing when underride was responsible for death. The photographs revealed details not contained in the police reports or FARS. The authors concluded that preventing underride would have substantially reduced the likelihood of death or serious injury in 20% of the underride crashes.

Scientific Research on Semi Truck Rear Underride Guards

Semi-Truck Accident Prevention with Rear Underride Guards at Kansas City rest stop

The study concludes that “Tests of semi-trailers equipped with FMVSS 223 compliant underride guards demonstrate that guard failure and severe passenger vehicle underride can result from impact speeds and overlap conditions that passenger vehicles are designed to manage in crashes with stiffer objects. CMVSS 223 requirements are an improvement over US regulations but still are insufficient to produce good performance in offset crashes. Both standards should be upgraded to promote trailer and guard designs that are strong enough across their full widths to remain engaged with the frontal structures of striking passenger vehicles.”

The study found that injuries involving tractor-trailers with underride guards, guard deformation or complete failure was frequent and most commonly due to weak attachments, buckling of the trailer chassis, or bending of the lateral end of the guard under narrow overlap loading.

The study first looked at data from Florida and North Carolina, which demonstrated “decreases in fatalities and serious injuries to passenger vehicle occupants where rear-ending a tractor-trailer subsequent to the implementation of FMVSS 223 and 224.” Additional data from North Carolina revealed “that passenger vehicle passenger compartment intrusion is more apt to occur when the corner of the trailer is impacted, rather than the center of the trailer.”

Other Studies on Semi Truck Accidents

Large Tractor-Trailer Truck on dirt road in Kansas without safety underride guard.
Semi-Truck west of Kansas City without underride guards

582 trucking accidents were evaluated to determine the injury risk for truck drivers. The study found that “Truck drivers only died after collisions with other trucks.” A truck driver was found to be most likely injured in a frontal collision with another truck. Injuries to the legs were the most common severe injuries for truck drivers to experience.

The occupational fatalities among driver/sales workers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and light truck or delivery service drivers. 85% of the fatalities were the in subgroup heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, due to transportation incidents 80% of the time. Older and male drivers also had higher fatality rates. The authors recommend targeted interventions to reduce highway fatalities among heavy truck drivers.

The study found that about 33% of Long-Haul Truck Drivers (LHTD) have been involved in at least one truck crash and 12% had been involved in two or more truck crashes while working as a Long-Haul Truck Driver.

Seat belt use among Long-Haul Truck Drivers (LHTD) was assessed, because 46% of occupational motor vehicle fatalities involved Long-Haul Truck Drivers, which accounts for approximately 12% of all occupational deaths in the United States. The authors of the study concluded that approximately 14% of Long-Haul Truck Drivers are at increased risk for injury and death because they do not use a seat belt on every trip. The authors went on to recommend design changes to semi-trucks that would promote seat belt use.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted an in-depth analysis on 239 rollovers involving large trucks. Nearly half of the rollover accidents were due to the driver failing to adjust their speed on curves (mostly on and off-ramps). The second leading cause of rollovers were due to inattentiveness, distraction and falling asleep. The third contributor of large truck crashes involved under and over-steering to the point of rolling over.

A study was conducted on deaths related to large trucks. The authors noted that “there is a public concern about the magnitude of the problem of large truck crashes in the US. The authors determined that “Large truck involvement in fatal crashes has dropped substantially when measured per unit of travel, but the public health burden of large truck crashes, as measured by deaths per 100,000 population, has not improved over time because of the large increase in truck mileage. Research is needed on measures to better protect both occupants of large trucks and passenger vehicle occupants colliding with them.”

Police Cruiser with Purple Semi-Truck Pulled Over.

Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit in Kansas City, Missouri

The Hollis Law Firm is located in Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City, and has represented numerous clients in every state of the United States. The Hollis Law Firm is accepting semi-truck related auto accident cases in Kansas City, Missouri and nationwide. All cases are taken on a contingent fee basis, which means we only get paid if we win. Call 1-800-701-3672 to speak to one of our intake specialist today. Stay current on laws, regulations and greater Kansas City metro news related to semi-trucks by following our Semi Truck Accident Lawsuit FaceBook page.

 

Content Created by

C. Brett Vaughn RN, BSN, JD