Tragedies on the Road: Crashes Involving Commercial Semi-Trailer Trucks


SAN ANGELO, TX - Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) Tractor Trailer crashes cause fatalities and property damage annually in the U.S. In December 2016 alone, there were 81 reports across the U.S. of CMV fatality crashes, according to the Truck Accident Data Center.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute indicated that "most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants."

"The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles," said the IIHS HLDI. "Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller vehicles underriding trucks in crashes."

The IIHS HLDI also noted that truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes.

"Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads, or with poorly maintained brakes," the Institute said. "Truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch, and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted."

For the state of Texas, in 2015, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia (FARS), reported 3,516 fatality crashes overall. Out of that total, 561 of those crashes involved "a large truck." For more, click here.

Additionally, according to the Government Accountability Office at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), rollover crashes involving CMVs occur at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour. The Board also noted that 60 percent of rollover crashes aren't reported.

To bring this topic to the local level, Sergeant Justin Baker with the Texas Department of Public Safety provided an overview of reported CMV crashes in 2016, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 20.

“For 2016, there have been 12 crashes in Tom Green County that have involved CMV Truck Tractors," Baker said. "These 12 crashes include single unit Commercial Vehicles that have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more and are operating as either a single unit or combination (towing).” 

He classified these models as "Big Trucks/18 wheelers." 

Of the 12 crashes, two resulted in a rollover, according to DPS reports. The first was on Nov. 19, 2016. This crash involved a truck tractor pulling a trailer (18 wheeler) traveling southbound on U.S. 87. 

The driver failed to drive in a single lane, drove into the right barrow ditch, and rolled onto its right side, according to Baker's report. The driver involved showed possible injuries. 

The second rollover occurred on Dec.11, 2016. This crash involved two truck tractors towing trailers (18 wheelers) on U.S. 87. 

One truck broke down on the northbound improved shoulder of the roadway, and the other was traveling northbound on U.S. 87. The truck in motion failed to drive in a single lane, and struck the disabled 18 wheeler. Baker said this crash resulted in a rollover and fire; however, the drivers sustained no injuries. For that story, click here.

In November 2016, a 69-year-old Miles woman, Linda McClellan, died in a crash involving a semi-truck on US 277, about 5 miles north of Bronte, in Coke County. The trucker, Juan Molina, 65, of Del Rio, who was traveling northbound on US 277, collided with McClellan's 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. McClellan was pronounced dead at the scene. For that story, click here.

Of course, many West Texans won't forget the crash involving a semi-truck and a school bus carrying Iraan cheerleaders and their sponsors on December 2. 

DPS reported that the driver of a Buick sedan, a 59-year-old Midland woman, was traveling eastbound on I-20 when she made an unsafe lane change into the path of the 18-wheeler and collided. DPS reported that both the 18-wheeler and the Buick traversed the center median and into the incoming westbound lanes.The 18-wheeler then crashed into the Iraan-Sheffied ISD Chevrolet custom chassis van carrying Iraan High’s cheerleaders and two adult sponsors.

One of those sponsors, Liz Pope, died as a result, and the community is still in mourning over this tragedy. For more on this story, click here and here.

Despite these tragedies involving CMVs, the NHTSA reports that crashes involving fatalities overall in the U.S. are going down. From 1994 to 2014, fatality crashes went from 36,254 to 29,989. From 1995-2005, there was an increase in fatality crashes, but after 2005, those numbers steadily decreased. For those statistics, click here.

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