In Pennsylvania and across the U.S., the trucking industry has undergone major changes in the past few decades. Many of these changes, unfortunately, can be said to contribute to a rise in large-truck crashes. Fatal crashes involving large trucks went up 52.6% in frequency from 2009 to 2018, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. There were 4,415 such crashes reported to the FMCSA in 2018.

In the effort to develop a baseline of large-truck crash factors and find ways to prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes, the FMCSA announced that it would conduct a brand-new large-truck crash causation study. This was in January 2020. The last time the FMCSA had done such a study was between 2001 and 2003.

Among other things, the FMCSA will be analyzing changes in technology, vehicle safety and even roadway design. It will look at the increase in driver distraction caused by smartphones, in-cab navigation systems, fleet management systems and even the over-reliance on safety features like automatic emergency braking.

Researchers intend to come up with strategies that help guide the development of automated driving systems for commercial truck fleets. These strategies should be able to improve, in particular, vehicles with high or full automation. Much depends on how researchers can study the recent changes in driver behavior.

Since no vehicle is fully automated yet, truckers have a responsibility to maintain control of their rigs at all times. When they fail in this by becoming distracted or by driving drowsy or impaired, then they will be to blame for any truck crashes that result. In the event that a crash leads to injury, the victim may file a claim against the trucker’s employer, provided that the victim is less to blame than the trucker. A lawyer may assist with the claim.