PBS Frontline investigates "America's Dangerous Trucks"
There were an estimated 4,479 fatal large truck crashes in the United States in 2019 according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This represents a 29% increase from 2010. The majority of these crashes (82%) involved passenger vehicles, and the majority of the fatalities (83%) were not occupants of the large truck.
Based on the data, it’s clear that when passenger cars collide with big rigs, it is the people in the passenger cars who are much more likely to die or be seriously injured.
On any given day, there are an estimated 3.5 million big rig trucks on the American highways. These trucks transport a wide variety of goods, including food, clothing, furniture, and appliances. They are essential to the American economy, and they play a vital role in keeping our supply chains running.
The number of big rigs on the road has been increasing in recent years. This is due the growth of e-commerce and the increasing demand for goods from overseas.
As the number of big rigs on the road continues to grow, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with these vehicles. Big rigs are large and heavy, and they can be difficult to control. They can also be dangerous.
One thing that could significantly improve safety for passenger cars that collide with big rigs is to address the issue of underride crashes, also known as undercarriage crashes. This is when the passenger car or pick-up truck hits the big rig trailer. Because of the elevated height of the trailer, the force of the crash misses the crumple zone and other safety features of the car and typically slices off the top portion of the passenger area, delivering catastrophic injuries to those in the car or truck.
For years, road safety advocates have been calling for mandatory underride guards for the rear and sides of the big rig trailer. These are metal bars that extend from the sides of the truck to the ground. They help to prevent passenger cars from going under the truck in a side-impact crash. With rear underride guards the metal bars extend from the back of the truck to the ground. They help to prevent passenger cars from going under the truck in a rear-end crash.
FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate deadly truck accidents and the fight over measures that could save thousands of lives. As the number of deaths rises, the documentary examines decades of legal maneuvering, political influence, lax regulation and industry opposition.
FRONTLINE and ProPublica’s new documentary “America’s Dangerous Trucks” premieres on Tuesday, June 13 at 10/9c on PBS and will be available to stream for free on YouTube, FRONTLINE’s website and in the PBS App.
A.C. Thompson: Frontline award-winning correspondent and producer
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*This interview will be recorded on Monday, June 12.