UTAH (ABC4 News) – If you drive, there’s no doubt you have driven past an 18-wheeler.
These beasts on the belt route can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and the potential danger these massive semi’s pose to drivers is quite scary when you consider these high-profile tractor-trailers that are traveling at more than 65-miles-per hour.
“In 2018, we saw 119 semi rollovers state-wide,” says Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street. “So far this year, to date, from January 1 to July 31, we have 79.”
Semi-truck crashes impact more than the truck driver.
In the United States, 4,761 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Utah, close to 10 percent of all fatal accidents involved a semi-truck.
“It’s your family and my family on the road,” says Apex Trucking co-owner, Alex Halstead.
The UHP says many of the accidents involving semis could have been prevented.
“Something that we often see is simple distractions like a driver reaching across for a cigarette that they may have dropped,” says Street. “Or, looking down from the roadway and not realizing that they should have been going 20 miles an hour slower before they approached a curve — not getting to that curve at the right speed and overturning.”
Many semi rollovers are due to inexperience, says Street and Halstead.
At Apex Trucking, Halstead is teaching people how to drive a truck.
He says when getting behind the wheel of a semi, the No. 1 thing truck drivers need to remember is being ready and aware of their surroundings at all times.
“The crap could hit the fan at any second,” Halstead says. “So, it’s really, really important to perceive the dangers and react accordingly.”
Halstead says it’s important truck drivers drive safely because, at any moment, they could have to make a life saving, split-second decision behind the wheel.
“By the time you decide you’re going to stop, it’s too late,” says Halstead, “and you’re sliding and you’re gonna hit somebody.”
With a growing need for transportation throughout the country and state, Street says statistics show the number of crashes is relatively low for the number of 18-wheelers on the road.
“Per miles driven, your commercial driver is still way more safe than your average driver,” Street says. “But it’s just these incidents are so high-profile.”
When one of these heavy semi-trucks roll or crash — depending on location — Street says it can impact other drivers behind the accident.
“You may be stuck there [behind the accident] for hours,” Street says. “Moms and dads need to pick up kids from school, drop them off at daycare, go to and from work. The cost is almost immeasurable to having our infrastructure shut down.”