Are There Fewer Trucks on the Road Because of COVID-19?

August 31, 2020 Truck Accident Blog

How Has the Pandemic Affected Truck Traffic?

In April 2020, personal vehicle traffic in some U.S. cities dropped by as much as 48%, which one analyst called “unprecedented.” Many employees began working remotely – at home instead of at the office – for the first time, eliminating the need for commuting. Curfews, mandatory quarantines when crossing the state lines, and stay-at-home orders were enacted in some areas to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We’ve also experienced fewer trucks COVID-19 pandemic traffic.

Are There Fewer Trucks COVID-19 on the Road?

Competing factors have drawn many people back to the roads. Gas prices have plummeted. Many toll roads, including the New Jersey Turnpike, suspended cash tolls. Months into the pandemic, many families are anxious to get out of the house and hit the road for a summer vacation.

But if you’ve ever been involved in a collision with a truck or have a loved one who has, you may be wondering if there are fewer trucks COVID-19, not withstanding, on the road because of the pandemic. Exactly how safe are the current driving conditions?

Traffic during the pandemic has been lighter than average. This has been true of commercial as well as noncommercial vehicles. Videos of empty streets and comments likening them to yesteryear are common on social media.

There are fewer cars on the road, but are there fewer big trucks?

As is true for so many of us, the fewer trucks COVID-19 pandemic situation has resulted in job loss or reduced working hours for many truck drivers. As entire swaths of the economy shut down early in the pandemic and have remained closed for weeks or even months, the demand for certain goods – and therefore the transportation of those goods – ground to a halt.

Many restaurants and bars, for example, were required to close their doors and, for a time, did not have a need for new shipments of food and other supplies. Factories closed, producing a gap in the shipment of even in-demand goods, such as construction supplies. The International Road Transport Union in Geneva reported that early in the pandemic new freight contracts declined by 60% to 90% compared to previous years. The result is that there have been fewer tractor-trailer trucks on the nation’s interstates and highways during the coronavirus pandemic.

fewer trucks covid-19

While the number of big trucks on the roads has decreased in some areas, they haven’t disappeared altogether. Semi and tractor-trailer trucks are critical to maintaining America’s infrastructure. Truck drivers have been working hard to deliver needed goods – including medical supplies, foodstuffs, and that hard-to-find toilet paper – to hospitals, charitable relief organizations, stores, and other retailers. Even the contents of your latest Amazon Prime package, though delivered by a grey van, probably took a ride in a big truck at some point along its journey from raw materials and manufacture to your door. Because more people are shopping online, the trucking industry has been working diligently to fill those orders and transport goods.

While the fact that there are fewer trucks on the roads may indicate a somewhat reduced risk of a collision, accidents do still occur.

Truck Accident Statistics for 2020 – Fewer Trucks COVID-19

We’re already months into the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ve only just passed the halfway point of 2020. While traffic statistic reports for the year have not yet been compiled and published as of yet, we can glean some information by looking at recent headlines.

The Truck Safety Coalition reported on 29 fatal truck accidents during April 2020 and 22 such incidents during May 2020. The same organization reported on 32 crashes in April 2019 and 29 in May of that year. A negligible decrease can here be observed. This list is not exhaustive, though, as an average of over 400,000 truck crashes occur each year in the United States. This tells us that truck accidents have still occurred during the pandemic, and because the ratio of trucks to passenger cars on the roads now includes more tractor-trailers and fewer noncommercial vehicles, we may see those numbers rise.

It is evident, then, that even with fewer trucks on the road, safe driving habits are still essential. What can you do to keep your family safe while traveling during the pandemic?

Practice Defensive Driving Habits

While there may be fewer drivers on the road, dangers still exist. One of those is assuming that less traffic equates to less risk. “We have had half the traffic and twice as many fatalities,” said one state’s Office of Traffic Safety director. Across the country, law enforcement officers have reported increases in speeding, drag racing, reckless behavior, and, unfortunately, speed-related crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities.

You can take practical steps to ensure your own and your family’s safety when driving during the pandemic. Always remember to:

  • Follow all laws and safety regulations, including observing the speed limit, heeding traffic signals and signs, and wearing your seatbelt.
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks. Never race other drivers, drive recklessly, or attempt stunts.
  • Drive only when well-rested, and never drive while using alcohol, drugs, certain prescription medications, or other substances that may influence your ability to safely operate a vehicle.
  • Do not allow distractions such as cellphones, food, or the radio to draw your attention away from the road.

Also, remember to exercise proper caution when sharing the roads with tractor-trailers and semi-trucks. For example, if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, they cannot see you. Avoid driving in a truck’s blindspots for extended periods. Also, note that laden trucks cannot slow down as quickly as the average consumer vehicle. Allow several car lengths between your vehicle and the truck, and avoid rapidly decelerating – “slamming on the breaks” – whenever possible. Be aware of the space large trucks need in order to turn, especially when waiting at an intersection.

If you’re the driver of a truck, you can also reduce the risk of accidents by:

  • Being alert to everything going on around you, including who is in front of, behind, and beside you, and what’s going on well ahead of you down the road.
  • Planning an “escape route” to safely get your rig out of harm’s way, especially when driving in heavy traffic.
  • Avoiding heavy traffic when possible. Try to plan your route to avoid “rush hour” and other traffic volume peaks.
  • Leaving plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
  • Keeping lane changes to a minimum.
  • Getting plenty of rest and taking breaks as needed.

Be vigilant and practice defensive driving habits. When we all work together, we can minimize the occurrence of big rig accidents and other traffic fatalities.

What to Do When an Accident Occurs

If you have been involved in a big truck accident, trucking accident attorneys are available to help you understand your rights, interact with insurance companies, and negotiate settlements. You can request a free case review by calling (732) 394-1549 or by emailing us at contact@ram.law. Contact New Jersey’s trucking accident attorneys at Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo, L.L.P. – RAM Law today for a consultation.

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