This issue we are going to discuss heavy vehicle rescue from the basics to the more advance techniques that can be used. We will cover different types of trucks, truck construction, characteristics of large vehicles, and lifting and stabilizing these vehicles.
There are approximately 270 million vehicles on the highways in the United States, of these almost 18 million are trucks. Now let us add almost one million buses to this equation, giving us a total of 19 million trucks and buses on the highway. This is almost four percent of all vehicles on the road. These figures do not take into consideration the vehicles that are not registered or are illegal. This gives you a pretty good idea of just how many large vehicles are driving up and down the roads every day.
The other thing to take into consideration is that trucks and buses spend more time on the highway than the average passenger vehicle. This increases the probability that these larger vehicles will be involved in a motor vehicle crash.
Looking at miles traveled by all vehicles, large trucks accounted for 10 percent of the miles traveled in 2010. Trucks were involved in eight percent of all fatal crashes and two percent of all other injury crashes. Now looking at the types of trucks involved in fatal crashes, we find that 62 percent were tractors pulling semi-trailers. These same semi-trucks were involved in 48 percent of all non-fatal crashes. Focusing on the drivers of these trucks, the statistics show that only three percent of these drivers were considered intoxicated, as compared to a much greater percentage involving passenger vehicles. Eighty-two percent of these drivers involved in fatal crashes were also wearing seatbelts, compared to a lower percentage in passenger vehicles.
In the fatal crashes involving large trucks, 34 percent of these were directly related to driver related issues. Five of the top reasons for driver related fatal crashes were speeding in some way, inattention or distraction, failure to remain in the proper lane, blocked or obscured vision, and the always familiar failure to yield right of way. As always, the largest contributor to vehicle crashes is driver error. Most crashes could be prevented if the drivers were more attentive to their driving. Adding in bus crashes we are looking at 11,000 that occurred in 2008. Within these crashes, there were 24,000 persons injured or killed.
So if we look at the above facts, trucks are involved in approximately one in every eight vehicle crashes. When looking at these large vehicle crashes, we will find that 60 percent of them occur on major interstates, 25 percent will occur on major highways and thoroughfares, and 10 percent on secondary roads, typically the routes trucks will use to make their deliveries. Now, we know that most fire departments and rescue squads have one, if not all of these types of roads and highways running through their response districts. For this reason, there is a need for most departments to get some level of heavy vehicle rescue.
Trucks are put into two basic categories — medium and heavy. Medium trucks are put into a class 3, 4, or 5, and have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of between 10,000 pounds and 19,499 pounds. Heavy trucks are put into classes 6, 7 and 8. Class 6 is trucks that have a GVWR of 19,500 pounds to 29,000 pounds. Class 7 trucks have a GVWR of 29,100 pounds to 33,000 pounds, and class 8 are those 33,001 and greater. Trucks come in several types of designs. The first and most common is the straight truck. These are built on a solid frame and not designed to pull a trailer. Most of these trucks have two to three axles and have a GVWR of 10,000 pounds to 40,000 pounds. Next we have the specialty trucks which are designed for a specific purpose. Some examples of these types of trucks would be concrete trucks, dump trucks, wreckers, and fire apparatus.
The next type truck we have is the truck/semi-trailer combination. They are compiled of a truck, also called a tractor, and one or more trailers pulled by the truck. The tractors are either two or three axles and may weigh up to 18,000 pounds. The entire tractor trailer rig may weigh up to 140,000 pounds. The trailers also come in a variety of types including a flatbed for hauling building materials, a closed box trailer for general cargo, tankers for hauling fuels, chemicals, and grain and vehicle transports. Remember that some trucks will display placards for hazardous materials and some may not. Trucks can haul 440 pounds of hazardous materials without a placard.
Next issue we will discuss the types of trucks and look at their unique construction. When we look at heavy vehicle rescue, we need to have a good basic knowledge of the vehicles we are working with and the characteristics they present. With the weather getting cooler, train all you can before the colder weather sets in and we take a break over the holidays. Train hard, stay safe, and be the best you can.