Because of the sheer size of commercial trucks compared to average consumer vehicles as well as a number of other factors, truck accidents can be catastrophic, causing some of the most severe injuries and fatalities.
There are many different types of large trucks that you may encounter while driving: dump/garbage trucks, tractor-trailers, tanker trucks, flatbed trucks, tow trucks, cement mixers, refrigerator trucks, heavy haulers, car carriers, or mobile crane trucks.
2009 and 2018 saw a 51% increase in the amount of large trucks involved in a fatal crash. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2017, 4,671 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving large trucks; 3,289 of those collisions involved tractor-trailers or combination trucks. Because 69% of accidents involved those trucks, and because of the amount of those trucks on the road, these tractor-trailers are considered the most dangerous truck type on the road.
During the current global pandemic, more people may be taking out-of-state road trips instead of flying; while this does not necessarily mean that there will be more cars or trucks traveling, it is important to know what the most common causes of truck accidents are so that you can reduce your risk and stay safe while taking road trips, traveling on highways, or even simply driving around your city or town!
Here are 10 different causes of truck accidents that you should know about (listed in no particular order):
Common causes of truck accidents
Major trucking companies may use speed trackers or speed limiters on company vehicles, but not all trucks have this technology. Because trucks are so much larger than passenger vehicles, speeding is even more dangerous for truck drivers; the vehicle reacts more slowly to quick changes in speed or direction because of the momentum it builds, and drivers have less control. Speeding is reckless and it is negligent, and truck drivers who speed should be held accountable.
- Distracted driving
Like speeding, distracted driving is a dangerous, illegal, and reckless action, especially for truckers because of the size of their vehicle. Truck drivers who text or take their eyes off of the road for a few minutes can cause thousands of dollars in property damage and multiple fatalities.
- Aggressive driving
Because truck drivers travel long distances and are on the road for long periods of time, and may be under stress to make their deliveries on time, they are typically more prone to road rage. If they fail to yield the right of way, tailgate, follow another driver too closely, or cut another driver off, they could seriously hurt themselves and other drivers.
- Hours of service violations (fatigued driving)
There are regulations in place to keep tired truckers off the road and help them remain alert while driving. A commercial driver is not permitted to drive for more than 11 hours at a time and must take a 10 hour break in-between; they also cannot drive more than 60 hours in one week or 70 hours in eight days. More rules exist to help protect all drivers on the roads, but sometimes these mandates are not followed because of company scheduling practices, company culture, or individual motivations.
- Severe weather
Inclement weather can reduce truck driver visibility and also make it challenging for truck drivers to control their vehicles. Rain, snow, ice, wind, and fog can cause multi-car and even multi-truck pileups and extensive injuries.
- Road construction
Truck drivers who encounter tricky road construction situations may try to manuever around the construction via a road shoulder or median, which can cause them to flip or cause a collision with another vehicle.
- Overloading Cargo
Trucks that carry large loads can potentially experience tire blowouts. They may also tip over after a turn or lane change because they are carrying too much weight. If the load is external, flying debris or the load slipping can be extremely hazardous to drivers, causing them to swerve, causing road obstructions, or going through their windshield.
- Brake/vehicle failure
Though the majority of truck accidents are due to truck driver error, this is not always the case; sometimes the vehicle manufacturer or trucking company can be considered negligent because the vehicle was not inspected or maintained properly, or had a defective part. Brake failure is one cause of trucking accidents.
- Driving under the influence
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold is .04% for commercially licensed drivers, which is half of the .08% BAC threshold for other drivers in all states. Truck drivers are not permitted to consume alcohol within four hours of driving a company commercial vehicle. They cannot have alcohol while on duty. Driving while under the influence is a crime, no matter the circumstances, and can have extreme consequences for everyone on the road with the drunk driver.
- Poor lighting
At night, if the highways or roads that trucks are traveling are poorly lit, truck drivers may have limited visibility, which can cause their blind spots to darken. It may also be harder for them to see curves, narrowing roads, or other drivers/motorcyclists.
Have you been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or other type of commercial vehicle? The Florida Law Group is ranked among the top 1% of law firms nationwide. Our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience fighting for justice for truck accident injury victims. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients, and we can help you understand your legal options. Truck companies have huge, intimidating legal teams to protect them from liability claims – you need a skilled lawyer who can stand up to other attorneys and insurance companies and advocate for a maximum settlement.