Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
What Are the Main Causes of Truck Accidents?
We depend on trucks to haul the goods we need and want throughout Texas and the nation. Texas is a leader in the oil and gas industry, as well as agriculture, so the state especially depends on trucks to move agricultural and petroleum products. Drivers in passenger vehicles have to share the road with these trucks, and should not have to drive in fear of an accident because of negligent truck drivers or negligent trucking companies, especially when trucks might be carrying dangerous cargo.
If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident, you may have a right to recover compensation. We’ve put together this short guide about the causes of truck accidents to help you understand how your truck accident may have occurred. Learning about the causes of truck accidents also gives you insight into how you can avoid being involved in one in the future.
When Negligent Truck Drivers Cause Accidents
Truck drivers are held to a higher standard than the average motor vehicle driver; they need to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, which includes obtaining a commercial drivers’ license (CDL).
Yet, the vast amount of rules and regulations do not stop truck driver negligence. Some drivers knowingly and unknowingly make poor choices when they’re driving, which sometimes leads to severe or fatal accidents. The following are among the causes of truck accidents the FMCSA credits to truck driver negligence:
Federal regulations prohibit truck drivers from cell phone use while driving, which is often the most common driving distraction. Truckers must use their phone’s hands-free feature to initiate or answer a call; many use headsets too. Truckers who text and drive, check email, or use their cell phone without using a hands-free feature put other motorists on the road at risk for accident and injury. Truckers can also succumb to other driving distractions such as eating, drinking, adjusting their radio or C.B., or programming a GPS.
According to the FMCSA, more than 30 percent of fatal truck accidents involved excess speed. It’s difficult for drivers to speed excessively, especially on the interstate, because of speed governors installed on most big rigs. Yet, truckers sometimes travel too fast for road, weather, or traffic conditions. Too much speed in certain situations makes it difficult for a truck driver to control their rig, which can lead to a dangerous truck accident.
Following Too Closely
Truckers have demanding schedules that require them to push hard when they are on the road. This pressure causes some truck drivers to speed, but being in a rush can also cause drivers to follow other vehicles too closely. If a semi rear-ends another vehicle, it’s never simply a fender-bender. Backseat passengers and drivers alike face severe injuries, some of which could be fatal. According to the FMCSA, semi-trucks need up to 400 feet to come to a complete stop when traveling at 55 miles per hour. To avoid tailgating, truckers need to leave a four or five-second gap between their cab and the vehicle they are following.
Drunk or Drugged Driving
The dangers of driving drunk are well-known for regular drivers and truckers alike. The same is true of using drugs. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to perform random drug and alcohol tests on drivers. Unfortunately, not all drivers pass these screenings. Truckers need skills and manual dexterity to operate a semi. Consuming controlled substances makes keeping control of a big rig more difficult. Driver impairment affects a trucker’s judgment of space and time, which can lead to dangerous and deadly accidents.
Many truckers drive long shifts, often at night, so, naturally, they will get sleepy or suffer from fatigue after working a few days. The FMCSA understands this issue and requires mandatory breaks. Truckers who drive drowsy risk nodding off while driving and causing a severe truck accident. Driver fatigue also impacts a trucker’s ability to operate their big rig.
In fact, FMCSA research about sleeping and driving estimates that drivers who go without sleep for 18 hours suffer the same level of impairment to their body as those who have drunk enough alcohol to reach a 0.08 blood alcohol level, which is twice the legal limit for those who hold a CDL.
Failure to Clear Blind Spots
The larger a truck, the larger blind spots they have. The average semi-truck is approximately 75 feet long with blind spots that extend 30 feet to the front and 20 feet to the rear. Blind spots on the sides of a tractor-trailer extend almost the length of the trailer across multiple lanes of traffic.
A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see a driver in his side mirror when you are driving, he cannot see you. Truckers must be diligent about checking and clearing their blind spots before they change lanes or turn because they cannot rely on rearview mirrors or looking over their shoulder. Failure to clear those blind spots can lead to a dangerous truck accident.
When Negligent Trucking Companies Cause Accidents
Trucking companies can contribute to the cause of a truck accident with negligent business practices. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to regularly inspect their semis and immediately fix any issues, to ensure trucks are in roadworthy condition.
Companies that hire inexperienced or poorly trained mechanics or fail to correct maintenance issues allow unsafe trucks on the road. Poorly maintained trucks can lead to mechanical failure. A breakdown at a critical point can cause a severe, sometimes deadly truck accident.
Trucking companies can also share liability for a truck accident if they do not properly load and secure cargo on a truck. They must comply with FMCSA weight, balance, and proper securement regulations. Negligent companies who put poorly loaded trucks on the road put others at risk if cargo comes loose and spills on the road. These situations often lead to deadly multi-vehicle collisions.