If you are in an accident with a large truck such as a semi-truck or other commercial truck, it can certainly be a terrifying time. Once you have dealt with the immediate concerns following an accident, including managing any injuries, you will need to understand what may have caused the accident. Understanding any causes help ensure you secure a full recovery for your injuries.
Read on to learn more about the statistics and risks surrounding semi-truck accidents, as well as the most likely mechanical failures in trucks. These could be important investigation points as you review the accident.
Large Trucks Create Accident Risks
A review of the below statistics clearly show the concerns around semi-truck accidents. According to 2017 statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS):
- 4,102 people died in large truck crashes in 2017;
- 97 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities occurring in two-car crashes between a passenger vehicle and a large truck were occupants of the passenger vehicle; and
- 11 percent of motor vehicle crashes in 2017 involved large trucks.
When large trucks are in accidents, occupants of passenger vehicles are exponentially more likely to suffer injuries.
Factors that contribute to the increased likelihood of semi-truck involvement in accidents include:
- Driver fatigue: Driver fatigue is a common and dangerous issue for semi-truck drivers. Truck drivers can drive up to 2,000 to 3,000 miles per week and for 11 hours a day. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has acknowledged that these factors combine to create serious concerns around fatigue. In fact, 13 percent of commercial drivers were considered fatigued at the time of a crash. A survey by the FMCSA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that the main cause of commercial truck accidents was fatigue and overwork. Efforts have been made to combat driver fatigue by setting daily driving limits and mandatory breaks.
- Distracted driving: Studies have found that 71 percent of large-truck crashes happened when the truck driver was doing something in addition to driving. Anything that causes a driver to take their eyes from the road is considered a distraction, from cell phone use to entering a destination in a GPS system. Because of their long driving hours, semi-truck drivers are especially susceptible to seeking distractions while behind the wheel.
- Driver inexperience: All large truck drivers are required to carry a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The required CDL class will be determined by the type of commercial truck. States have different training requirements which can also be supplemented by employer requirements. If new drivers get behind the wheel too quickly, they may not be comfortable handling the vehicle which can increase the risk of accidents.
- Mechanical failure: Improper maintenance of vehicles can lead to mechanical failure. Federal regulations require keeping trucks in good condition. Noncompliance with these regulations can result in failures of braking systems, blown tires, steering failure, transmission failure, and lighting issues. All these issues can contribute to accidents.
While all the above issues are important, we are diving into the common causes of mechanical failure to be aware of below.
Common Causes of Mechanical Failure
Mechanical failure undoubtedly increases the risk that a semi-truck will be involved in an accident. If you have been involved in such an accident, be on the watch out for the following possible failures:
Federal regulations have mandated requirements for brake systems and testing. If a semi-truck suffered from improper or insufficient braking during an accident, chances are high that the vehicle is not in compliance with these standards. Such non-compliance gives room for a claim against the truck company. While braking issues could also indicate driver incompetence, be sure that proper investigation into the vehicle is performed.
Up to 6 percent of large truck accidents can involve some sort of tire problem. Tire blowouts can occur due to improper attention to tire quality and pressure, improperly installed tires, and overloaded trucks. Blowouts can be particularly dangerous, as they generally cause drivers to lose control of the truck. Make sure to get clear documentation if a blowout was involved in your accident.
As with most aspects of truck maintenance, semi-trucks are required to get regular maintenance to ensure steering is functioning properly. If steering were to fail, the truck cannot be maneuvered or handled properly, rendering it prone to accidents. If the truck driver involved in your accident seemed to be steering erratically, improper steering maintenance could be the cause.
Transmission systems are particularly susceptible to wear and tear if proper regulations for weight loads are not followed. Overloading, especially on steep hills, can cause the transmission to burn out much faster than anticipated. Due to this, even if the truck is getting regular maintenance, it could experience transmission issues before this maintenance.
Semi-trucks very commonly drive at night, which means they need to closely adhere to any regulations regarding lighting and reflective tape. Failure to ensure all lights are properly working and reflective tape is appropriately applied increases the chance that trucks may not see other vehicles, or other vehicles may not see the truck. Given the slow stopping capability of trucks, last-minute notice of other vehicles is particularly dangerous.
Many possible failures on the part of the driver and trucking company, including failure to properly maintain the vehicle, could have caused your accident with a semi-truck. To secure a full recovery for any injuries you may have sustained in the accident, you will need to prove that the driver, employer, or manufacturer of the commercial truck was responsible for the accident.
Numerous and complicated regulations govern truck maintenance. Establishing fault could require significant investigation on your part or the part of your insurance carrier to determine if any of these mechanical failures existed, and if they failed to comply with federal regulations. Given the complicated nature of the accidents and the extent of possible injuries, a truck accident attorney can prove an invaluable ally while you begin to recover from a truck accident.