Truck accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and enormous financial losses. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), over 500,000 truck accidents occur annually in the United States. Understanding what causes these crashes can help prevent them. This article explores the eight most common causes of truck accidents.
1. Driver Fatigue
One of the leading culprits in truck crashes is fatigue. Drowsy driving impairs judgment and reaction times. Unlike regular motorists, commercial drivers may spend weeks at a time on the road with tight delivery schedules and limited rest. FMCSA Hours of Service rules restrict driving shifts to 14 hours in a day, with only 11 of those hours spent driving. However, these regulations are frequently violated.
Drowsy truckers face immense pressure to meet delivery windows, forcing them to skirt regulations. Dispatchers at some trucking companies even encourage exceeding service hour rules. All drivers face biological needs for sleep, but the size and weight of large trucks compound the hazards resulting from fatigued driving. These rigs require advanced skill and awareness to operate safely – faculties that become severely impaired when a driver has not slept adequately.
Excess speed diminishes a truck driver’s ability to avoid accidents. These huge rigs take significantly longer distances to brake than regular-sized passenger vehicles. At 65 mph, a fully loaded tractor-trailer needs 525 feet—over a football field length—to come to a complete stop. High speeds give truckers less response time to prevent crashes in traffic slowdowns or other unexpected situations. Nonetheless, truckers under pressure to meet delivery windows often exceed posted speed limits. Excess speeds also contribute to rollover risk with these high-center-of-gravity vehicles. A Nevada truck accident lawyer can help if you’ve been involved in a truck accident caused by speeding.
3. Distracted Driving
Truck drivers face as many potential distractions as other motorists – cell phones, GPS devices, the radio, food, passengers. However, the consequences can be tragic when an 80,000-pound big rig drifts across lanes or traffic slows unexpectedly. FMCSA bans commercial drivers from texting and limits the use of hand-held cell phones in recognition of the hazards posed. Still, distracted driving remains a factor in many truck collisions. While any driver faces hazards from distractions, a wandering semi-truck poses grave risks to all surrounding road users.
4. Impaired Driving
Drinking alcohol or using drugs severely impairs perception, coordination, and reaction times – skills critical to operating a truck. Unlike regular drivers, commercial truckers face a much lower legal limit – .04% blood alcohol concentration compared to .08%. Repeat offenders or impaired drivers may lose their commercial licenses, but substance use remains a recurring factor in truck accidents. Stimulant use to delay the need for rest also contributes to impaired driving behaviors.
Truck stops along major long-haul routes unfortunately attract drug traffickers and prostitution rings, putting truckers at higher risk for substance abuse issues. Party drugs, heroin, cocaine, and illegal pain pills flow along these illicit pipelines. Truckers sometimes take uppers to handle long miles without adequate rest, then drink or use depressants to relax afterward. These activities all too frequently lead to drugged or drunk driving episodes that end in horrific crashes.
5. Aggressive Driving
Sharing the road with massive trucks can trigger frustration, impatience, and aggression in motorists. They cut dangerously close in front of trucks or make unsafe lane changes. Conversely, truck drivers themselves sometimes drive aggressively by tailgating smaller vehicles, refusing to let cars merge into their lane, rolling through stop signs or traffic lights, or speeding. Aggressive behaviors like these markedly increase the risks of truck collisions.
While truck drivers have as much right to road access as other vehicles, special awareness of their size and stopping distances helps avoid aggressive driving behaviors. When commercial rigs drive pushily, motorists feel intimidated by the looming vehicle behind or beside them. Unfortunately, some passenger vehicle drivers attempt foolishly bold responses like cutting in too closely. These actions initiate escalating reactions that often end disastrously, requiring the assistance of a truck assistant injury lawyer.
6. Overloaded Trailers
Exceeding legal weight limits threatens truck stability and braking capacity. Moreover, improperly balanced, top-heavy, or shifting cargo loads increase the risks of rollovers or jackknifed trailers. Despite weight restrictions and required weigh station stops, uneven cargo loading remains a factor in many serious truck accidents.
Shippers and receivers press trucking companies for quick turnarounds that limit opportunities to check weight distribution. Drivers may insufficiently secure cargo inside trailers or improperly distribute it across axles underneath. Unbalanced loads make trucks more unsteady and challenging to control. Objects inside trailers that unexpectedly shift location further impede smooth transport. Taking the time to properly weigh and balance cargo may reduce a driver’s daily miles but helps avoid overloaded rigs that can turn deadly on the road.
7. Poor Truck Maintenance
Well-maintained vehicles minimize accident risks, but time pressures lead some trucking companies or independent big rig owners to cut corners on safety-related maintenance. Critical parts like tires, brakes, lighting, hitches, and mirrors may fail to receive adequate servicing or timely replacement. Connecting multiple trailers together compounds risks when a failure occurs. Enforcement efforts target high-risk carriers, but poor truck maintenance still contributes to crashes.
Independent truckers operate on tight margins and limited finances that incentivize deferring maintenance costs when money runs short. But worn tires, bad brakes, faulty lights, damaged hitches, or ineffective mirrors each pose threats to safe operation. The failure of any of these components dramatically increases the odds of a crash. Lack of regular maintenance also leads to breakdowns alongside high-speed roadways – locations that endanger both the truckers and passing motorists when problems occur. In accidents such as these, Nevada truck accident injury lawyers will often seek compensation from the operators.
8. Inexperienced Drivers
New commercial truckers lack the advanced skills to handle these massive vehicles safely. Truck driving schools provide basic operational training, but real road experience takes time. Rookie mistakes like improper lane changes, following too closely, poor space perception or inadequate mirror checking can have catastrophic outcomes. Some carriers hire inadequately prepared drivers or fail to provide sufficient supervised skill development. More truck accidents occur during a commercial driver’s first year behind the wheel than at any other time.
Adding semi-autonomous features like automatic braking and lane keeping can compensate somewhat for the lack of driver proficiency. However, over-trusting technology poses its own risks. Novice truckers often rely too much on systems meant to assist human operators rather than replace them. This leads to complacency and inattention instead of continuing hypervigilance about operating an 80,000-pound machine at high speeds. Recent graduates falsely assume their classroom and simulators sufficiently prepared them to handle a high-stress job. Carriers must recognize additional supervised driving enhances safety.
Truck accident injuries often result in devastating financial, physical, and emotional consequences for crash victims. Medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering damages can exceed millions. Holding negligent parties accountable takes experienced legal representation against wealthy insurance companies. Working with a Nevada truck accident attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve following an accident. Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys have an established record of success in recovering maximum compensation for people harmed by commercial trucking crashes. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a truck collision, contact us today for a free case evaluation and learn your legal rights and options.