Truck accidents can be devastating. The superior size and weight of commercial semi-trucks create significant hazards for others on the road. Heavy trucks are harder to maneuver and stop and weigh as much as 20-30 times more than passenger vehicles.
The force of a truck collision often leaves passenger vehicle occupants with severe and sometimes fatal injuries. In addition, car accidents are the leading cause of death faced by U.S. truck drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Fortunately, many trucking accidents are preventable. To protect yourself and your loved ones from serious truck collisions, consider these 10 common causes of truck accidents.
1. Driver Fatigue and Exhaustion
Fatigued driving is a common cause of truck driver accidents. Truck drivers often spend hours on the road without pause. When up against looming delivery deadlines, they may violate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service regulations to meet scheduling obligations.
The CDC reports drowsy driving can cause:
- Delayed response time
- Impaired decision making
- Lane drifting
- Tunnel vision
- Falling asleep at the wheel
A driver or trucking company that fails to adhere to FMCSA hours of service requirements could be held liable for drowsy driving accidents.
2. Prescription Drug Use
Commercial truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must adhere to FMCSA regulations for illegal, over-the-counter, and prescription drugs. Specifically, the following prescription and over-the-counter medications are prohibited, as they can impair a truck driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely:
- Codeine cough suppressants
Drivers who take prescription medications prohibited by the Department of Transportation (DOT) may exhibit compromised reaction time and poor decision-making. Additionally, using stimulants like amphetamines can lead to dangerous health conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke.
3. Excessive Speed and Aggressive Driving
Speeding is one of the primary causes of motor vehicle accidents, including commercial trucks. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that almost one-third of all fatal crashes involve speeding.
When driving aggressively, truck operators and passenger vehicle drivers may tailgate, pass too closely, or drive too fast for conditions. Unsafe practices like these can create dangerous situations for both the aggressive driver and others on the road.
4. Distracted Driving
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving accounts for more than 3,000 traffic fatalities every year. Common distractions that can lead to commercial truck accidents include:
- Talking or texting on a cell phone
- Adjusting radio settings
- Talking to other people in the vehicle
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting the navigation system
At high speeds, truck drivers can cause serious accidents when they take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. You could seek compensation for injuries caused by an inattentive driver.
5. Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Commercial vehicles, even smaller delivery trucks, require regular inspection, repair, and maintenance to ensure safe operation. Inadequate maintenance can result in catastrophic commercial truck accidents.
The FMCSA requires trucking companies to regularly inspect, repair, and maintain their commercial trucks (consistent with 49 CFR 396). Truck drivers must also ensure that operational safety components are constantly in safe operating condition, including brakes, frame assemblies, suspension, wheels, axles, and steering equipment.
6. Incorrectly Loaded or Unsecured Cargo
Commercial trucks risk rollover accidents and loss of control when the items they carry are incorrectly loaded or unsecured. Shifting and falling loads can create instability, making it difficult for the driver to maneuver or stop. In severe cases, the load may shift enough to topple the trailer onto its side, pulling the cab with it.
The FMCSA reports that approximately 4% of fatal truck accidents and 2% of nonfatal truck crashes involve a truck rollover. The force of a rollover can cause severe injury to the driver and occupants in surrounding vehicles.
7. Poor Road Conditions
Commercial truck drivers know that road conditions significantly affect truck safety on the road. Since trucks take much longer to slow and stop, drivers must be extra cautious on slippery roads or in low visibility conditions. Similarly, they should be aware of potholes, bumps, gravel, and obstructions and operate their vehicle accordingly.
Road conditions that could lead to trucker accidents include:
- Animals, people, or objects in the road
- Construction or utility work
- Broken or damaged guardrails
- Potholes, cracks, and uneven roadways
8. Insufficient Truck Driver Training
Commercial truck drivers undergo extensive education and training to earn their CDLs. In addition, truck companies have an obligation to ensure their drivers have sufficient experience and training to drive safely.
Unprecedented driver shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many trucking companies hiring young, inexperienced operators to maintain critical shipping routes.
While truck company employment has improved, inexperienced truck drivers can still create dangerous situations by misjudging stopping distances, incorrectly handling turns, failing to check blind spots, and making other poor decisions. To curtail the risk of insufficient truck driver training, the FMCSA established comprehensive Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations in 2022.
9. Dangerous Intersections and Highway Conditions
Dangerous intersections and poor highway maintenance can create hazardous conditions, especially for truck drivers operating at all hours of the day and night. Inadequate signage and insufficient traffic control can make it harder for truck drivers to make safe decisions in high-speed or congested traffic.
If you are in a truck collision at a dangerous intersection or on a highway, you can take steps to protect yourself. And a truck accident attorney in your area can help you understand your legal rights.
10. Poor Weather Conditions
Truck drivers are taught to slow down in inclement weather. When a commercial truck operator fails to drive slow enough for the conditions, they may be unable to stop or react quickly. They could lose control on slippery roads and thus slide into the ditch or strike other vehicles.
Weather conditions that can affect truck driver safety include:
- Fog and low light conditions
- Rain, snow, and ice
- Haze and smoke from wildfires
- High winds
Even if your accident occurred due to inclement weather, you could hold the truck driver responsible if they did not account for weather conditions. Speak with a truck accident attorney to learn more.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Can Get You the Compensation You Deserve
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an accident with a commercial truck, you could pursue compensation for your losses. Contact the skilled truck accident lawyers at Dunn Sheehan to discuss your legal options.