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Common causes of truck accidents

Truck accidents often occur for the very same reason as regular motor vehicle accidents. However, the weight, length and mechanics of a truck can introduce additional risks. These variables can also make trucking accidents more dangerous and more deadly. As a result, trucking accidents often lead to big payouts. Sadly, many of these payouts are for wrongful death suits as survival rates are much lower than collisions with passenger vehicles.

Inexperienced Drivers

When it comes to hiring drivers to operate vehicles weighing tens of thousands of pounds, everyone would prefer experienced drivers. However, the years-long shortage of truck drivers has made it difficult for companies to keep up with demand without hiring some new drivers. Consequently, many of the drivers on the road are young, inexperienced and destined to learn a few trucking rules the hard way. Sadly, other road users sometimes pay the cost.

Exhausted Drivers

Most trucking companies across America pay drivers by the miles driven. Consequently, truckers are under a lot of pressure to drive as far as possible in as short a time as possible. Drivers might also not receive proper breaks. Even when they do, after long hours of driving, exhaustion can quickly begin to seep in. This creates the disastrous risk of drivers operating large vehicles while sleepy—or worse, while passed out at the wheel.

Speeding

Because of how truckers get compensated, many choose to speed on the roadways. Truckers operating on strict deadlines or carrying perishable items might be more likely to speed. Speeding itself might not present an immediate risk. The issue comes into play when the truck needs to make a sudden stop, make a sharp turn or navigate emergency situations. When coupled with aggressive driving tactics, the situation can become even more deadly.

Severe Weather

Truckers often drive through remote parts of the country that might not receive the same level of infrastructure support. Consequently, severe weather tends to have unchecked effects on the roadways. Even when the roadways are in well-serviced areas, it only takes one patch of black ice to spell trouble for a truck and the vehicles in its path. Here are some weather conditions that could result in deadly truck crashes:

  • Heavy rains or flooding that affects the wheel traction
  • Heavy snow or ice that affects the wheel traction
  • Heavy snow or fog that affects visibility on the road
  • Strong winds that negatively impact the stability of the truck and its cargo

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of accidents across America for all vehicles. Truckers often have devices inside their vehicles that record them as they drive, so violations might be less likely than most drivers. Even so, distracted driving might occur. When it does, a lot can go wrong and fast. If the driver is speeding or falls to stop at red lights and stop signs, the consequences can be deadly.

Mechanical Failure

Responsible truckers and trucking companies complete routine inspections and maintenance of their vehicles. Trucks take a proper beating, so impeccable maintenance is crucial to safety. To cut costs, however, some companies or truckers might delay maintenance and repairs. In some cases, mechanical failures could occur even with impeccable maintenance. Here are some dangerous examples:

  • Brakes failing or overheating downhill
  • Transmission failing or overheating uphill
  • Headlights going out at night
  • Wheel separation

Overloaded Cargo

Trucks carrying far more weight than they should have a much higher likelihood of mechanical or parts failure. Overloading vehicles increase the risk of blowouts. The size of truck tires can make this a serious hazard for other vehicles on the road. Overloaded trucks are also less stable. This could cause the effect that some people refer to as being “wagged by the dog”. In these instances, the cargo end of the truck begins to swerve from left to right, which can cause the trucker to lose control of the vehicle.

Unsecured Cargo

If the overloaded cargo isn’t properly contained, items can also go flying and cause further problems on the roadway. This could cause items to fly through people’s windshields and cause injury or death. Some drivers might also cause crashes by trying to dodge the items. In some cases, unsecured cargo enclosed in the truck can shift and cause the weight to shift too suddenly to one side. This can cause the trucker to lose control of the vehicle.

Road Design

Experienced truck drivers understand that not all roadways in America were designed with commercial trucks in mind. They drive accordingly. However, some drivers might fail to account for steep grades and frequent switchbacks. These can ultimately increase the likelihood of the trucker losing control of the vehicle and causing a crash. Note that even with less than ideal road constructions, law enforcement officers and courts expect truckers to drive responsibly.

Sparse Safety Features

Truck drivers have full responsibility for operating their vehicles safely. However, several studies show that safety features common in passenger vehicles could provide a helping hand that benefits all parties. Most trucks do not have a fraction of the safety features drivers now take for granted in passenger vehicles, such as front-collision warnings, lane departure warnings or automatic braking. One reason is that truck manufacturers worry about how the cargo end of the truck might respond to emergency measures.

Theft and Other Illegal Activities

When you envision someone carjacking a vehicle, you might envision a sports car or even a pickup truck. What about a fully-loaded commercial truck? In 2019, criminals held an Amazon truck driver at gunpoint and took the truck. Human trafficking and drug trafficking also commonly occur within the trucking industry. If discovered, truckers might be willing to risk anything to get away from law enforcement officers, including a crash.

Driving Under the Influence

To maintain a CDL, truck drivers need a near-perfect driving record. Consequently, most know better than to operate any vehicle while under the influence, much less a truck. Even so, it does happen. Truckers might also drive impaired by accident. Many drivers are seniors who might take medications to manage chronic illnesses worsened by decades of sitting at the wheel. Driving a truck while impaired can have serious consequences for the trucker and anyone else involved in a crash.

Poor Judgment

Sometimes, even experienced drivers who are well-rested and sober can exercise poor judgment. Most times, this might result in little more than a near-miss or have no consequences at all. Other times, it could cost people their lives. Common examples include over-estimating how long a light might remain yellow or over-estimating the distance required to stop before approaching a pedestrian crossing with people in the crosswalk.

Other Drivers

The sad truth is that sometimes other drivers cause truck crashes. Drivers of passenger vehicles often fail to remember that trucks cannot stop as quickly as they can. They might also attempt to change lanes at the same time as the truck or choose to drive in the trucker’s blind spot. When other drivers are partially at fault, it can create complexities for how the personal injury case unfolds.

If you or your loved ones have been involved in a trucking accident, you might wonder about your options. Only an experienced attorney can review your case and determine how to proceed to secure the maximum possible compensation. Contact our attorneys at Fielding Law to get started.