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Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

Commercial trucks have a unique presence on the road and may also present unique dangers. Not only must drivers be aware of the circumstances connected to driving these large vehicles, but they must also use caution with other drivers on the road. Traveling down major highways at high speeds may lead to driving errors and major catastrophes when paired with smaller vehicles.

Current estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that truck collisions costs nearly $87 billion, Approximately 116,000 people are killed or injured from accidents involving large capacity trucks.

Dangers That Exist with Truck Drivers

Several dangers are presented by truck drivers who generally are skilled and patient on the road. Notwithstanding the inherent dangers with the size and weight of commercial transportation trucks, there are other contributing factors to trucking accidents.

Some of these factors that may cause drivers to hurry and overlook safety risks include:

• Compensation incentives for drivers – these encourage traveling at faster speeds to meet delivery demands. Adding consecutive hours of driving with minimum rest periods between routes also contribute to some accidents. • Inadequate training – a rush to put drivers on the road before safety issues, driving techniques and defensive driving practices may leave drivers ill-equipped to handle a potentially dangerous situation.

Causes of Truck Accidents

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, trucking accidents have increased by 20 percent in the U.S. over the past 20 years. As a whole, the trucking industry is extremely profitable while causing severe safety risks that result in injury and/or death. The large capacity of trucks can cause greater damage that if two passenger vehicles collided on the highway. The following highlights some of the most common causes of trucking accidents.

Failure to Follow Driving Rules

When truck drivers fail to follow the rules of the road, accidents are more likely to occur. For instances, excessive speeding can create a precarious condition if the driver needs to stop suddenly. The heavy weight and size of big trucks requires additional time and space to stop safely. Otherwise, the truck driver will not be able to brake in time to avoid a collision. Severe damages and injuries are more likely from the force of impact with a commercial truck.

Reckless or aggressive driving are more examples of failing to follow driving rules. Sudden lane changes or riding too close to vehicles, regardless of the speed, can lead to disastrous consequences.

Driver Fatigue

Driving is the center of truck drivers' livelihood, which may cause them to work as much as possible. This can lead to extended periods on the road and very tired drivers behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. When fatigue sets in, drivers will find it more difficult to concentrate and follow safety practices.

Regulations exist at both the state and federal levels for the length of time truck drivers should be behind the wheel. Additionally, truck drivers must keep a log of on-duty time for driving and non-driving activities, as well as off-duty time. These records are used to ensure drivers and trucking companies are complying with the regulations.

Trucking companies can be held liable in an accident where drivers were allowed to drive beyond the regulation boundaries. Typically, the log book is one of the first pieces of evidence an attorney will examine to search for noncompliant practices.

Driving Under the Influence

It is unsafe to drive after consuming too much alcohol, illegal drugs or even controlled substances. This is especially true for truck drivers who operate vehicles that are large in size and weight. Losing control while driving down the highway can create a very dangerous scenario for truck drivers and anyone in their path.

While drivers of passenger vehicles must obey traffic laws regarding driving under the influence, federal law has a lower definition of legal drunkenness for truck drivers. Currently, truck drivers cannot have a blood alcohol concentration level at or above 0.04 percent.

The use of illegal drugs is also strictly prohibited even though some truck drivers might begin using to improve their concentration. However, abuse of these drugs can have the opposite effect and make it more difficult for drivers to focus for long periods of driving.

The law requires screening for substance abuse before drivers are hired. Additionally as a matter of policy, most trucking companies conduct random substance abuse screenings during employment.

Failure to Properly Inspect or Maintain Trucks

Another common cause of trucking accidents is the failure to inspect and/or maintain trucks before they go on the road. Generally, trucking companies have inspection procedures that every driver must perform before driving and after each stop. If these inspections are not followed according to procedure, the trucking company could be held liable if someone suffers injuries or dies from an accident.

Proper maintenance of commercial trucks is also important for reducing the possibility of an accident. Keeping trucks in good working order naturally increases the safety of the truck and anyone around it. Known hazards should be corrected before trucks are allowed on the road.Improper Trailer Loading

Loading trailers properly is another way to guarantee road safety for truck drivers and passenger vehicles. As mentioned before, trucks are extremely heavy and become dangerous weapons – more than any other vehicles traveling on highways and thoroughfares. Most of the weight on trucks is in the trailer, which is used to haul items from one place to another.

If the trailer is not loaded properly, a truck driver may have a hard time handling the truck. In some cases, the trailer could tip over and lead to a bad trucking accident. The last thing a trucking company needs is to be hit with a wrongful death lawsuit from an avoidable issue.

Irresponsible Behavior of Passenger Vehicle Drivers

Truck drivers are not the only ones who can cause serious trucking accidents. Yes, they are the first point of responsibility when it comes to keeping trucks loaded properly and in good driving condition. However, proper maintenance and truck driver training does not account for unsafe acts by some drivers of passenger vehicles. In some situations, a traffic accident involving a passenger vehicle is not the fault of the truck driver.

Many drivers of passenger vehicles are ignorant of the performance capabilities of commercial trucks. Some of their maneuvers around these trucks shows that they are either unaware of – or do not care about – the limitations of accelerating, braking and visibility with large trucks.

This is not an exhaustive list, but some trucking accidents occur when passenger car drivers:

• Drive behind or beside commercial trucks considered no-zones where truck drivers have zero or limited visibility of the vehicles • Abrupt lane changes in front of large trucks that are unable to brake quickly • Trying to maneuver around a truck that is also attempting to make a right turn • Making a left turn after misjudging the speed of a truck approaching an intersection • Not merging properly into traffic, which causes the truck driver to brake too quickly or make a sudden maneuver • Slowing down or speeding up once a truck begins to change lanes or attempts to merge into traffic • Unsafe passing without enough space between the vehicle and the truck • Failing to sufficiently accelerate when pulling into traffic in front of an oncoming truck • Driving between two large trucks • Failing to move a disabled vehicle from the highway and onto the shoulder, or abandoning a vehicle in a travel lane

There are many contributing factors that can lead to trucking accidents. Whether the truck driver or driver of a different vehicle is at-fault, most accidents can be avoided. Merely changing human behavior could decrease the number of accidents and fatalities that occur each year. Understanding the common causes of trucking accidents could also help with improving road conditions on roads and highways in the United States.