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Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Blog, Truck Accidents

​What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?

Accidents involving large and heavy-duty commercial trucks are often serious, possibly fatal, and tend to be extremely complicated. In a recent year, 4,014 people died in the U.S. in collisions involving trucks. Truck driver fatigue is a major factor in deadly truck accidents.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) conducted research studies that found “truck crashes were twice as likely to happen when fatigued truck drivers had been behind the wheel for more than eight hours.” However, driver fatigue is not the only cause of truck crashes; multiple factors often lead to big rig crashes.

Sharing the road with an 18-wheeler is intimidating. The size of the trucks and cargo makes it difficult for truck drivers and surrounding traffic to survey, assess, and evaluate traffic conditions, making everyone nearby vulnerable to mishaps. Experiencing a collision with a truck may be devastating for the driver and occupants of a passenger car, as well as surrounding motorists.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. Trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than the typical passenger vehicle; they are taller than cars and have better ground clearance than passenger cars. Of the 4014 people who died in 2020 due to truck accidents, “Fifteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 68 percent were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.” The brunt of these major vehicle accidents tends to fall on the passenger vehicle drivers and occupants. Learn more about the common cause of semi truck accidents from our experienced truck accident lawyers.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

There are many causes of truck accidents, including, but not limited to, human error of the truck driver, mistakes by the passenger car driver, vehicle malfunction, roadway issues, vehicle maintenance issues, cargo movement, cargo weight issues, and driver fatigue, drugs, and alcohol use.

The IIHS and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) conducted research studies that found truck crashes were twice as likely to happen when fatigued truck drivers had been behind the wheel for more than eight hours. Studies also concluded that defective equipment often plays a part in truck crashes, especially defective brake problems.

A Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the United States Department of Labor, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found these top factors for truck crashes:

  • Prescription drug use
  • Traveling too fast for conditions
  • Unfamiliar with roadway
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Inadequate surveillance of surroundings and other motorists
  • Driver fatigue
  • Work-related pressure
  • Illegal maneuver or violation of traffic laws
  • Inattention and/or carelessness
  • External distraction factors, such as cell phone use or eating/drinking
  • Inadequate evasive action
  • Aggressive driving behavior
  • Unfamiliar with vehicle
  • Following too closely
  • False assumption of other road users’ actions
  • Brake failure
  • Traffic Flow Interruption
  • Roadway related factors
  • Driver required to stop before the crash
  • Weather-related factors
  • Cargo shift
  • Driver pressured to operate even though fatigued
  • Cargo securement
  • Illness
  • Illegal drug use
  • Drunk driving

Accidents Due to Truck Drivers

Most commercial truck drivers are skilled and well trained, and most trucking companies follow the rules and guidelines designed for their profession. Still, the immense size of their vehicle poses more risk than the average-sized passenger vehicle. Many accidents have to do with the physics of the moment, the traction on the road, and the road and weather conditions, but sometimes accidents are caused by human error.

All drivers make mistakes, and their negligence may be to blame for crashes.

Examples of this type of negligence include:

  • Inadequate training
  • Overscheduling results in a lack of safety
  • Driver fatigue
  • Poor maintenance of the vehicle
  • Improper cargo loading
  • Speeding​

Accidents Due to Other Drivers

As stated above, all drivers make mistakes. Sometimes, another driver will make an error that causes the truck driver to react, swerve, or otherwise crash into your car.

Here are a few specific actions that drivers of passenger cars might make that may lead to your accident with a truck:

  • Driving in the truck’s blind spot
  • Changing lanes in front of a truck
  • Passing unsafely and not leaving adequate space for a truck to slow down
  • Moving to the right side of a truck that is turning right
  • Driving or weaving in and out between two trucks
  • Turning left in front of a truck and misjudging the truck’s speed

In many cases, both the other passenger driver and the truck driver might be to blame. For example, if the passenger driver cut in front of the truck, and the truck driver was not paying attention to the road and failed to brake, they can share liability for the crash.

Your lawyer can help you identify all the necessary insurance claims against other drivers, no matter what type of vehicle they were driving.

Other Causes of Truck Accidents

Other causes of truck accidents aside from truck drivers include the weather, road debris, vehicle malfunctions, and more.​

Weather conditions

Truck drivers need to have proper training and stay well prepared for changing weather conditions like ice, snow, rain, and wind. A trucker needs to travel at the right speed in all weather conditions and must learn effective braking techniques to prevent sliding, skidding, hydroplaning, and jackknifing.

Road conditions (construction, damaged roadways)

Road work and/or diverted traffic patterns may lead to collisions and crashes. Damaged or uneven roadways and highways may lead to traction issues, one-lane driving, and roads that may be impassable. ​

Vehicle malfunctions and design defects

Manufacturers may be guilty of negligence and provide consumers with dangerous and defective or poor-quality components. These defective components may fail and cause truck accidents. Trucking companies, manufacturers, designers, and mechanics may be held liable for accidents and damages resulting from faulty equipment or design. ​

Determining the Cause of Truck Accidents

Discovering the true cause of an accident may take time. Police reports may only convey part of the story. Insurance companies will have insurance adjusters visit the scene of the accident. The adjusters will look for things like debris from the crash, tire marks, and damage to nearby property. They will also investigate factors that may have contributed to the accident, including obstructed road signs, potholes, guardrails, poor lighting, and traffic patterns.

Adjusters will also inspect the vehicles involved in the accident. They will look for problems with airbags, brakes, engine parts, seat belts, tires, steering wheels, seats, and roofs.

Other key evidence that may help determine the cause may include:

  • The truck company reports.
  • Trucker’s logs.
  • In-truck driver-facing cameras.
  • A truck’s black box.

Other information or reports regarding the speed, tire pressure, and cruise control data might also be evidence in a truck accident liability investigation.

Witnesses and truck accident experts may undergo interviews, along with other efforts to designate the cause of the truck accident. Sometimes, accident reconstruction can take place to identify what happened and uncover any negligent parties.

Common Types of Truck Accidents

The most common types of truck accidents include rollovers, jackknife crashes, tire blowouts, underride accidents, unsecured cargo, and more. The causes of each type of accident can vary, but the type of collision can often indicate the cause of the crash.​

A rollover accident

This type of truck accident happens when a vehicle rotates over on its side or roof. It is considered one of the most dangerous types of truck accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rollovers have the highest fatality rates. Causes of rollover accidents include sudden lane changes, speeding, hazardous weather, dangerous roads, unbalanced cargo, maintenance lapses, distracted driving, drowsy driving, or lack of proper training. ​

A jackknife accident

This truck accident happens when the cab and trailer of an 18-wheeler separate and fold. This type of accident is dangerous for any driver that is nearby. Jackknifing may happen when traction is lost, when the cab and trailer are out of sync, when road surfaces are slick, when the truck has to brake abruptly, and/or when there is minimal weight on the trailer, which decreases traction, encouraging slipping or hydroplaning. ​

A tire blowout

Tire blowouts happen when there is a puncture in a wheel that depletes its air. Tire wear from usage, manufacturing defects, air leaks, air pressure differences, lack of maintenance, unbalanced cargo loads, and hazardous roads may lead to a blowout accident if passenger cars are close to the truck. ​

An underride accident

An underride crash is when a side collision occurs between a car and a truck, and the passenger car slides underneath the truck. Quite comical in the holiday film, Christmas Vacation, but terrifying and deadly in real life. The top of the passenger car may get crushed, and drivers and passengers may suffer severe injury or even death. Some causes of underride accidents include sudden turns or lane changes, sudden stops by the truck, speed of the truck, or when a car is driving in the truck’s blind spot. ​

Unsecured cargo accidents

These truck accidents happen when cargo is not securely fastened to a truck and falls or shifts in the truck, causing the driver to lose control. The cattle accident discussed above illustrates this issue. ​

Who Can be Liable for a Truck Accident?

Establishing who is at fault in a truck accident is complex.It is always wise to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer to help prove liability in a truck accident since liability is always difficult to determine and prove.

It is possible that several people or entities can share the blame for a commercial truck accident.

  • The truck driver and truck company may be accountable if a truck driver is negligent.
  • A truck company may be liable if it owns the truck and does not meet safety standards or has not been regularly maintained.
  • If cargo movement or cargo falling from the truck leads to injury or death, other entities may be liable as well. The shipper might be responsible if the actual cargo caused injuries or death.
  • Those who packed the truck can be liable if weight distribution caused the incident.
  • Companies that performed truck maintenance, recruited drivers, performed drug tests, or repaired trucks may also be liable for a truck crash.
  • The manufacturer(s) of the truck or truck parts can share the blame if the accident is due to mechanical failure or defect. ​

A Truck Accident Attorney Can Help Following a Crash

You always want to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer because they can assist you with every step of your complicated truck accident claim. An attorney experienced in trucking accidents will guide you when dealing with the numerous parties involved in your claim. They have the resources and time to figure out what caused your accident and who is to blame.

After suffering injuries in truck accident, you may have to deal with numerous doctor and therapist appointments and figure out how to handle all the costly bills. You need time to heal and recover from a truck accident. Working with a semi truck accident attorney means you will not have to deal with insurance companies, trucking companies, or other people involved in the settlement of your truck accident claim. An attorney will also be ready to deal with the manipulative tactics of big insurance and truck companies.

An experienced Texas truck accident attorney will review your claim and help determine your situation’s best legal strategy. They will help to determine what caused the truck accident and who is responsible for the pain and suffering you have endured. They will gather sufficient evidence to prove your case, including proving liability and the extent of your damages.

Often, trucking companies begin investigating accidents immediately, seeking ways to avoid liability. They might even destroy evidence of driver or company liability. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner they can demand that the trucking company preserves all evidence you might need. If you wait too long to begin the process, you risk jeopardizing the strength of your case.

Once you receive initial medical treatment and are in stable enough condition, your next step should always be to seek legal help.