As defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, heavy trucks are a single vehicle or tractor-trailer combination trucks designed for carrying heavy loads. 6,807 heavy truck crashes occurred in 2017 and resulted in 155 fatalities. Only 27 fatalities (2.4% of all fatal accidents) were heavy truck occupants. This means that when fatal truck accidents happen, it is not typically the heavy truck occupants that are injured.
Reasons for truck accidents
Heavy truck accidents occur for a number of reasons, but some of the most common causes and contributing factors that we see include the following:
- Truck driver fatigue and falling asleep. Drowsy driving contributes to inattention and slow reaction time, which means that fatigued truck drivers are not safe truck drivers.
- Vehicle failures such as tires, brakes, power train failures, and unsecured or overloaded trailers.
- Even truck drivers, who should appreciate distracted driving dangers, can be guilty of it too. Cell phones provide so many distractions including emailing, texting, watching videos, and video calls, which can be tempting for truck drivers who spend many hours a day driving alone in their vehicles.
- Speeding or driving too fast for the weather, traffic, or road conditions.
- Following too closely to other vehicles, which does not allow for enough time to stop in emergencies. Trucks have a longer stop time and are not capable of swerving or taking other accident avoidance maneuvers as swiftly or safely as smaller vehicles.
- Drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Truck accident injuries
Truck accidents are the cause of many severe injuries and fatalities because their size and weight make for crushing impacts. As mentioned above, it is generally people outside of the truck who are injured and killed in truck accidents. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicle occupants do not have the protection or the mass to stand up to large trucks in accidents. Large truck accident injuries may include broken bones, paralysis, disability, traumatic brain injuries, and severed limbs.
Our investigation into rules and regulation compliance
The trucking industry is heavily regulated by the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania. These rules and regulations are intended to protect other people traveling on our Pennsylvania roads by ensuring that large trucks are operated in a safe manner. After a truck accident, a thorough investigation into regulation compliance is important in helping to discover causes and contributing accident factors. Our truck accident experts at SMT Legal have conducted many compliance investigations focusing especially on the following areas:
- Hours of service compliance. We look to see if the truck driver has complied with hourly drive time regulations including reviewing their drive log to see if they are complete and not fraudulent.
- We look to see if the pre and post trip inspections were properly conducted.
- We check compliance with truck maintenance standards.
- We review the truck driver’s driving record for things such as a number of accidents, speeding tickets, and impaired driving violations. We also look at the driver and his or her employer’s driver safety training compliance.
- We look at whether or not the truck was properly and safely loaded.