Big commercial trucks are all over the news these days, whether regarding the Canadian trucker protest or the supply chain issues happening around the world. Demand for trucks and truck drivers is larger now than ever before, often leading to insufficient vehicle maintenance and inadequate driver training. In fact, trucking is responsible for the majority of U.S. land-based freight, with the industry valued near $800 billion. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), truck accidents cause around 4,000 roadway deaths per year. In 2019, the number of truck accident fatalities reached 4,119, a 31 percent increase since 2009. About 17% of all reported deaths involved truck occupants, while 66 percent involved passenger car drivers and their occupants. Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists came accounted for 16%. But what are the main causes of truck accidents? Read below to learn what to watch out for when sharing the road with big rigs.
Factors That Contribute to Truck Accidents
Tractor-trailers can cause catastrophic damage to passenger cars due to their size and weight (often in excess of 80,000 pounds). Approximately 74 percent of all fatal passenger vehicle accidents involve a large truck. Deaths in large truck collisions are most likely to occur on major roads (52 percent), followed by interstates and freeways (33 percent) and minor roads (14 percent). Some of the most common factors that contribute to truck accidents include:
- Truck braking issues: 18-wheelers rely heavily on their brakes; and, when brakes don’t work, are faulty, or have not been installed properly, catastrophes often follow.
- Truck driver fatigue: Truckers drive long stretches, usually alone. When they don’t get enough sleep, it can significantly impact a driver’s cognitive and physical functioning. About 64 percent of truck drivers experience fatigue regularly.
- Tire defects: The most common cause of all truck-related accidents is tire defects, which account for around 30% of all big rig crashes.
- Time of day: Most truck accidents actually occur during the day between 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
- Truck driver distracted driving: According to at least one study, distracted truck drivers are close to 72 percent more likely to be involved in a near-collision than other drivers. Truckers are most commonly distracted by objects external to the cab out in the environment like flashy billboards, their smartphones or other such devices, and dispatching systems they are required to use as part of their job.
- Road conditions: Weather factors into vehicle crashes because it can reduce visibility and affect traction. Whether it’s snow, rain, ice, wind, or fog, the weather can affect a trucker’s ability to see through their windows and use their mirrors. In addition to weather, road conditions like potholes, missing road signs, malfunctioning traffic signals, and more can also contribute to a dangerous roadway environment for big rigs.
- Speeding: Exceeding the speed limit increases the fatality risk for all motor vehicle accidents. Speeding causes truck drivers to lose control, causes loads to shift, and can make already present blind spots worse, among other issues.
- Inadequate truck driver training and failure to ensure truck driver qualifications: Truck drivers must be trained as to driving technique, safety concerns, and defensive driving. They must also be properly certified and accredited to drive their vehicles and carry their loads.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Six percent of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 tested positive for at least one drug.
- Inadequate truck maintenance: Failing to maintain truck brakes, trailer tires, and other big rig component parts could lead to catastrophic roadway crashes. Drivers must perform pre-trip checks and companies must engage competent maintenance personnel.
- Unbalanced or improperly loaded cargo: Often, truckers lean on dock workers that are responsible for properly loading an empty trailer, but it’s the driver’s responsibility to check the load before heading out. Unbalanced or improperly loaded cargo loads are tough to control and can cause or contribute to roadway dangers.
Getting Legal Help After a Pittsburgh Truck Accident
The causes of truck accidents lead to complex cases, especially if several vehicles are involved. It is challenging to determine liability; and, this crucial investigation often involves a truck driver, at least one trucking company, and other potential defendants who may have acted negligently and could be held accountable for the injuries or even death their actions caused. With the many potentially responsible parties and various potential causes of a trucking accident, drivers may feel overwhelmed; therefore, seeking out legal counsel can help you figure out the best approach.
If you have been in an accident involving a truck and SMT Legal offers free consultations for all personal injury claims, so call us at 412-765-3345 or submit a contact form online to learn more about how we can help.