How Do Most Truck Accidents Happen? 

truck accidents happen

According to the HDS Truck Driving Institute, there are nearly two million semi-trucks and 5.6 million semi-trailers currently in operation throughout the United States. A single semi-truck is driven an average of 45,000 miles every year. 

These massive vehicles are essential for transporting goods across the nation. However, their size and weight make commercial trucks especially highly dangerous in a collision. This discussion reviews the most common causes of truck accidents and what you should do if you sustain personal injury in an accident involving a tractor trailer. 

Some Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Trucks accidents happen for many of the same reasons as collisions involving passenger vehicles. Some accidents are due to human error or driver negligence. Others are out of the truck driver’s control. Knowing more about why truck accidents happen can help everyone who shares the road work together to prevent serious collisions and save lives. 

Inexperience. The average semi-truck with the tractor and trailer truck combined is around 70 to 80 feet long. These vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. It takes up to 370 feet to stop a fully loaded semi-truck traveling at a speed of 60 miles per hour. 

If you consider those numbers, you would be right to assume it takes a great deal of skill to operate one of these massive machines. However, turnover among truck drivers is high, and the trucking industry is short at least 60,000 drivers. Just like any profession, capable professionals are not willing to settle for low wages and poor working conditions. 

That means trucking companies having trouble filling positions may be more inclined to hire younger, more inexperienced drivers. Inexperienced drivers are more likely to make bad decisions, fail to maintain their rig, or make fatal errors in bad weather or emergency situations. 

Fatigue. Driving a commercial tractor trailer is one of the most physically and mentally taxing jobs there is. Working against tight deadlines and crossing long stretches of monotonous highway can make any driver feel exhausted. Fatigue impacts the body the same way that alcohol does. It affects motor skills, coordination, decision-making, and reaction time. 

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reports that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were fatigued at the time of their accidents. If a sleepy truck driver at the end of a 14-hour workday nods off for just a few seconds, the results can be catastrophic. 

To combat drowsy driving, truck owners and operators must raise awareness about the risks and signs of fatigue, adhere to hours-of-service regulations, and encourage tired truckers to pull over to rest when needed.

Distractions. Driver distractions fall into three categories. Visual distractions take one’s eyes off the road. Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the controls. Cognitive distractions keep the driver from thinking about the road ahead and the tasks involved with operating a truck. 

It only takes two to three seconds of distraction for a driver to lose control of their vehicle and cause an accident. When the vehicle is a 40-ton machine, a few seconds of distraction can have deadly results. 

Technology is available to block cell phone use in moving vehicles and alert the driver during periods of inattention. However, they are no substitute for a driver’s commitment to resisting distractions and staying attentive on each tip.  

Overloading. Just like regulations for how many consecutive hours truck drivers can log before they have to take a break, there are strict guidelines for the proper loading of trailers. 

Cargo must be properly secured and loaded so that the weight is evenly distributed across the truck to prevent serious accidents. Improperly or overloaded cargo can lead to brake failures or tip-over or jackknife accidents. 

The online Cargo Securement Rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provide a good resource to learn more about safe loading procedures and weight restrictions for commercial trucks. 

Equipment failures. Trucking companies and their employees have a duty to ensure the safe operation of the trucks and all the systems and equipment they contain. Regular inspection and maintenance keep commercial trucks running smoothly and safely. 

When trucking fleets cut corners and use defective or dangerous parts, or skip routine inspections and repairs, they can be held liable if those shortcuts lead to accidents and injuries. If they unknowingly install faulty parts, the manufacturer or distributor may be at fault for injuries and other losses from a serious truck accident. 

Poor road conditions. Severe weather, road construction, and other environmental conditions also contribute to truck accidents. Wind, snow, rain, and ice can cause a single truck to go out of control, leading to a multi-vehicle pileup. Although proper training and real-world experience can help drivers navigate challenging conditions and react to hazards, some truck accidents are unavoidable.   

Passenger vehicles. When a tractor trailer and passenger vehicle collide, liability does not always lie with the truck driver. Drivers of smaller passenger cars, trucks, and vans also have a duty to operate their vehicles safely in accordance with local and state traffic laws. 

Other motorists should be aware of the time and distance required to stop a commercial truck. If they change lanes abruptly in front of a truck or misjudge an approaching truck’s speed and turn directly in front of them, the truck driver may not be able to stop in time. 

How to Be Safe Driving Near a Large Truck

Here are a few tips for driving safely near tractor trailers and other commercial trucks: 

  • Avoid driving in a truck’s blind spot. Trucks have much larger blind spots than smaller vehicles. They extend 20 feet in front of the truck, 30 feet behind it, and toward the back on either side of the trailer. If you are traveling next to a large truck, accelerate to move up or slow down to make your vehicle visible in the driver’s side mirrors. 
  • Be alert for wide turns. Semi-trucks make extra wide turns, and the cab and trailer each turn at slightly different angles. Never try to pass a truck with its turn signal on. When you are waiting to turn at an intersection, make sure your entire vehicle is behind the line. That will leave sufficient space for a commercial truck to make a full turn. 
  • Increase your following distance. Count a few more seconds when driving behind a big rig. This added space will give you more time to react should the truck tip over or have a tire blowout. This can also help protect you from sliding under the trailer if you are rear-ended by another vehicle and pushed forward toward the truck.  
  • Pass trucks safely. Careful passing is always important, especially when you are attempting to pass a large truck. To ensure you are visible to the driver, always approach from the left side. Signal in advance and wait until the truck is in your rearview mirror before merging into the lane in front of it. 

Truck accidents are more likely to cause injuries than accidents involving passenger vehicles only. For injured victims, justice may seem hard to find. Multiple parties can be liable for truck accidents, which makes them more complex and challenging to prove. However, with skilled legal guidance and evidence from the accident scene, injured parties can possibly recover damages for all the ways that a truck accident has impacted their life. 

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Clients Injured in Serious Collisions 

If you are living with a life-changing injury caused by a negligent truck driver, trust the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton to advocate for you. We will assess your situation and build a strong case for compensation for all your losses so that you can focus on recovery. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.