Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can cause incredible loss of life and property. Government statistics show that there are more than 450,000 truck accidents every year. More than 100,000 people were injured in truck accidents in 2016.
In order to minimize the number of accidents, federal agencies like NHTSA and FMCSA have been working with state departments to identify the common causes of truck accidents. Some of the conclusions that they have reached are listed below and you can read more about truck accident statistics.
Truck Driver Fatigue – A large number of accidents took place due to the truck driver’s tiredness. Federal regulations restrict the number of hours a driver can drive consecutively to 11 hours. Drivers must take a rest break of at least 10 hours after a long shift. This is meant to help prevent driver fatigue.
However, a number of drivers push themselves to the limit when making deliveries. Drivers sometimes do 14 to 16 hour shifts. Some drivers fall asleep on the steering wheel while driving which leads to an accident.
Distracted Truck Drivers – Driving for ten hours each day on the same route can be a boring task. Since truck drivers spend long hours on the road in remote locations, they start multitasking sometimes and lose concentration.
Trucks are pretty big and heavy. It takes time to bring them to a stop in case of a mishap. Even if there is less traffic on the road, drivers need to be focused.
For a number of truck accidents, drivers were found to be operating mobile devices. They were talking, texting, watching videos or even playing games while driving which led to the accident.
Poor Truck Maintenance – Trucking companies are responsible for truck maintenance and need to ensure that everything is in proper working order. Many businesses cut corners and delay mandatory checks in order to reduce expenses and keep the trucks running. This leads to component malfunctions like brake or engine failures leading to an accident.
Overloaded Cargo – Trucks have a cargo limit both in terms of weight and volume. A truck that is overloaded with freight becomes difficult to drive and increases the chance of an accident.
The chance of an accident also increases if the freight is not balanced and evenly distributed across the truck, or if it is not securely fastened to the truck.
Main Causes Identified For Truck Crashes
Data collected from truck crash sites in 17 states showed that there are more a thousand factors that can lead to truck crashes. Researchers and State truck inspectors traveled to each site as soon as possible after the crash to gather information on the causes of the accident.
Data was collected through interviews of the drivers, passengers and witnesses. Researchers also inspected the trucks and any other vehicles involved in the accident. They took weather, road conditions and traffic into account as well. The truck’s logbook, maintenance sheets and other documentation were also reviewed. Additional information was collected from police crash reports, hospital records, crash scene pictures and surveillance camera footage.
Speeding and Reckless Driving – Drivers are required to follow speed limits to ensure that the large vehicle remains under their control. A number of truckers drive fast and go over the speed limit putting themselves and others in danger.
Reckless driving is another cause of many truck accidents. Once a loaded truck goes over a certain speed, it can be difficult to stop due to momentum. When brakes are operated at high speeds, the truck can also jackknife causing an accident.
Weather Conditions – Unclear weather conditions also cause a number of truck accidents. Particularly foggy weather limits the visibility for drivers leading to trucks ramming into another vehicles. During a shower, rains cause the roads to become slippery which also increases the number of accidents.
Poor weather can cause a trucker to lose control on the vehicle if they are not properly trained to drive in adverse weather conditions. Icy roads are particularly tricky to maneuver due to the heavy weight of the truck and slower stopping speed of the vehicle. Many accidents are caused due to wet weather conditions because truckers don’t know the proper braking techniques to avoid skidding or jackknifing.
Road Conditions – Hazards and blocked roadways also increase the possibility of accidents. When there is road construction going on, the lanes can become narrower and drivers may find it difficult to drive on one of the lanes. Some drivers try to maneuver around potholes and roadblocks but end up causing the truck to roll over and cause an accident.
Inexperienced Drivers – There is a high demand for big rig drivers. A lot of newcomers join the profession every year and start driving within months before they have even become familiar with the routes and safety regulations. Any person who is driving on an unknown road will find it difficult to drive and panic easily under pressure.
A number of truck accidents involved drivers who did not even have their commercial driving licenses. Inexperienced drivers with little to no training are a common cause of truck accidents.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Truck drivers are expected to follow similar driving rules as any other driver. They must leave adequate distance with the vehicle in front, use turn indicators before turning, keep an eye on the rearview and drive on the proper lane designated for heavy vehicles. Failure to follow any of the safe driving practices can lead to an accident.
Passenger Vehicle Drivers
Truck drivers are not always to blame for accidents & collisions. A number of crashes also take place due to reckless driving by small vehicle drivers. Some of the unsafe driving acts that lead to accidents include the following.
- Driving in the No-Zone Area. The trucker has limited visibility behind and besides the truck. Driving close to the truck in these areas can lead to an accident through no fault of the driver.
- Changing lanes quickly right in front of the truck driver where they won’t be able to slow down the large vehicle in time to avoid collision.
- Trying to overtake the truck from the right when the driver is making the right turn.
- Failing to slow down or speed up when a truck is changing lanes.
- Misjudging the speed of an approaching truck at an intersection or attempting to go across the truck from its right.
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