Five Common Causes of Truck Accident Claims
Due to their sheer weight and size, truck accidents can cause serious injury and even death. While there are state and federal regulations in place to minimize the dangers inherent in the trucking industry, truck accidents still occur frequently. There are many common reasons for truck accidents all of which can be avoidable or at least minimized by exercising proper caution.
Common Cause 1: Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue tops the list as a leading cause of large truck accidents. State and federal laws have attempted to address this by regulating the number of hours that a driver can work in a given day and work week.
Specific regulations also require a driver to have a minimum number of consecutive off-duty hours. These rules have been specifically designed to keep the driver alert and to limit the possibility of driver fatigue. A large truck driver’s employer can be held liable for requiring a driver to work beyond the maximum number of allowable hours.
Relative to driver fatigue, it is important to keep in mind that the first hour of driving could be the most dangerous as one study showed that a higher rate of incidents occurring during the first hour of drive time. Those who led the study theorize drivers are impacted by the following, just after waking:
- sleep inertia, which is defined as the impairment of short-term memory
- cognitive functioning
- reaction time
Drivers who sleep in the truck’s sleeper berth are believed to be at increased risk of accidents caused by sleep inertia.
Common Cause 2: Speeding & Not Observing Road Rules
According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NTSB), over 25% of fatal truck accidents involved a driver who had been previously cited for speeding. Large trucks are particularly dangerous when they are driven at high or excess levels of speed because of their size and weight.
In addition to excess speed, other issues related to not obeying rules of the road include:
- Following too closely for the rate of travel or traffic conditions (such as heavy traffic)
- Disregarding hazardous road conditions such as gravel, curves, uneven roadway, etc.
- Driving unsafely for weather conditions such as rain, sleet, snow, high winds, etc.
- Neglecting essential surveillance of conditions while driving check mirrors, look ahead, or drive defensively
Common Cause 3: Faulty Maintenance and Inspection of Truck
Trucking companies and their drivers are obligated to perform thorough inspections and maintenance of their vehicles. At minimum, this should include regular, appropriate maintenance as well as pre-trip inspections.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations stipulate that all large trucks are subject to inspection including all breaking systems. To ensure compliance and to avoid incidents related to safe vehicle operations, it advised that truck drivers thoroughly inspect the truck before driving every day including (though not limited to):
- Wheels / rims and tires
- Breaking systems
- Steering systems
Common Cause 4: Substance Abuse
Truck driving involves driving long hours on the road, and it is difficult to maintain focus for hours at a time. Some drivers rely on illegal substances to stay alert. Employers are required to perform drug testing on their drivers upon hiring. Throughout their employment, drivers often undergo additional periodic drug testing. Times when a driver may be tested in addition to time or hire include:
- Random testing
- Following certain types of traffic accidents
- If there is reasonable suspicion a driver is under the influence
- When a driver returns to work following a positive test, refusal to test, or other violating prohibitions
- As a follow-up after return-to-duty; at least six tests are required in a 12 month period.
Common Cause 5: Poorly Loaded Trailers
An improperly loaded trailer can significantly impair the ability of the driver to handle the truck. In the event of a truck accident, the driver could be liable for not following the rules of the road as well as for poorly loaded trailer, which affects the driver’s ability to keep the truck under control.
Truck drivers can avoid accidents and related legal ramifications by ensuring they obey state and federal guidelines put in place to help avoid accidents common among large truck drivers.