Why Big Trucks Get Into Accidents
Over 15.5 million trucks transport $671 billion of retail and manufactured goods in the United States each year, accounting for an astonishing 70 percent of all freight transported on American roads. Truck drivers transport an additional $490 billion in goods between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico each year.
Because of the sheer number of trucks on the road, it is unfortunately inevitable that commercial vehicle accidents will occur. Given the size difference between the two, the passenger vehicle often ends up much more severely damaged than the truck, and the drivers and any passengers in the smaller vehicle also wind up more severely injured most of the time.
Common Causes of Trucks Accidents
As one might expect, trucks get into different accidents depending on their size, their weight, and what cargo they are carrying. Of course, all truck accidents are different, but there are some causes seen more frequently than others, including:
Truck Driver Fatigue
The federal government provides guidelines governing how many hours a truck driver can be on the road as well as the downtime that drivers should take between drives. However, the trucking industry is deadline-driven. Unscrupulous companies encourage drivers to work overtime. Furthermore, most drivers are paid per mile driven, and a driver’s personal financial situation may make it hard for him or her to stop driving when the regulations demand.
So why does it matter? Drivers who are not properly rested make critical errors that they otherwise would not make. The effects of drowsiness on drivers are similar to those of alcohol intoxication. Drivers suffer a diminished ability to pay attention to road conditions and surroundings. Drowsiness slows reaction time and impairs judgment. Worst of all, drowsiness can lead to a driver falling asleep at the wheel and losing all control of the vehicle.
Although statistics relating specifically to truck driver fatigue are not available, an estimated 80,000 accidents annually are caused by drivers too tired to operate their vehicles and nearly 6,000 of those crashes result in fatalities.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Truckers are required to perform certain maintenance checks before hitting the road. If truckers fail to perform these checks properly, or if they miss certain issues, it can lead to dangerous accidents. The most common type of maintenance issue involves tires. Tire blowouts occur when a truck’s tire pressure is too low or because of insufficient tread. In some blowout situations, the tires come completely off of a truck’s wheels and fly into the air, creating dangerous obstacles for other drivers. Blowouts can also make it difficult for truck drivers to control their vehicles, causing them to behave in unsafe and erratic ways.
Improper maintenance can also result in lost loads. If a truck’s load is not secured properly, it may fall off the truck during sharp turns or sudden stops. Loads that end up in roadways become dangerous for other drivers who may not have time to stop before colliding with the spilled cargo. Other drivers may attempt to swerve to avoid the debris in the road, causing them to crash into vehicles in adjacent lanes or to cross the centerline.
Driving in a Truck’s Blind Spot
All vehicles have blind spots, which are the spaces that a driver cannot see in either side or rearview mirrors. While drivers of passenger vehicles can and should look over their shoulders to check their blind spots before making lane changes or turns, truck drivers do not have that option. Their trailers prevent them from seeing over their shoulders, and they may make lane changes without perceiving the presence of another vehicle. Passenger car drivers should take care to not drive in a truck’s blind spot and exercise caution when passing trucks on either side.
Following Too Closely
Any drivers following the car in from of them too closely can cause a rear-end collision if the front car stops or slows down. This holds true with truck drivers as well, but their negligence can have devastating consequences due to the weight and size of their vehicles. Impact to the back of a passenger vehicle by a truck can cause severe damage to passengers in the back of the car in addition to serious property damage. The impact from a truck may cause a pile-up by pushing the car immediately in front of it into the vehicles in front of the car, multiplying the potential for injury and property damage.
When a truck stops suddenly, it creates a situation in which the car following it does not have time to safely stop and avoid a collision. These types of accidents, called underride crashes, are some of the most devastating between passenger vehicles and trucks. Often, the passenger vehicle ends up underneath the back of the trailer connected to the truck. While the occupants in the front of the car are the most likely to sustain injuries, if the speed of the impact is high enough, the entire car may come to a stop under the trailer, injuring those in the back as well. Fatalities are not uncommon in underride accidents, and the passenger vehicle is usually totaled.
Crossing the Centerline
Crossing the centerline can result in a front-end collision. Like underride accidents, front-end collisions are serious accidents that can result in death and severe bodily injury. The large size and weight of a truck make front-end collisions especially serious. These accidents usually happen at higher rates of speeds than other types of accidents, and oncoming drivers have little warning that the truck will cross and therefore a small window of time in which to react.
Taking Turns Too Sharply
When a truck makes too sharp of a turn, it can cause it to jackknife, a situation in which the truck cab and trailer end up at a 90 degree angle. These types of accidents may not involve another vehicle, but they do create dangerous obstacles in the road to which other drivers may not have time to react. In addition, trucks may lose their cargo loads, which creates additional dangers on the road.
Running Stop Signs or Stoplights
When trucks run stoplights or stop signs, they can cause a T-bone accident. In these crashes, a car coming from a side direction may not have time to stop before colliding with the truck. As with underride accidents, the passenger car may end up under the trailer, and the damage can be just as severe.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer if You Need More Information
If you or someone you know was injured in a truck accident, you may face a mountain of medical bills and such a change in your physical capabilities that makes it impossible for you to return to life as you once knew it. A truck accident attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve for injuries suffered due to truck driver or trucking company negligence.