There are numerous possible causes of truck accidents however, the most common reasons for collisions involving these vehicles differ from the common causes of auto accidents.
It is important to be alert to these causes. A number of the most common reasons for truck accidents suggest possible negligence on the truck driver’s part. Truck accident lawyers are keenly aware of how long hours on the road, stressful work environments, and lack of proper training can all be contributing factors to truck crashes.
The Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2005 Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study provides exciting findings on the 20 most common causes. The complete list can be found in the report.
Several deserve special attention in case of possible personal injury claims related to a truck accident.
Prescription Drug Use
According to the study, prescription drug use is the number one cause of truck accidents contributing to 26.3% of truck accidents. This is very important and should be investigated thoroughly.
Many prescription drugs come with warnings regarding driving, drowsiness, etc. Unfortunately, some of the worst culprits are those most commonly used by truck drivers, such as painkillers and muscle relaxants related to back pain joints to long-distance truck drivers.
Truck companies must test for a wide range of prescription and illegal drugs. The failure to do so is negligent.
Traveling Too Fast for Conditions
Excessive speed is the second leading cause of truck accidents accounting for 22.9% of trucking accidents. This is one we are all familiar with as we see trucks speeding past us on the highways.
There is no excuse for this. Trucks are 20 to 30 times larger than passenger vehicles. They are hardly agile, maneuverable, or easy to stop. Excessive speed is hazardous, with catastrophic consequences associated with the inability to avoid accidents.
Truck drivers often drive too fast for road conditions, leading to accidents. According to the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) 2010 Report, “Trucking 101,” driving too fast for conditions accounts for about 23% of all truck accidents leading to over 30,000 trucking accidents each year.
Remember that driving too fast for the conditions does not necessarily mean speeding. Anyone with a large truck on their bumper in city traffic can attest to this. Rear-end collisions are one of the most common results of truckers driving too fast for the conditions.
Investigating the Truck Accident to Determine Rate of Speed and Driving Conditions
Investigating this issue can be tricky since a truck driver is unlikely to admit they were driving too fast. This means that the information from the truck driver or truck company will not come quickly in most cases.
Most but not all trucks have data recorders installed. Different data recorders will record additional data. The data recorder will hold critical information regarding the accident.
If there is a data recorder, it is essential to get your hands on it. Even then, the data recorders may not be enough. Again, driving too fast for the conditions does not mean speeding. As such, the data recorder may show driving within the posted speed limit, which will not necessarily reflect road conditions. So it may be necessary to get traffic conditions from available sources to know whether the driver was driving too fast.
In many cases, there will be witnesses to the accident. It is essential to get their statements regarding the cause of the accident. Most drivers have had truck drivers barreling down on them at one time or another. Many are more than happy to give statements about the driver’s negligent driving behavior. This may be the most valuable information if it is available.
In short, obtaining every bit of information possible from any source is essential to show that the driver was driving too fast. This may take some work, but it is necessary to get. A truck rear-ending a vehicle is a slam dunk on negligence and liability. However, if the driver was reckless, it may also be possible to obtain punitive damages.
Truck Accident Data Recorders
Most modern trucks will have data recorders. Technology has been around since the ’70s. It has been widely used since the early 90s.
Data recorders record a host of essential data. Each brand may record different data. Data recorders can record speed, brake usage, GPS, diagnostics coding, and a great deal of another trip/event data depending on the make and model of the recorder.
Although each make and model may record different data, even the most basic recorder should provide some helpful information regarding the truck’s speed at the time of the accident. This is the basic building block for showing that the truck driver was driving too fast for the conditions.
The Counter Drug Use
Another common cause that would indicate negligence is over-the-counter drug use, which accounts for 17.3% of truck accidents. Like prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs can cause drowsiness and severely impaired driving ability.
Fatigue and Work Related Pressure
Fatigue accounts for 13% of truck accidents, while work-related pressure accounts for another 9.2%. These will tend to be closely related.
Truck drivers work excessive hours by delivery pressures. Federal law allows 11-hour shifts, 77 hours in a seven-day week. This is excessive and results from some intense lobbying pressure from the industry. Even with these excessive allowable hours, many truck drivers and their companies exceed them.
It is essential to check the driver logs to determine whether or not the hours have been exceeded.
Illegal Maneuvers and Aggressive Driving
Illegal maneuvers account for 9.1%, and aggressive driving accounts for 6.6% of truck accidents. Some examples of aggressive driving are those we are all far too familiar with: tailgating and weaving.
Again, large trucks’ size and lack of maneuverability make these behaviors inexcusable.
The last driver error that we will address here is driver inattention. This is not much different than any other driver. Notably, this is less common in truck drivers than other drivers accounting for only 8.5% of truck accidents.
Driver inattention can be deadly in an auto accident. In the case of an inattentive driver of a large truck, the fatality rate is much higher than the size of large trucks.
There are several equipment-related causes of truck accidents. The most common is brake failure which accounts for 29.4% of accidents.
This is remarkable, particularly when viewed in light of the other factors above, which, combined with faulty breaks, create an enormous risk for accidents.
For any truck accident, it will be essential to check maintenance and repair logs. These may reveal a lack of proper maintenance and repair of brakes and other necessary equipment.
Alcohol and Illegal Drugs
It is noteworthy that alcohol and illegal drugs play a trivial role in truck accidents. Together they account for only 3.1% of truck accidents.
The truck industry has done a pretty good job addressing these issues. Perhaps most importantly, state laws on drinking, drugs, and truck driving typically call for the automatic revocation of commercial driver’s licenses. This consequence is an excellent deterrent while completely getting the worst culprits off the roads.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
As mentioned, many other factors may contribute to a truck accident. The ones noted are perhaps most indicative of negligence, but all possible causes should be investigated.
In a truck accident, it is essential to conduct a thorough investigation. Many times responsibility and liability may be evident. Other times, it may be more challenging to determine. A personal injury attorney experienced in truck accidents can help.