​Top Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents

Resources 9 Uncategorized 9 ​Top Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents
While many factors can contribute to commercial truck accidents, far too many are preventable.  Commercial trucks can have a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds, depending on the load they carry; while the average passenger vehicle only weighs 3,500 pounds.

In addition to the weight of an 18-wheeler, the cargo it carries can also be hazardous, possibly resulting in further injury if involved in an accident. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that of the approximate 500,000 18-wheeler accidents per year, 5000 result in death.  

Of the 5000 fatalities resulting from semi-truck accidents, seventy-two percent were occupants of other vehicles, 13 percent were pedestrian – motorcycle and bicycle riders, while 14 percent were truck drivers.  Commercial trucks represent 4 percent of registered vehicles, but they cause 9 percent of annual roadway collision deaths.

Truck driver drug and alcohol use is widely believed to be the culprit of these commercial truck accidents, but statistics disagree.  Roughly three percent of truck accident fatalities are the result of alcohol and drug use.  

Driver fatigue ranks at the top of the truck driver accident list.  While governed by federal regulations that limit the number of hours truckers can legally drive, drivers often ignore these laws to meet the unrealistic deadlines set by the greedy company owners; that place profit above safety.  Investigation of these accidents implies 13 percent of U.S. trucking accidents are due to driver fatigue.  The number is likely higher than 13 percent; however, truck drivers rarely admit they fell asleep at the wheel or were overly tired.

As with passenger vehicle accidents, distracted driving moves up the list of causes, becoming a significant factor in trucking accidents.  Distracted driving accounts for more than 18 percent of big rig accidents.  Distraction happens in many forms; visual distraction is when a driver takes their eyes away from the road to view their cell phone screen, changes the radio, programs new GPS coordinates, or focuses on scenery or other drivers.  Manual distraction is when the driver’s hands are not on the truck’s wheel or engaged in a task other than driving.  Just like their four-wheel counterparts, truck drivers are known to engage in eating while driving.  

A cognitive distraction occurs when a person’s mind is on something other than driving and the vehicles surrounding them.  Cell phone use is named in three types of distraction, which is why it is especially dangerous.  In defiance of increasing cell phone driving laws, drivers continue to talk, text, video, skype, and zoom, as well as surf the web and watch programs while driving. 

Unfortunately, when an 18-wheel driver slams his or her brakes, the truck’s trailer momentum does not follow at the same speed as the truck’s front, causing the trailer to swing around, also known as a jackknife.   A truck that jackknifes poses an incredible danger to the vehicles surrounding the truck.  A jackknifes can occur for many reasons ranging from slick surfaces to insufficient tread on the tires or taking a turn too abruptly.  

Commercial drivers in the United States are required to attend a thorough training program; many that share the roadway assume these drivers come out of the program fully trained with enough experience to get behind the wheel of a truck.  As with most things in life, there is a precipitous learning curve to driving an 18-wheeler.  Training usually includes general and specific instructions on maintenance of their vehicle, properly securing various loads, which types of loads increase the possibility of an accident occurring, and driving in various weather and traffic conditions.  Hazardous and toxic waste transportation requires additional training.   

Transportation companies operating in the United States are responsible for ensuring their fleet is well-maintained.  Truck drivers are responsible for inspecting their vehicles, specifically the brakes and tires before driving on public roadways.  18-wheeler Accidents caused by failing equipment and poor vehicle maintenance are the responsibility of the company.  


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