What Causes Most Truck Accidents?

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Truck accidents happen approximately 500,000 times each year, causing 5,000 fatalities. These fatal accidents are so common that one out of every eight traffic accident fatalities in the United States will involve a truck. The biggest cause of truck accidents in the United States is driver error, but often other factors are also at play. 

In this article we’re going to go over the seven most common causes of accidents involving trucks and what truck drivers and companies can do to help make sharing the road with trucks safer. 

  1. Driver Fatigue

Trucking companies often force drivers to work even though they haven’t had enough sleep. Drivers can be given impossible delivery deadlines that can’t be met without driving for dozens of hours at a time. This is a danger to everyone on the road. Fatigue was the cause of a recent accident in which a commercial truck driver fell asleep and caused a major wreck.

  1. Reckless Driving and Speeding

This is another frequent cause of accidents that would be entirely preventable if companies worked harder to enact policies that would prevent the need to rush to the delivery point. Truckers may drive too fast because they just want to get the job over with or because they were given an unrealistic deadline. 

  1. Improper Maintenance and Loading

Truckers and trucking companies have a duty to make sure their trucks are properly maintained and loaded, otherwise they risk causing an accident. Some of the causes of truck accidents include incorrectly distributing the weight of the cargo and dangerous cargo that has been mislabeled. 

  1. Substance Abuse

According to one 2008 study by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, nearly 100,000 truck drivers were found to be drunk or drugged driving when they were stopped for routine safety checks. Keep in mind, these were just the ones who were caught. The pressures of the trucking lifestyle lead many drivers to substance abuse and deadly wrecks.

  1. Vehicle Design Defects

Sometimes the truck’s manufacturer is responsible for the accident, as is the case when faulty part or design defects are present. Bad breaks, tires, or other parts could easily result in a wreck, especially when you are considering the fact that these defective parts are on a vehicle that weighs between 25,000 and 80,000 pounds and may be traveling at a high rate of speed.

  1. Problems With the Road

When the problem that caused the accident was a problem with the road that should have been maintained, a government entity may be responsible for a truck accident. This could include obstacles that were on the road that were not removed or defects with the road itself. 

  1. Falsified Log Books and Maintenance Records

Falsified maintenance records or log books may be another instance where both the trucker and the trucking company could be responsible for an accident. Drivers may falsify their records to cover up the fact that they were not following the company’s policies. The company policies may also be unreasonable, forcing drivers to fudge their records. 

  1. Poor Weather Conditions

The worst truck accident in California history to date happened when a dust storm caused a 93-vehicle pile-up on the I-5 outside of Los Angeles in 1991. This crash included multiple big rigs whose fuel tanks exploded. (You can go here to learn more about the main causes of Los Angeles truck accidents.)  Dust storms, smoke from wildfires, rain, fog, and snow can all cause serious truck accidents. 

How You Can Lower Your Risk

Understanding what you can do to make it safer to share the road with trucks can help you lower the risk you’ll be involved in an accident. These are some strategies you can use when you’re approaching a truck:

  • Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle
  • Stay out of the driver’s blind spots
  • Do not try to speed around trucks
  • Give the truck plenty of space when visibility is impaired due to weather conditions
  • Be cautious when changing lanes around a truck

Because trucks are so heavy it takes longer for drivers to brake, and you’ll want to keep this in mind when you’re judging how much space to put between your vehicles. You don’t want to risk becoming a part of the truck fatality statistics.

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