Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents


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Thousands of people die every year in accidents involving semi-trucks. Most often the victims are people in passenger vehicles that are ill-equipped to withstand a collision with a vehicle many times its weight and strength.

Track Accident Statistics

A statistical analysis of truck accidents results in a finding that approximately 5,000 people in passenger vehicles die every year in automotive accidents involving semi-trucks. Additionally, about 700 individuals in semi-trucks die each year in these crashes. Approximately 64 percent of fatal semi-truck accidents involve a semi-truck that was pulling one trailer. Of these, 32 percent of the crashes involve single-unit trucks. Approximately 4 percent of crashes involve multi-trailer vehicles.

Causes of Accidents

There are a number of reasons why such accident can occur. However, given the large weight of the vehicle, the difference in the weight of the semi-truck and the other vehicle and the speed the vehicles are traveling at, accidents can result in very serious injuries and sometimes in fatalities. Some common causes for semi-truck accidents include:

Driver Fatigue

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned the public about the seriousness of driver fatigue, especially in truck drivers. Truck drivers often drive thousands of miles in a number of days. Additionally, many truck drivers are paid based on miles, so there is an incentive for the truck driver to drive further distances in shorter periods of time because the driver makes more money that way. As a result, federal regulations exist that limit the number of hours a driver can drive within a day’s time and that mandate when the driver must take breaks and how long these breaks should be. Nonetheless, driver fatigue continues to be one of the most common reasons for semi-truck accidents.

Improper Maintenance

Federal regulations also exist that require semi-trucks to be kept in good condition if they are operated. A number of improperly maintained vehicle parts and components can lead to serious accidents, including the braking system, tires that are too warn, malfunctioning engine and unsafe trailers. Truck companies that are compliant with federal regulations receive periodic maintenance, including brake checks before each trip.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving continues to be a serious concern of all individuals on the roadway. The potential fallout of distracted driving is usually no higher than in cases involving semi-trucks. Distracted drivers are individuals who are operating a vehicle while their vision, hands or concentration is off of the vehicle and the task of driving. While using a cell phone is the most common cause of distracted driving, distracted driving can be due to a response to any number of stimuli. Fiddling with the radio, typing in an address in an GPS system, eating, drinking, talking to other passengers or engaging in other activities that distract the driver are all forms of distracted driving.

Truck drivers are particularly susceptible to distracted driving given the long hours that they work and the tedious nature of driving. Truck drivers may seek to entertain themselves and wind up distracted in the process. Truck drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Driver Inexperience

Another common reason for semi-truck accidents is driver inexperience or inadequate training. Trucking companies sometimes pay for new drivers to complete trucking courses and then quickly put them behind the wheel of very large and dangerous vehicles. However, these drivers may be unfamiliar with the type of vehicle that they are assigned to. Inexperienced drivers are appealing to some trucking companies because they generally charge less per mile than more experienced drivers. However, the underlying costs associated with hiring inexperienced drivers is the increased likelihood that the truck driver will inadvertently injure someone through this inexperience.

Improper Loading

Sometimes the cause of the accident is from improperly loading the cargo that goes on the truck. Individuals may quickly load the truck in order to get the driver on to the next destination more quickly. Inexperienced packers may not understand how to properly distribute the weight. These mistakes can lead to the semi-truck jack-knifing or being difficult to maneuver.

Legal Assistance

Individuals who are injured in a semi-truck accident may wish to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has experience in this area of the law. A truck accident lawyer should be familiar with state and federal regulations so that he or she can make legal claims based on this information. He or she can help parties recover compensation for the damages that they sustained.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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