Causes of Truck AccidentsBy Stewart J. Guss on October 9th, 2019
The trucking industry is responsible for moving the goods we need and want throughout the country. As leaders in the oil and gas industry, Texas and Louisiana are especially depending on trucks to transport their products along with agricultural products from both states. When you are driving, you shouldn’t have to fear careless and negligent truckers who are carrying dangerous cargo.
Truck accidents cause victims and their families LARGE AMOUNTS OF PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, and FINANCIAL stress. To make matters worse, most truck drivers don’t have to deal with the aftermath of an accident because their big rigs protect them from injury and fatality; and, TRUCKING COMPANIES ARE ONLY WORRIED ABOUT THEIR BOTTOM LINE, so they continue to push their drivers hard without regard for the safety of others on the road.
If you have fallen victim in a truck accident because of negligent trucking companies or careless truck drivers, you NEED an experienced attorney to make those who caused you harm pay for their actions. A qualified lawyer will help you seek compensation for damages including your pile of medical bills, lost wages for missing work because of your injury, your physical pain, and mental anguish you’ve suffered in the wake of a truck accident.
Below we provide valuable information about causes of truck accidents. If you are a victim of a truck accident, these descriptions will help you understand exactly how your accident occurred. You can also learn how to avoid causing a truck accident, and most importantly, avoid careless and negligent truck drivers who cause truck accidents.
Negligent Truck Drivers Cause Truck Accidents!
As professional drivers, the law holds truckers to a higher standard than other motorists, as it should. They are required to comply with rules and regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Even with all the rules and regulations in place, many truckers still make bad choices behind the wheel, which lead to severe and deadly consequences for those with whom they share the road. The FMSCA reports many different types of negligent behaviors and law violations which cause truck accidents. They include:
Federal law prohibits truckers from using their cell phone without a hands-free feature. When they choose to ignore this law, they put others on the road at risk. Cell phones, however, are not the only distraction which can cause a truck accident. Other distracting behaviors include personal grooming, adjusting their radio or C.B., programming a GPS, eating, drinking, reaching for something on the floor, watching another event outside the truck, and daydreaming. Any action that takes a trucker’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off driving can be a driving distraction which leads to a severe or fatal truck crash.
The FMSCA estimates approximately one third of fatal truck accidents are speed-related. Even though truck drivers know they need to keep their hands on the wheel, drive carefully, and not speed to maintain control of their truck, some still make poor choices. When truckers drive over the posted speed limit or traveling too fast for conditions, they don’t have the same control, especially if they need to make a sudden maneuver or one of their 18-wheelers blows a tire. Many trucks have regulators that prevent them from traveling too fast. In fact, the FMSCA reports most tractor-trailer crashes occur between 50 and 55 miles per hour. This suggests that truckers who go too fast in inclement weather, poor road conditions, and heavy traffic are the most dangerous culprits who cause truck accidents.
Truck drivers are always in a rush because of their long hours and demanding schedules. This can lead to speeding, but it also leads to following the vehicle in front of them too closely. Big semis need extra distance and time to appropriately react to sudden stops, turns, and other hazards. If drivers tailgate, they might cause a rear-end collision. When a large truck rear-ends a smaller vehicle, it’s never just a small bump and scratch. Drivers and passengers, especially those in the backseat, face great danger of severe injury or death when a truck strikes the rear of a vehicle. The FMSCA estimates a large truck needs up to 400 feet of stopping distance when traveling at 55 miles per hour, compared to about 140 feet for passenger vehicles. This requires them to leave a four to five second gap between the truck and the car in front of them, and truckers must double the gap in inclement weather to avoid causing a rear-end collision.
Driving While Impaired
The dangers of driving under the influence are pushed on television, radio, podcasts, movies, news, etc. There is NO EXCUSE for drinking and driving or using illegal drugs and driving, ESPECIALLY FOR TRUCKERS WHO ARE PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS. Yet, the FMSCA still requires trucking companies to perform random drug and alcohol screenings on their drivers, and sometimes they fail. It already takes special skills and manual dexterity to control a big rig, adding alcohol or drugs to the mix makes for a dangerous, sometimes deadly combination. Controlled substances impact a truck driver’s reaction time, making it difficult for them to give the appropriate response to traffic signals, other vehicles, and hazards on the road.
The FMCSA requires the vast majority of truck drivers in the United States to hold a commercial drivers license (CDL), sometimes with special endorsements. Truckers hauling oil and gas out of Texas and Louisiana definitely have to obtain a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) endorsement. In any case, drivers who hold a CDL cannot fail a drug screening nor can they have a breath alcohol level greater than 0.04. Those who fail these screenings face license suspension, losing their job, and losing their CDL. These consequences aren’t nearly as bad as the pain, agony, and financial woes you have to face if you fall victim to a truck accident caused by an impaired trucker.
Truck drivers have demanding schedules and long hours, plus many must drive at night. It’s understandable they might get drowsy, even fatigued after working a few days in a row. Yet, when drivers don’t follow regulations to take mandatory breaks or listen to their bodies and stop when they are tired, they risk falling asleep at the wheel and causing severe truck accidents. Fatigued drivers don’t even need to fall asleep to cause an accident. The FMCSA reports that a person who has gone 18 hours without sleep has the same level of impairment as a person with a 0.08 breath alcohol level. Simply being drowsy or fatigued can cause a driver to lose control of his truck or poorly judge space and time.
Federal law requires trucking companies to enforce Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which dictate how long a driver can be on duty and behind the wheel each day and each week. Drivers who break these rules on their own accord or because their employer forces them to violate the regulations put others at risk for severe, possibly fatal, accidents. HOS regulations include:
- Truck drivers can drive 11 hours per day if they have the previous 10 hours off-duty.
- Drivers cannot be on duty, stopped or driving, for more than 14 hours each day.
- After eight straight hours of driving, truck drivers must take a 30 minute break.
- Drivers cannot be on duty more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.
Failure to Clear Blind Spots
Trucks have blind spots, and big trucks have even bigger blind spots. Most big rigs are about 75 feet long and their blind spots extend about 30 feet in front of the cab, 20 feet behind the trailer, and spanning almost the length of the trailer on both sides. Truck drivers do not have rearview mirrors, so they must rely on side mirrors and those mounted on their cab. When truckers who are in a hurry, distracted, drowsy, or impaired don’t bother to check their mirrors and clear their blind spots, they can cause a deadly accident when they turn or change lanes.
Traffic Law Violations
Some truckers have the philosophy that they are the largest vehicles on the road, so they don’t need to comply with traffic regulations or watch for other motor vehicle traffic. In addition to cell phone use, impaired driving, and speeding, truck drivers sometimes break other traffic laws, which can lead to serious or fatal accidents. They include:
- Failure to yield to other drivers who have the right of way
- Failure to obey stoplights, stop signs, and other traffic signals
- Making an improper turn without taking into account that semis must swing wide
Negligent Trucking Companies Cause Truck Accidents!
Federal law requires trucking companies to regularly inspect their trucks and perform preventative maintenance to make sure trucks are safe to be on the road, or “roadworthy.” When companies hire poor mechanics, don’t train them well, don’t perform inspections, or fail to fix known issues in a timely manner, they allow unsafe trucks on the road. These death-traps on wheels can break down AT ANY MOMENT, causing an accident because the driver loses control of the truck. Some scenarios where negligent trucking companies who don’t maintain their trucks might cause an accident include:
- Failure to rotate tires, ensure proper air pressure, and replace them when they are worn out
- Failure to change brake pads, rotors, and/or fluid
- Failure to maintain air brake systems
- Failure to replace burned out headlights, taillights, and turn signals
- Failure to test axles for their weight-bearing capacity
Trucking companies also hire employees to load cargo properly, making sure it complies with weight and balance specifications of the truck and laws. Employees must also properly secure cargo, so it doesn’t spill all over the road. When IRRESPONSIBLE TRUCK COMPANIES hire unqualified people or don’t train them properly, the result might be a treacherous and may cause fatal multi-car collision when some or all of the cargo spills. In addition to the truck driver losing control, other vehicles might not have time to avoid a collision, starting a deadly chain reaction.
Call a Truck Accident Lawyer Now if You Need More Information
When looking for a truck accident law firm to answer your questions, you will want a team of committed, hard-working professionals with a track record for pursuing the best outcome possible for clients who have suffered injuries in truck accidents. You want someone who can back up what they say by having recovered MILLIONS of dollars in damages for truck accident victims and their families. That doesn’t guarantee results for your case, but can promise to place you in the best possible hands.