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The Most Common Causes of Truck (18-Wheeler) Accidents

Driving next to large trucks on the highway feels dangerous. Many stories of truck accidents paint trucks and their drivers as notorious dangers on the road. Many serious truck accidents are caused by the same group of issues, with eight different causes for truck accidents each contributing to over 10% of all truck accidents. Multiple causes from this list may even appear in a single crash.

If you or a loved one was injured, or if you lost a loved one to a truck accident, call a truck accident attorney today. the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team represents injured trucking victims across the country, fighting to get them compensation for their injuries.

Truck Accident Causes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal agency responsible for creating trucking regulations and studying the effects of truck safety across the US. Their “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” from 2007 is one of the most reliable and wide-reaching studies on truck accidents across the country. From that study, we can determine some of the most common truck accident causes. Each of the following causes is responsible, at least in part, for 10% or more of truck accidents studied in this analysis. Note that the study recorded multiple contributing causes to accidents, so these percentages will not add-up to 100%. Instead, they reflect what percentage of accidents counted this cause as a contributing factor in the accident, rather than the definitive cause.

1. Brake Failure

Trucks are very large, and when carrying cargo, can be extremely heavy. Legally, trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which is approximately the same as 23 sedans. If brakes fail, especially on long, down-hill stretches, trucks may totally lose control, crashing easily. This was at least a partial cause in approximately 29% of truck accidents.

2. Speeding

The study refers to this cause as “[t]raveling too fast for conditions,” which may not necessarily equate to driving over the speed limit. However, all drivers must be cautious on the road, and understand that the speed limit may not always be a safe speed. Truckers who violate the speed limit or drive too fast for safety were responsible for around 23% of crashes.

3. Drivers Unfamiliar with the Road

When drivers are lost or not sure where they are going, they can make hurried, dangerous moves on the road. Many drivers may even drive the wrong way down a one-way street, stop on merging ramps, or quickly change lanes to exit when they aren’t sure where to go. These can be serious dangers for other drivers, and caused approximately 22% of accidents.

reasons for truck accidents - The Most Common Causes of Truck (18-Wheeler) Accidents

4. Roadway Problems

This could include weather conditions like ice or snow, road construction, poor road upkeep like potholes, or any other road issues. The driver’s inability to react and avoid dangers is not always an accident cause that the driver is responsible for. However, combined with other factors, the trucker can often be held liable for these kinds of accidents.

5. Over the Counter Drugs

Many drugs that you can buy without a prescription are still dangerous. Some drugs, like caffeine tablets, are notoriously used by truck drivers to stay alert. Other drugs, like allergy medication and cough syrup, may cause drowsiness. Over the counter drugs were also involved in a higher percentage of accidents (17%) than illegal drugs (only 2%).

6. Blind Spots

The study calls this “inadequate surveillance,” which is the technical term the trucking industry uses for situations where truck drivers fail to check their blind spots or mirrors before moving. Truck drivers often cannot see areas of the road directly in front of their cab, directly behind the trailer, nor to either side immediately behind the cab. Failing to check these spots leads many truck drivers to crash into cars in these blind spots or “no-zones.” This is a factor in about 14% of truck accidents

7. Fatigue

Truck drivers work long shifts, and get tired while driving. In many cases, truckers have the sense to take a break or retire for the night. In fact, the FMCSA’s regulations require breaks in their “Hours of Service” rules to avoid these situations. Still, driver fatigue is a factor in 13% of truck accidents.

overloaded truck accidents - The Most Common Causes of Truck (18-Wheeler) Accidents

8. Pressure from Trucking Company

Many truck accidents are caused by the pressure that trucking companies (or “carriers”) place on their drivers. Trucking companies get paid based on how much freight they ship, and how quickly they can do it. This often puts pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours, overload trucks, and get their trucks back on the road without proper maintenance. This pressure from trucking companies was a partial cause of the crash in 10% of truck accidents.

Many of these problems coincide with the other major causes on this list, but ultimately boil down to the trucking company’s fault. In many cases, when you sue for trucking injuries, you can also sue the trucking company that pressured its drivers into violating traffic laws or trucking regulations.

Truck Accident Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, talk to a lawyer today. the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to take your case and fight to get you compensation for your injuries. For a free consultation with our truck accident injury lawyers, call (215) 246-9000 today.


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