Top 8 Causes of Large Truck Accidents

Each year, thousands of people die or suffer from injuries in accidents involving semi-trucks and 18-wheelers. In many of these accidents, the company operating the semi-truck, as well as the truck’s driver, made avoidable mistakes that lead to the crash. When looking into the cause of these accidents, investigators have found that drivers often made the same mistakes. In an analysis of over 1,000 truck accidents across the United States, the following mistakes were identified as some of the most common causes of large truck accidents. Unfortunately, many trucking companies make these mistakes in an effort to save money. If you or someone you know was hurt or injured in an accident involving a semi-truck, contact Sandoval & James today, at (512) 382-7707, for a completely free consultation.

Semi-truck drives safely down a highway at sunset

1. Driver Fatigue

Drivers spend countless hours on the road, and while federal regulations limit hours of service (HOS), violations still occur. Regulations stipulate exactly how many hours drivers are permitted to be behind the wheel in a given week to ensure that drivers are alert while on the road. A well-versed semi-truck accident lawyer will know exactly how to determine whether or not driver fatigue played a role in the accident.

Driver Logs

Preserving driver logs is one of the initial steps that the experienced semi-truck accident lawyers at Sandoval & James know to take. This evidence should show how long the truck’s driver was on the road that week and, more importantly, how many hours they had been driving on the day they caused the crash. “Hours of Service,” or HOS for short, is the amount of time semi-truck drivers spend on the road. Unsurprisingly, it’s been shown that high Hours of Service have had a direct effect on how alert the driver was at the time of the accident.

Travel Records

When the HOS logs are not properly maintained (or not maintained at all), Sandoval & James’ experienced Austin accident and injury attorneys know that the travel records can also help show just how much the semi-truck’s driver had recently been on the road. If the driver of the semi-truck was dangerously fatigued, you must have a lawyer who knows how to prove it.

If a semi-truck driver hit you, or someone you know, and you have reason to believe they were fatigued, please feel free to contact Sandoval & James for a free consultation with one of our experienced accident and injury attorneys. There is absolutely no cost to you for the consultation.

2. Unfamiliar Roadway or Conditions

Oftentimes, truck drivers will drive the same route, yet the roads they drive on undergo constant changes. These changes can confuse even the most experienced truck drivers, leaving that driver to make a rushed decision that ultimately causes an accident. Common types of roadway changes that can lead to a crash include:

  • Exit ramp closures or changes
  • Introduction of truck-free lanes
  • Varying speed limits for commercial vehicles
  • Construction to a roadway’s setup or configuration
  • Unexpected weather changes

3. Traffic Flow

Truck drivers also tend to cause crashes when the flow of traffic on a truck driver’s typical route is suddenly different. Work zones that call for traffic to slow, holiday or accident congestion, and unexpected weather conditions can all cause traffic-flow issues. Semi-trucks can often require a significant amount of distance to stop, and truck drivers who are not prepared for sudden changes of speed (or having to stop rapidly) can cause serious accidents. It is estimated that truck drivers who are not prepared for sudden changes in traffic flow contribute to one in four 18-wheeler accidents.

4. Experience and Training

Truckers operating large semi-trucks and tractor-trailers are required to be properly trained and licensed. However, merely going through the training and obtaining a license does not mean a new driver has the experience to safely operate every type of semi-truck or to operate one in all conditions. Lack of experience has also been identified as a serious cause of accidents involving large commercial trucks, such as semi-trucks or big rigs.

5. Vehicle Maintenance

Truck drivers and trucking companies are responsible for performing regular and scheduled maintenance and inspections on each truck in operation. Trucking companies that fail to inspect their trucks, or fail to address mechanical issues once they are identified, can cause devastating trucking accidents. Common mechanical failures experienced by semi-trucks or big rigs include:

  • Hydraulic brake failures – identified as a contributing factor in nearly 30% of truck accidents, according to federal studies, due to:
    • Brakes being out of adjustment
    • Failure to brake
  • Tire Issues
    • Blown tires
    • Change in air pressure affecting tires

Mechanical failures with the semi-truck itself, such as engine, chassis, or suspension-related failures, have been identified as critical factors in nearly 10% of all large truck accidents. With the sheer number of semi-trucks traveling around and through our city, having an Austin truck accident lawyer to help if you’re local is imperative.

6. Truck Overloaded

Semi-trucks and tractor-trailers are almost always transporting large loads of goods. If the truck driver, or their company, fails to properly secure the truck’s load, the load can shift during transport. Load shifts can be extremely dangerous and potentially cause catastrophic crashes. This is especially true for tanker trucks that have a higher center of gravity. Also, when a semi-truck is carrying liquid, the liquid can quickly shift, causing a truck to roll.

7. Decision and Performance Errors

Truck drivers often make split-second decisions while on the road, whether a person is operating a small commuter vehicle or an 18-wheel semi-truck. When these split decisions are made, the truck’s driver will often (and sometimes, understandably) make an error in judgment that causes a crash.

Driver Recognition or Decision Errors

Driver recognition and decision errors are two other common mistakes that lead to trucking accidents. This means that the accident is a direct result of the driver’s action or inaction taken while operating their semi-truck. When the truck is at fault, driver recognition plays a role in 88% of crashes.

Speed

Truck drivers are also often under pressure to deliver loads within a certain amount of time. In fact, they are also compensated in whole or in part based on how quickly they can make a trip. This, of course, incentivizes these drivers to complete their trips quickly. The speed at which a driver decides to pull their load is also a contributing factor in many large truck accidents. Trucking companies know this, yet they continue to incentivize truck drives to complete their deliveries quickly. This is another example of trucking companies putting profit above safety – the safety of their drivers and the other drivers on the road.

8. Substance Abuse

While there has been an effort to crack down on substance abuse among truck drivers and commercial operators nationwide, evidence suggests that the use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications commonly contribute to trucking-related accidents. Prescription drugs played a role in over 25% of accidents involving semi-trucks, according to a federal analysis in 2007. It is the responsibility of the trucking companies to ensure that their truck drivers do not pose a safety risk while driving, due to the use of prescription medication.

Conclusion

Roughly 55% of all accidents involving large commercial trucks are the truck driver’s fault. Due to the sheer size of these trucks and their trailers, even accidents at low speeds can result in serious injury. If you find yourself involved in an accident in the Austin area, you will need the help of a semi-truck accident lawyer who’s familiar with these types of cases. The experienced accident and injury attorneys at Sandoval & James are here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today with further questions or inquiries. Initial consultations are completely free.