The average motorist instinctually understands that commercial trucks pose heightened risks whenever they are on the road compared to smaller vehicles. A big rig is enormous and permitted to weigh up to 80,000 pounds in most cases. An accident involving a vehicle of such a size and weight is bound to be devastating, even when the speed of the collision is relatively low.
But what most people do not realize is the true extent of the dangers and truck accidents caused by commercial trucks across the country. According to 2018 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data, nearly 5,100 large commercial vehicles – namely tractor-trailers – were involved in fatal accidents that year. This fatality rate is 48% higher than it was in 2009. There has also been a steady rise in non-fatal truck accidents, reaching approximately 121,000 in 2018. Furthermore, more than 80% of deaths in fatal truck accidents are suffered by someone other than the truck driver who might have caused it.
The uptick in both fatal accidents and injuries suggests a concerning trend of worsened safety standards within the trucking industry that are leading to more and more truck driver mistakes. What are five of the most common truck driver mistakes that lead to truck accidents, though?
1. Driver Error & Fatigue
Driver error is far and away from the most likely cause of truck crashes. It is estimated by the FMCSA to be 10 times more likely than any other factor because it is so simple for a truck driver – like any other driver – to have a momentarily lapse of judgment that results in an accident. The most common reasons for driver error cited on police accident reports are fatigue, distraction, inattention, and substance abuse. Fatigue is common among truck drivers, who are often scheduled to work 14-hour shifts and 70-hour weeks.
2. Truck Equipment Failure
Equipment failures are the second-most common cause of truck accidents, which include design and manufacturing errors like defective tires, reverse-detection warning devices, or improper maintenance of brakes and tires. Every truck driver and company is required by the FMCSA to perform pre-trip inspections and regular maintenance of their trucks year-round. Some truckers and their employers might be tempted to falsify maintenance records, though.
3. Weather Conditions
Commercial truck drivers don’t always account for bad weather conditions when they hit the highways. The bigger the vehicle, the more susceptible they are to inclement weather hazards, like rain or ice coating the asphalt. Trucks cannot stop as quickly or steer as easily as cars due to their massive weights and sizes, and these problems are only exacerbated when the weather is rough.
4. Improper Loading
If a truck’s load is not safely positioned in the trailer, the cargo can shift, causing the truck to become unbalanced when stopping or turning. Improperly secured loads can come loose and fall from the trailers, creating sudden obstacles on the road in front of drivers following the trailer. Overloaded trailers also pose a tipping hazard if the trailer becomes top-heavy.
5. Inexperienced Drivers
With the recent growth of commercial trucking in the U.S., new, undertrained, and inexperienced truck drivers are hitting the road in increased numbers. Trucking companies that fail to hire and train truck drivers who know how to safely control their vehicles in various road conditions. Otherwise, they could be held liable for the truck accidents caused by those inexperienced truckers, even if they are contracted and not employed. Even shipping companies can be partially liable for a trucking accident if they allow their freight to be hauled by someone unfit to do so, especially when hauling volatile or dangerous materials.
Can You Sue After a Truck Accident?
When a truck driver’s mistakes cause you to be the one who suffers for them, it is only right to explore your legal options for compensation. As a party injured through someone else’s negligence, you can file an injury claim against the truck driver, trucking company, and any other liable parties. If the responding insurance company doesn’t want to give you a fair settlement, then you also have the right to take them to court.
Of course, filing a claim or lawsuit after a truck accident is easier said than done due to the many legal rules and expectations that surround the average case. To make your life easier, let an experienced local truck accident attorney represent you from the start of your case to its conclusion. If you or someone you care about has been injured as a result of a truck accident in Charlotte, North Carolina, call our experienced attorneys at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates for a free initial consultation.