Updated on April 18th, 2023

What causes most semi-truck accidents?

The number cause of semi-truck accidents is driver fatigue; a driver cannot legally drive more than 12 hours per day in 24 hour period.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), some of the factors most likely to cause a semi-truck accident include speeding, alcohol impairment, and fatigue. When a tractor-trailer, versus another vehicle, causes an accident, it is most likely because of one of the following situations:

  • The truck leaves its travel lane into another lane of the road
  • The driver loses control of the vehicle due to speeding, cargo shifting, vehicle systems failing, poor road conditions, or some other reason
  • The truck collides with the rear end of another vehicle in the travel lane

There are many factors that can lead to one of the above scenarios. A truck accident attorney is supposed to find and analyze evidence that can explain what factors contributed to the crash. This process may involve examining photos from the crash scene, trucking company policies and records, past truck driver violations, truck black box data, witness reports, police reports, and footage from the dashboard or surveillance cameras.

Typically in many semi truck accident lawsuits, a combination of factors causes a truck collision. In fact, there may be hundreds of elements that need to be investigated to appropriately assign liability. According to the FMCSA, the most common factors involved in a commercial truck accident include the following:

  • Brake problems
  • Traffic flow disruption
  • Prescription drug use
  • Speeding
  • Driver unfamiliar with roadways
  • Problems with the road
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Driver fatigue

There is a lot of data that needs to be studied to determine the cause of an accident, the damages suffered by the injured victims, as well as the amount of compensation owed to injured victims to recover their losses. Trucking companies, in the hope of avoiding penalties for their negligence, may attempt to complicate the process of getting justice for victims. Truck accident law is therefore very complex in nature, and not every personal injury lawyer will take on such a case.

Who is liable in a truck accident?

Commercial trucking is a complex operation that involved many people and companies. It is possible for something to go wrong at any of these levels. When an individual acts negligently or wrongfully, the chances of a serious truck accident increase exponentially. It is possible that the cause of a truck accident occurred seconds before impact, or it may have taken place days or months earlier. When California personal injury lawyers try to find the cause and liability after a truck accident, then may need to look at the role and actions of a number of involved parties:

  • Truck drivers
  • Passenger vehicle drivers involved in the crash
  • Other drivers on the road
  • Truck owners
  • Trucking companies
  • Truck maintenance employees
  • Cargo and shipping companies
  • Employees who load cargo

What Are Important Facts to Know About Truck Accidents?

When large commercial trucks, such as tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and big rigs are involved in road accidents, there can be serious damage as a result. Truck accidents are measurably much worse than car accidents despite them happening less frequently. There are significant risks associated with being a truck driver, just as there are risks to drivers of cars, SUVs, and motorcycles that share the road with commercial vehicles.

Trucks are 20 to 30 times the weight of the average passenger vehicle that shares the roads with them. Such trucks take up to 40% longer to brake. They are also often transporting hazardous materials such as flammable liquids and toxic chemicals. Thus, when a truck crashes, there can be terrible results.

Statistically, trucking accidents are less common than other motor vehicle accidents, but the consequences can be serious, a single accident causing numerous deaths. When looking at the common causes of trucking accidents, it becomes clear that drivers are forced to work under conditions that are not always safe or lawful.

Truck Accidents Are More Likely to Cause Death

When a truck is involved in a crash, the likelihood of death is high. Trucks have been shown to have a fatality rate of almost four times greater than cars. According to the most recent motor vehicle fatality rates, the fatality rate for passenger cars was about .3 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 1.1 for large trucks.

Occupants in Other Vehicles Suffer Most from Truck Accidents

When looking at all vehicle crash deaths involving a passenger car (car, van, light truck, SUV) and a tractor-trailer, 97% of deaths were occupants of the smaller vehicle.

A Large Number of Truck Drivers Are Overworked

Under federal law, truck drivers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours on the road. However, research has shown that a high percentage of drivers break this law regularly. Dispatchers and trucking companies even encourage drivers to violate this law by assigning intense route schedules and incentivizing extra driving.

Substance Abuse is Common in the Trucking Industry

Because of stress, isolation, and the need to stay awake for hours on end, truck drivers sometimes turn to alcohol or drugs. Research has shown that the United States has higher rates of alcohol abuse among truck drivers than any other country. Over half of truck drivers admit to driving under the influence of alcohol. Another survey revealed that about a third of truck drivers use amphetamines.

Trucks Are Responsible for Transporting Hazardous Materials

Truck accidents that involve hazardous materials can be very serious in nature, which is why there are penalties for breaking federal hazmat trucking regulations. If a company breaks these rules, they can face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines as well as potential criminal charges. Trucks transport materials like flammable gasses, explosives, and toxic chemicals. According to U.S. DOT, there are over 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials every day, which adds up to over 3.1 billion tons of these materials every year.

Trucking is Necessary for the U.S. Economy

Just about every sector of the U.S. economy relies on trucking including gas stations, grocery stores, construction companies, electricity providers, and manufacturing plants. In fact, the trucking industry is worth over 700 billion dollars. Many people suffer as a result of frequent trucking accidents, which causes delayed shipments, lost products, and difficulty hiring.

Truck Accident Death Rates Are Increasing

Between 2009 and 2019, the number of truck accident fatalities increased by about 50%. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of large truck occupants killed in accidents nearly doubled between 2009 and 2019.

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