5 Things to Know About Truck Accidents

A commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. These massive trucks are often going at fast speeds on highways and interstates. When a tractor-trailer accident occurs, the injuries can be devastating. 

There are so many challenges that come with operating a tractor-trailer and sharing the road with them. The stopping distance for trucks is much more than for a smaller vehicle. Drivers don’t have as much control over their vehicle simply because of the height and weight, and there are risks of rollover accidents, jackknifing, and tire blowouts. 

The following are five critical things to know about truck accidents and their possible implications. 

1. Most Deaths Are the Occupants of Passenger Vehicles

When large trucks are involved in crashes, there are often fatalities. Overwhelmingly, these fatalities tend to be people who are in passenger vehicles. When you’re in a smaller vehicle, you have more vulnerability. 

Trucks can weigh upwards of 20 to 30 times more than a passenger car. They’re also taller with more ground clearance, which can mean smaller vehicles underride them if there’s a crash. 

A loaded tractor-trailer needs anywhere from 20-40% more distance than a car to stop. This goes up even more if brakes aren’t well-maintained or the roads are wet and slippery. 

2. There Are Certain Patterns for Large Truck Crashes

In 2020, an estimated 47% of deaths in large truck crashes occurred on major roads not classified as interstates or freeways. Thirty-six percent were on interstates and freeways, and 15% occurred on minor roads. 

Forty-eight percent of deaths involving large trucks in 2020 occurred in the time window from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

3. Causes of Tractor-trailer Accidents

The causes of truck accidents are similar to some of the major causes of accidents involving other types of vehicles. The causes that are directly related to the behavior of the truck driver include:

  • Driver fatigue. Truck drivers are pressured to work long hours. Legally, truck drivers are required to take rest time, but not all do. One of the more dangerous situations that can occur on a roadway is being close to a truck driver who’s tired when behind the wheel. 
  • Driving under the influence. A truck driver is required to have a commercial driver’s license. The laws regarding intoxication are even stricter than for other drivers, but still, there are accidents that happen as a result of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Distracted driving. A truck driver is as vulnerable as anyone else to the potential distractions that can affect them behind the wheel. Truck drivers can be distracted by taking phone calls, texting, or even the use of their radio. 
  • Recklessness. A truck driver can display reckless behavior behind the wheel just like any other driver. These behaviors can include not following traffic signals, tailgating, reckless passing on two-lane roads, or speeding. 
  • Bad cargo loading. Problems with how cargo is loaded can cause items to fall into the road at high speeds. Improperly loaded cargo can also cause the whole truck to tip over. Sometimes loading the cargo is the responsibility of the driver, but in other cases, it’s a third party or a trucking company that is responsible. 
  • Poor maintenance. Truck accidents can stem from maintenance issues like tire blowouts. Sometimes it is the responsibility of the truck driver to maintain the truck, but other times it’s someone else’s responsibility. 

There are also causes that aren’t generally the fault of the driver, and these can include:

  • Road conditions. When the roads aren’t well-maintained, or there’s road construction, then a truck may get into an accident. 
  • Bad weather. Weather affects all drivers, but it can be even more impactful to truck drivers. Heavy rain can cause roadways to be slick, and poor road conditions can also affect visibility. 
  • Time constraints. Truckers often face significant pressure to move cargo quickly. Trucking companies put this pressure on them to maximize their profits. A driver responding to pressure by going too fast is partially responsible for an accident, but the trucking company could also be liable. 
  • Lack of training. Poor driver training is often the responsibility of the trainer instead of the trainee. 

4. Drivers of Passenger Vehicles Can Also Be Responsible for Accidents

Many truck accidents aren’t the fault of the truck driver at all. It can be drivers in passenger vehicles that make mistakes leading to an accident. Some of the particular situations where passenger vehicle drivers might cause an accident include:

  • The driver doesn’t get a disabled vehicle entirely onto the shoulder of the highway. 
  • Driving in the blind spots for a truck is a major reason for accidents. 
  • Driving between two or more large trucks can contribute to accidents. 
  • Doing any fast maneuvers, such as rapid lane changes in front of a truck, can cause accidents. 
  • Moving into traffic from a shoulder or a car merging from an on-ramp without enough acceleration in front of a truck can lead to a potential accident with a truck. 
  • If a passenger vehicle moves to the right of a truck that’s making a right turn, an accident can happen. 
  • A big mistake passenger vehicle drivers make is passing too close to a truck and then being blown to the side by turbulence or crosswinds. 
  • It’s problematic to make a left turn in front of a truck if you aren’t properly judging the speed. 
  • Not slowing down or speeding up when a truck starts to change lanes or merge can lead to accidents. 

5. It Can Be Difficult to Deal with Trucking Companies After An Accident

Finally, if someone’s in an accident with a truck, they should work with an attorney or their family should, depending on the situation. 

Trucking companies can be notoriously difficult after an accident. 

They might get rid of records, and they also tend to offer low settlements. An attorney can help someone who’s been hurt in an accident with a truck or their family. 

An attorney will understand more about what a settlement should be and how to navigate working with the lawyers for a truck company.

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