As with any type of automotive accident, there are many potential contributing factors that can lead to crashes involving semi-trucks. Some of those factors are the same, but others only apply when commercial trucks get involved. The Department of Transportation has identified at least 20 common causes of accidents, but this article will focus on just a few of the most important of them.
Excessive speed is one of the top causes of accidents caused by trucker negligence, and it’s one that many drivers consider particularly inexcusable. All vehicles have to follow posted speed limits, and trucks are up to 30 times larger than passenger cars, so it’s even more important that they obey this law. Truck drivers can also cause accidents by driving too fast for the road conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit, which is part of why it’s so important to take photographs of the scene after a car accident.
Prescription Drug Use
Commercial truck drivers are prohibited from using certain types of prescription medications, along with all controlled substances taken without a prescription. Medical Examiners may determine a truck driver to be medically unqualified if he or she is taking amphetamines, narcotics, or other habit forming drugs, with or without a prescription, and any type of anti-seizure medication. The Medical Examiner reviews each case independently, though, and can make exceptions with a letter from a doctor that states the driver will not be adversely affected.
Around 13% of truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue. There are federal laws in place to regulate the amount of time a commercial trucker can spend behind the wheel, but they only limit drivers to 11-hour shifts or 77-hour work-weeks. To make matters even worse, many trucking companies expect drivers to exceed these allowable hours.
Distracted driving is just as dangerous for truckers as it is for passenger car drivers, and it’s also just as illegal. The difference is that when commercial truck drivers get into accidents as a result of distracted driving, the results are more likely to be catastrophic, or even fatal.
Negligent Cargo Loading Practices
Not all forms of negligence that contribute to trucking industries point to the drivers, themselves, as being at fault. Negligent cargo loading practices can also cause accidents. Examples can include:
- Overloading trucks, which increases the chances of blowouts, reduces hauling and stopping power and makes it difficult to change direction to avoid accidents.
Incorrectly loading cargo, which leaves the load unbalanced and increases the chances of jackknife accidents.
Failing to secure cargo, which can pose a danger to other drivers on the road if the cargo falls off a flatbed or through the rear doors of a semi-trailer.
Under-filling tanker trucks, which can leave the liquid sloshing around during transit and interfere with the driver’s ability to maintain control.
Just like the loading crew may be held responsible for a trucking accident, a mechanic or fleet manager may also bear some of the blame. If the truck has not received adequate maintenance and a preventable issue, such as brake failure, contributed to the accident, the trucking company or the mechanic that works on its vehicles may be held liable.
How to Identify Responsible Parties
Determining liability in commercial trucking accidents is notoriously challenging. The best way to figure out who is to blame is to hire a truck accident lawyer who can help.