There is no getting around it; large trucks are simply more hazardous than smaller passenger cars on the road. Commercial trucks are the giants of the highway, and one wrong move can easily cause a catastrophic accident involving one or more vehicles.
In the aftermath of a serious accident caused by a large truck, victims not only have to deal with medical expenses and vehicle damages but also tricky questions of liability. We’ve assembled a breakdown of the most common questions our clients ask after a severe trucking accident in this post, but if you wish to discuss the specifics of your trucking accident case, the lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are always available for a free consultation.
How Often Do Truck Accidents Occur?
Large trucks account for 9% of all fatal crashes nationwide according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2018, 5,096 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 1-percent increase from 2017. The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes has increased by 48% from its low of 3,432 in 2009, and there are now over 500,000 trucking accidents in the United States every year.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
According to a study done by the U.S Department of Transportation, 47 % of large trucks in single-vehicle crashes are coded as “this vehicle loss of control”, meaning that the truck driver somehow lost control of the truck. Loss of control could occur due to:
- Driver fatigue: Driver fatigue is one of the major risk factors for commercial motor vehicle crashes
- Drivers on a tight schedule: Truckers are often expected to work 70 hours a week for up to eight days in a row
- Drug or alcohol use: As many as 91% of drivers interviewed for a nationwide study admitted they drank on the job, and 82% admitted to using amphetamines while driving
- Inappropriate driver training: Trucking companies are responsible for hiring drivers that meet all certifications and training requirements
- Mechanical breakdowns: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Fatal Causation Study found that in 55% of truck accidents the truck had at least one mechanical failure. The most commonly reported mechanical violations were related to the brake and lighting systems.
What Are the Most Common Truck Accident Injuries?
A collision with a large truck can cause numerous injuries, including, but not limited to:
Are There Special Laws or Regulations That Apply to Truck Drivers?
There are multiple traffic and civil laws that apply to truck drivers, both on the state and federal levels. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation both have regulations in place that dictate how many hours a driver can be on the road, and the mandated level of training and licensing a driver must-have.
Who Is Liable in a Truck Accident – the Driver or the Trucking Company?
There is no easy answer to this question, as both the driver and the company they work for may ultimately be held liable after an accident. Trucking companies often try to avoid liability and may try to place blame solely on the driver of the truck. An experienced trucking accident lawyer can help you understand who was at fault for your accident and assist you in filing a successful lawsuit against that party.
What types of trucks are the most common to be involved in a fatal collision?
According to a 2006 study done by the Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute there are certain truck configurations that are more likely to be involved in a trucking accident.
This includes straight trucks with no trailer, which were involved in 30.5% of all fatal truck accidents. Meanwhile, tractor-semitrailers accounted for 58.2% of the trucks, and over half of the tractor-semitrailers pulled a van trailer, such as a dry box van or a refrigerated van. 23.1% of the straight trucks were “dump” trucks. The next most common straight truck cargo body was a van body, with 18.6%.
Of all fatal accidents, 28.9% of the trucks were empty, 19.9% were carrying general freight, and 14.7% were carrying solids in bulk (gravel, soil, etc.) at the time of the accident.74.2% of the trucks involved in a fatal accident were Class 8, the heaviest Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) class, proving that large trucks are the most dangerous.
Another striking fact presented by the study was that 36.8% of the trucks were on local trips (within 50 miles of base) when involved in the fatal accident. This may mean that truck drivers become easily distracted because they feel very comfortable with the roads. Becoming too comfortable while driving can lead individuals to forget just how dangerous the act of driving can be, especially when you are driving a vehicle as massive as a truck. One final finding is that in 2006, 68 tractor-semi trailers and 23 straight trucks involved in a fatal accident were carrying flammable liquids at the time of the crash; such cargo can make accidents particularly dangerous.
What are the critical reasons for large truck failures?
There is no getting around it; large trucks are simply more hazardous than the smaller passenger cars on the road. Commercial trucks are the giants of the highway, and one wrong move can easily wreck one or smaller vehicles. It doesn’t help that driving a commercial truck is no piece of cake. Trucks are more dangerous, complicated, and difficult to operate. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are particular failures specific to large trucks. There are often a few contributing factors, known as critical reasons, that lead to a critical event, or accident. Possible critical reasons include driver decisions, vehicle failures, and environmental conditions.
There are over 5000 fatal truck accidents every year, and many of these collisions are caused by mechanical or maintenance failures. According to a study done by the U.S Department, 47 % of large trucks in single-vehicle crashes are coded as “this vehicle loss of control.” This means that the truck driver somehow lost control of the truck. This could be due to driver or mechanical error, road conditions, or perhaps a combination of all three. According to the study, 67% of the time the truck lost control because it was “going too fast for conditions.”
According to the Department of Transportation, almost 30% of reported accidents were caused by some sort of brake failure. Depending on the cause, this could mean that the brakes did not meet federal regulations, that they were not properly inspected or maintained, or perhaps there was a flaw in the design or manufacturing of the tire. Inconsistent inspection and maintenance can lead to the very dangerous risk of a tire blowout. Tire blowouts are common on the nation’s highways and often lead to loss of control and major collisions.
What Do I Do After a Trucking Accident?
After any serious trucking accident, your first priority should be to seek medical attention for your injuries. Filing a police report as soon as you are able to be also an important step in documenting your case. After this, you may be contacted by the trucking company’s insurance agents about a settlement, or to give a statement. Before speaking with them, it is critical that you first speak with a skilled trucking accident attorney.
The lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case, and help get you back on the road to recovery after a serious trucking accident. Contact our office today by calling 1-866-869-5318 or by filling out our form for a free consultation.