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What Are Some Causes of a Truck Accident?

Trucks are massive vehicles that require drivers to have specialized training and adhere to strict state and federal regulations and rules. Despite these safeguards, trucking accidents do occur, and legal practitioners need to be informed about the unique issues regarding these incidents.

Truck drivers are commercial drivers who are held to higher standards than those for passenger vehicle drivers. They are required to have medical certificates from the DOT attesting to their fitness for driving and other duties if engaged in interstate commerce. Even the slightest negligence can expose a driver and his or her company to liability. Auto accident or truck accident attorneys who handle these cases should be cognizant of the higher standards involved.

A 2010 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found there were 3,413 fatalities with large trucks, of which 72 percent were passenger vehicle drivers and occupants. Although many of these accidents were caused by passenger vehicle negligence, truck drivers were responsible for a good share.

Common Trucking Errors

Contributing factors in trucking accidents may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Inadequate training
  • Speeding
  • Unsecured loads
  • Inadequate pre-trip and trip inspections

Regulations on Hours

Truck drivers are required to spend at least 10 hours between shifts and may not drive more than 60 hours in one week. Federal regulations do not allow truckers to drive more than 11 hours in one day or to work more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period. Fatigue is one of the top 10 factors in truck accidents.

Trip Logs

As commercial carriers, truckers and trucking companies must keep detailed logs for each trip including hours driven, mileage, destination, and cargo contents. Many trucks have e-logs or onboard electronic devices that prevent drivers from driving more than the federally allotted hours per day. Pre-trip inspection data must also be noted.

Black boxes, or engine control modules, are also found on many trucks that record data such as speed, engine malfunctions, and braking behavior that can be essential in determining liability in an accident.

Motor Carrier Responsibilities

Trucking companies are regulated by the individual states and the Federal Highway Administration. For example, trucks must adhere to strict requirements for axle length, truck length and width, and weight. Companies are required to have drug testing procedures for drivers and to report results. Studies have shown that many companies fail to conduct any drug testing of drivers, falsify records, and often fail to screen drivers for poor driving histories and criminal backgrounds.

Speed and Braking

Speeding is the most common factor in accidents according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Trucks may not exceed 55 miles per hour. Because of their weight and size, trucks require much longer braking times and distances. Loaded tractor-trailers may travel 20 to 40 percent farther than a passenger vehicle.

A personal injury attorney who understands these unique issues in truck accidents can more easily establish liability and obtain full value for their clients' injuries.