As the lifeblood of American commerce, trucking companies transport 71 percent of all our freight and are responsible for nearly 6 percent of all full-time jobs. All this work requires a lot of trucks—15.5 million trucks to be exact, and over 2,000,000 of these trucks are tractor-trailers. All these trucks on the road come with a risk, however. In one recent year, 112,000 commercial trucks were in injury-causing accidents. Sadly, 4,862 large trucks were in fatal crashes. It’s no surprise so many commercial truck accidents cause injuries to other motorists. Most trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than a typical car, which significantly magnifies the consequences of an accident. If you or a loved one sustains an injury in an accident involving a commercial truck, seeking professional medical care should be your top priority. It is also highly advisable to speak with a truck accident attorney immediately who can begin the investigation immediately, advise you of your rights and help you seek financial compensation for damages.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents?Truck accidents can happen for a number of reasons, but several are more common than others. Some of the most common cause of commercial truck crashes include:
Driver ErrorAlthough the trucking industry has focused on reducing drowsy driving and promoting safety, truck drivers continue to make mistakes that have devastating consequences. Drivers often get behind the wheel even when they are tired in order to meet personal or company mileage goals. Many times, drivers ignore speed limits or drive too aggressively. Sadly, driving under the influence and distracted driving--such as using a cell phone--are also common driver behaviors that cause accidents.
Inadequate MaintenanceTrucking companies are responsible for repairing and maintaining their trucks to make sure they are safe for the road. Blown tires, worn brakes, and other neglected parts can cause serious accidents resulting in severe injuries or even death.
Equipment FailureWhile defective components are not the driver’s fault, their failure can set the wheels in motion for a deadly wreck. In many cases, injured victims can hold equipment manufacturers or retailers accountable when defective equipment causes accidents.
Improperly Secured CargoFederal regulations set guidelines for loading cargo onto commercial trucks. Cargo that is improperly loaded and secured can fall onto the road and cause injuries and serious secondary accidents.
Seven Common Types of Commercial Truck AccidentsWhen massive commercial trucks collide with other motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians, the result is often catastrophic accidents. Below are seven of the most common types of commercial truck accidents:
- Rear-end collisions: Because of their enormous size and weight, truck drivers need to allow extra space between their trucks and the vehicles in front of them. Many serious rear-end collisions result from tailgating, speeding, or distracted driving.
- Underride accidents: These accidents are similar to rear-end collisions, except it is the passenger vehicle that rear-ends the truck. Smaller vehicles can slide under the trailer and get stuck there until the driver stops the truck.
- Head-on collisions: When trucks collide head-on with other vehicles they often cause fatalities, especially at high speed.
- Jackknife accidents: Jackknife accidents are when the trailer swings towards the cab. The most common reasons for a jackknife are when a driver suddenly brakes or uses the engine brake in bad weather.
- Side-impact accidents: Side-impact accidents, also known as T-bone or broadside collisions usually occur at intersections. They can be caused by a tired or distracted driver who runs a red light or ignores a stop sign.
- Rollover accidents: Rollover accidents are very dangerous for truck drivers and anyone else around them. Tire blowouts are the primary culprit of rollover truck accidents.
- Accidents from cargo spills: Trucks carry everything from fuel to produce to beverages. If dangerous cargo isn’t secured properly, it can spill onto the road and wreak havoc on other motorists.
Truck Accidents are Often Much More Serious Than Other Motor Vehicle AccidentsCommercial truck accidents are different from accidents between passenger vehicles largely because of the enormous disparity in size and weight between the truck and the passenger vehicle. These big rigs typically weigh 80,000 pounds or more, which is roughly 20 times more than the weight of most passenger vehicles. Accordingly, the consequences of commercial freight truck accidents are more significant than passenger vehicle accidents. Here are a few examples:
- More property damage: When a large commercial truck collides with another vehicle, the property damage is usually greater than in a crash with two passenger vehicles.
- More severe injuries: Not surprisingly, the injuries resulting from truck accidents are severe and often fatal. Common injuries are broken bones, head trauma, and spinal cord injuries, all of which can be life-altering.
- Increased medical costs: Given the more severe nature of injuries from truck accidents, medical costs are usually much higher than in accidents involving passenger vehicles. Many victims are temporarily or permanently unable to go back to work. Even if insurance can absorb some of the costs, the financial burden victims face can still be overwhelming.
- Higher insurance policy limits (and larger recoveries): Because insurance policy limits for truck drivers are significantly higher than insurance policies for drivers of passenger vehicles, the policy values often reach into the millions of dollars. These high-dollar policies are necessary to cover the immense damages that can result from a truck accident.