Even though large trucks are only responsible for three percent of injury-causing vehicle accidents, trucking accidents cause much greater harm than everyday auto accidents due to a truck’s large size and heavy weight. The passengers in motor vehicles hit by large trucks account for the majority of deaths in large truck crashes. The occupants in smaller passenger cars are far more vulnerable in a trucking crash when compared to the driver of a large truck.
Causes of Truck Accidents
According to IIHS 3,373 people died in large truck crashes in 2011. Of these trucking accident wrongful deaths, 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as cars and are higher off the ground. A loaded tractor-trailer takes 20-40 percent longer than a car to stop, and increased risk factors like wet roads or inadequately maintained brakes only increase that stopping distance.
The most common cause of trucking accidents is driver error. In reality, truck drivers themselves are ten times more likely to constitute the cause of a crash than any other factor, including weather, road conditions, and vehicle performance, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA found that the driver’s action or inaction was the direct cause of 88% of trucking crashes. Driver fatigue and sleep deprivation are overwhelmingly to blame. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a time and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period. However, surveys suggest that many drivers violate these regulations and work longer than permitted.
After the truck driver, the second most common cause of trucking accidents is equipment failure, including manufacturing defects (i.e. flawed tires) or design mistakes (lack of back-up warning or object detection systems). To compound the dangers that can be caused by a manufacturing or design defect, equipment failures in trucking accidents are often also the result of improperly maintained equipment.
Examples of trucking accident causes due to equipment failure can include:
- Brake failure due to ineffective adjustments
- Faulty side or rear lighting
- Improper securing or load distribution contributing to truck rollover
- Inadequate trailer attachment
- Tire blowouts due to wear
- Transmission failure
If you are the victim of a trucking accident, determining both the responsible parties and what caused the accident can be much more complicated than in a simple traffic accident. The entity responsible for causing a trucking accident can include the truck driver, the owner of the truck, the company that leased the truck, the manufacturer of the truck and/or its tires, and more. Getting information about what went wrong often requires some industry know-how.
Historically, trucking companies have tried to avoid liability by separating themselves from the driver, the vehicle, and the equipment. Fortunately, federal laws and regulations have clarified roles and responsibilities. Under current federal law, any company owning a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle, no matter the language contained in a lease or whether the driver is an employee or independent contractor.
The cause of your trucking accident and the relationships between the persons and entities connected to the truck, the trailer, and the load will determine whether you have a claim for compensation. Only an experienced truck accident lawyer, like those at Craft Law Firm, can investigate and ascertain the specific facts needed to properly evaluate and work up your case.