Causes of Tractor Trailer Accidents

tractor trailer accidents

At The Law Offices of John Day, P.C. our award-winning team of truck accident attorneys have seen almost every imaginable type of truck accident.   And while there have been some extremely unusual causes of truck accident, most truck accidents are caused by one of the following:

A. Truck Driver Fatigue

Drowsiness significantly increases the risk of all accidents especially tractor-trailer accidents. Whether the cause is accumulated sleep deficit, sleep apnea or some other factor, fatigue can cause truckers to commit serious errors. In fact, the statistics are alarming. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates driver fatigue is responsible for 40% of the accidents. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration calculated there are at least 56,000 sleep-related road crashes annually. And, the National Traffic Safety Board has reported that over 50% of long-haul drivers have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.

To combat driver fatigue, some drivers are turning to fatigue warning devices. These devices monitor the driver's eye closure rate. If the device senses an unsafe pattern, an alarm will sound. But, not all drivers and companies use these devices due to cost and other reasons.

B. Road Rage or Aggressive Driving

According to industry experts and law enforcement, road rage is on the rise.  Unfortunately, this can be seen everyday on Tennessee roadways.  Incredibly, a recent study indicated 80% of American motorists have expressed anger while driving, and the actions most likely to induce road rage in other drivers are tailgating, cutting off the other motorist and distracted driving.  Depending upon the level of road rage, the driver's conduct may be considered reckless, which may entitle the victim to both compensatory damages and punitive damages.  It can also lead to criminal charges. 

C. Speeding

Most motorists speed because they are in a hurry to get to their destination. Truckers are no exception. In fact, they are arguably under more pressure to get to their destination quickly because their livelihood depends upon it. If they are late, their company may get penalized with a monetary fine or the load may be refused. They may have encountered bad weather or traffic and so they are speeding to make up time. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that speeding trucks are extremely dangerous. Because of their increased weight and size, trucks have increased stopping times even when they are not speeding. Speeding makes it much more difficult for them to stop if traffic suddenly slows or stops.  In fact, a fully loaded truck will require 20to 40% more stopping distance.  If road conditions are slick due to rain or winter weather, a fully loaded truck will need even more distance to come to a safe stop.

Accidents caused by speeding truckers can easily be prevented. Since 1992, trucks have been manufactured with governors, which allow a company to set the top speed of the truck. But many trucking companies and individual truckers do not use them. Again, the quest for profits overrides safety. 

Most trucks have a "black box" onboard which stores valuable information including the speed at the time of the crash. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a speeding truck, contact us today so we can protect this valuable evidence before it is lost.

D. Loads that Exceed Truck's Weight Limit or is Balanced Incorrectly

Unless an exemption or waiver has been granted, trucking regulations mandate a truck can not exceed 80,000 lb. and compliance is checked at interstate weigh stations. Despite this, some truckers and trucking companies run overloaded, which presents a significant risk to other motorists. Some of the risks associated with overloaded or improperly loaded trucks are:

  • Tire blowouts
  • Difficulty stopping or increased stopping times
  • Difficulty steering or controlling the vehicle especially in emergency situations
  • Increased speed going down hills
  • Brake failures
  • Difficulty steering if the load shifts
  • Overturning due to load shifts

Our team of truck accident attorneys are here to ensure careless truckers and trucking companies are held accountable when they engage in dangerous activities like overloading trucks.

E. Alcohol and Drug Violations

Trucking companies must randomly test their drivers for drugs and alcohol. In addition, a truck driver must be tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol if the driver was charged with a moving violation or if the driver was involved in an accident that resulted in a fatality or serious injury. Despite these precautions, drivers who are under the influence remain a significant threat to other motorists. Reflexes and responses which are delayed even slightly can produce catastrophic results when an 80,000 lb. tractor-trailer is involved. One of the most important things you can do after an accident with an impaired trucker is to call our team of experienced trucking attorneys so that we can gather critical evidence, protect your rights and ensure you receive all of the compensation you deserve.

F. Violation of Hours of Service Requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established strict rules for a commercial driver's hours of service (HOS). The HOS regulations dictate the number of rest and driving hours for truckers. By law, truckers must carefully log these times into their log books. Unfortunately, too many truckers falsify their logs and drive longer than is legally permissible. As a consequence, they become fatigued and make serious, and sometimes fatal, mistakes. Our experienced team of trucking lawyers knows how to cross-check a driver's log with gas receipts, trip tickets, bills of ladings and other data to determine if the driver has falsified his logs.

G. Improper Training/Supervision

Because driving a big truck is dangerous, truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL). Usually, this requires the driver to graduate from a driving school and complete an apprentice-type period. Even after obtaining a CDL, truckers have ongoing training requirements. This training is critical because it teaches drivers how to respond to bad weather, mechanical failures, poor road conditions and emergency situations. If a company allows a trucker to drive one of its rigs without proper training, the company can be held independently responsible in the event of a wreck. Similarly, trucking companies have a duty to make sure their drivers are following the law. If a trucking company knows its drivers are falsifying logs, speeding, using drugs, etc., the company must take action. If it fails to do so, the company may be independently liable for any accidents by that trucker. And, if the conduct is egregious enough, the victim may be entitled to both compensatory damages and punitive damages.

H. Faulty Equipment

Tractor-trailers and other trucks are expensive to maintain, so a lot of truckers and companies cut corners in hopes of saving on costs. But tragically, it costs lives when trucks with faulty equipment are on the roadway. Our team of semi-truck lawyers is well-versed in reviewing a truck's preventative maintenance schedule and repair history and looking for gaps, errors and oversights. Sometimes, the maintenance and repair work is performed by outside companies and it is crucial to obtain the paperwork from all responsible parties so a complete investigation and assessment can be performed. In some instances, the maintenance and service history is fine and the problem lies with a defect in the manufacturing or design process. If faulty equipment played a role in your trucking accident, call us today and our team will conduct a thorough examination to determine who is at fault and then hold them responsible.

I. Driver Error

Driver errors can take many forms: failing to check blind spots, making too wide of turns, driving too fast for conditions, depowering the front brakes and using only the trailer brakes in an effort to minimize wear and tear on the brake system and tires, etc. In a number of cases, the only known witnesses to the accident are the actual people involved in the wreck. When this happens, trucking companies and insurance companies will roll out a team of experts to try and help them prove it was not their driver's error that caused the accident. You need the same resources and capabilities to protect your rights. We work with accident reconstructionists and other experts to help level the playing field for you.

J. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is dangerous driving, but unfortunately it happens all too often. Incredibly, truckers driving 80,000 lb. tractor-trailers at interstate speeds are often texting while driving, eating while driving, adjusting navigation devices, talking on their cellphones, etc. This is a recipe for disaster. According to a Carnegie Mellon study, talking on a cellphone reduces the amount of brain activity used for driving by 37%.  Cellphone companies are only required to keep activity records for a limited period of time, and this data is crucial to proving a truck driver was texting or talking on the phone at the time of the accident. So don't wait, contact our team of semi-truck lawyers today.

If you have questions about your truck accident, we have answers.  Give us a call and we will review your case with you in a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can understand your legal rights and options.  If you decide to hire us, we handle all trucking accident cases on a contingency basis so we only get paid if we recover money for you and your family. 

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