The freight and shipping industries are in an economic boom in the United States. While we all rely on the goods and services brought to us by large commercial trucks like 18-wheelers and semi-tractor-trailer trucks, these large, unwieldy vehicles cause congested roadways and present a significant safety hazard to others on the road. When a small private passenger vehicle weighing an average of 4,000 pounds has an accident with a massive, 18,000-pound, fully-loaded semi-truck, the results are often catastrophic to the motorists in the smaller vehicle. Injury victims in commercial truck accidents may experience severe trauma with damages such as property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, diminished earning capacity due to disability, pain and suffering, or wrongful death.
Though not all accidents are preventable, it helps if all drivers understand the most common causes of accidents involving semi trucks and other large, commercial vehicles.
Size, Weight, and High Centers of Gravity in Commercial Trucks
Studies show that the higher the vehicle and the more narrow the wheelbase, the more likely it is to tip or roll. Semi-trucks are tall but their wheelbases must remain fairly narrow to fit in highway traffic lanes. This causes instability, making them more prone to tipping when going around curves or making sharp maneuvers. An attached trailer also adds to the truck’s instability since the trailer can move or shake independently of the cab in unfavorable conditions. Large trucks require special training to handle safely on the roadway due to their immense size and weight.
Common Causes of Semi Truck Accidents
Massive trucks not only share the roadway with smaller vehicles, but their often driven by tired, bored drivers who’ve spent many hours on the road. Common causes of commercial truck accidents include the following driver errors:
Truck drivers use GPS devices while on the road and often rely on their devices for selecting entertainment such as music and podcasts. Even hands-free technology may take their attention from the road, but truck drivers may also use their cell phones for texting and checking notifications. Eating, drinking coffee, and grooming while behind the wheel all contribute to distracted driving accidents involving commercial trucks.
Despite limits placed on the number of hours a commercial truck driver can spend on the road, long hours on the highway can cause a hypnotic state that induces drowsiness. Some drivers don’t keep accurate logs of their hours and negligent trucking companies may not properly monitor or enforce driving hour limits, leading to fatigued drivers.
Unsafe Lane Changes
Semi-trucks have extended blind spots and rely solely on side mirrors since a middle rear-view mirror would only show them the high trailer behind them. Truck drivers have a duty to remain vigilant to the presence of vehicles in other lanes and not make lane changes until they’ve checked and double-checked to ensure the way is clear.
The extended length of trucks pulling trailers requires them to make wide turns. Some drivers swing far left to make a right turn and vice versa, sometimes sideswiping or trapping vehicles in other lanes.
Long Stopping Times
Trucks take extended time to come to a complete stop when a driver applies the brakes. If a driver follows too closely it can result in a rear-end collision when a vehicle in front slows or comes to an abrupt stop.
Negligent Trucking Company and Maintenance Practices
While driver error is the most common cause of truck accidents, trucking companies often bear liability for semi-truck accidents due to negligent hiring practices, negligent training practices, and truck maintenance failures. A company’s freight loading practices may also be negligent if they result in an unsecured or unbalanced load that may increase a truck’s instability. In some cases, truck accidents result from defective truck parts and equipment.
It often takes an experienced truck accident lawyer in McKinney to carefully investigate an accident to determine the cause and the correct liable party.