The most common causes of large truck accidents are driving too fast for road conditions, straying from the lane of travel, failure to keep a proper lookout, following too closely, driver fatigue, mechanical defects, tire blowouts and shifting cargo caused by negligent loading. Large trucks are big heavy vehicles and are different from cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks. A large truck weighs more than 10,000 pounds and can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. They can weigh 40 times more than an automobile.
Many trucking companies allow their trucks to operate when they have defects such as braking, steering, and other mechanical defects. A recent truck accident causation study by the Transportation Research Record found that more than half of the trucks surveyed had at least one mechanical violation and nearly one-third had a condition so serious that the truck should have been taken completely out of service. The most frequent mechanical problem was in the braking system. Even when a big truck’s brakes are working properly, they can take more than twice as long as cars to stop in an emergency.
Although many truck drivers are hardworking, responsible and skilled drivers, they often drive too long and sleep too little. There are Federal regulations that restrict “hours-of-service” but many drivers commonly violate these rules and falsify their log books. Truck drivers often work long hours that prevent normal sleeping, resulting in sleep deprivation and fatigue. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted surveys where one out of five drivers (20%) admitted they fell asleep at the wheel at least once a month.
A decrease in big truck accidents could occur with technological advances such as electronic stability control, side view assist to help eliminate blind spots and collision lane departure warnings. Electronic recorders could replace handwritten log books to monitor compliance with hours of service rules. Increased mechanical inspections together with safety rules enforcement will greatly reduce the number of severe accidents. Until truck companies follow required safety regulations, all other drivers must drive defensively when around big rigs on the road.
The Van Blois & Associates located in Oakland and Stockton, California specializes in large truck accidents and is experienced in representing injured persons and families in truck accident cases.