When a large truck like a tractor-trailer is in a collision with another motor vehicle, it usually involves a passenger car or SUV. That tractor-trailer is about 70 feet long, and it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. That’s 20 to 30 times as much as a passenger vehicle, and when that large truck is out of control, drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles become terribly vulnerable in a matter of seconds.
The numbers are frightening
The latest ascertainable numbers point to 3,852 fatalities resulting from large truck crashes in the United States in 2015. Only 16 percent of those who were killed were occupants of large trucks, but 69 percent of the fatalities were drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles. Nearly as many motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians were killed as were large truck occupants. They made up 15 percent of the fatalities. Nearly 100,000 people were injured in such crashes, and of course, many of those injuries were categorized as severe or catastrophic.
Common causes of large truck crashes
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) any number of variables figure into a truck crash, but some factors appear to be involved more than others. Those include:
- Driver error
- Equipment failure
- Improper loading
- Inexperienced drivers or inadequate training
- Driving too fast for conditions
The FMCSA reports that driver error like fatigue, distraction and carelessness are by far the most common causes of large truck accidents. Drivers have limitations on how many hours they can drive in a week, but many of them ignore those restrictions. Distraction can involve use of a cellular, navigation or radio device. Carelessness can contemplate violations of any number of traffic laws like speeding, failing to keep a proper interval or driving too fast for conditions.
When equipment failure causes a large truck crash, it usually involves inattention to properly maintaining brakes or tires. Inspections before any trip are required, and periodic inspections when in transit are also mandated. Maintenance and equipment issues are often ignored until it’s far too late.
Depending on what the load is, a large truck’s trailer has a certain center of gravity. If the trailer’s weight isn’t evenly distributed, a rollover or jackknife can occur. In either case it’s extremely dangerous for anybody on or near the roadway. Improper loading can even be dangerous at the dock at the end of the trip. Warehouse workers can be crushed by the trailer’s contents if they spill out when the trailer doors are opened.
Inexperienced drivers or inadequate training
A shipper shouldn’t just look on the internet or in a phone book to find somebody who can transport its goods. A poor choice of a company and driver can attribute liability to a shipper. An inexperienced driver with inadequate training is a high risk truck driver to the employer. Of course, some shippers want inexperienced drivers with inadequate training. They simply don’t need to pay them as much as they pay experienced drivers with proper training.
Driving too fast for weather conditions
With large trucks and their weight, braking distance must be kept in mind in foggy, wet or icy conditions. With perfect driving conditions, a fully loaded tractor-trailer can use up to 40 percent more road to come to a complete stop than a passenger vehicle. That number increases significantly with wet or icy roads. So do the chances of a jackknife or rollover.
Drivers, their employers, shippers and loaders can all be held liable in a large truck accident. Most insurance companies dispatch a team of investigators to any serious truck accident within hours. When you retain us, you’ll have your own team too. Never give the opposing insurer a statement. Their adjusters are trained to use it against you in the future. Preserve and protect your rights after any truck accident by contacting us right away for a free consultation and case evaluation. No legal fees are due until such tie as we obtain compensation for you.