Many studies show that, by far, the main causes of truck accidents are driver errors. Driver error refers to when motorists fail to practice safe driving, ignore road rules and traffic signs, or drive while distracted, drowsy, or intoxicated. In a truck accident, this may look like:
- Speeding in order to meet or exceed delivery schedules
- Driving too many consecutive hours without adequate breaks, causing fatigue
- Becoming distracted at the wheel by media, navigation, or cellphone use
- Failing to check the truck’s significant blind spots for other vehicles before merging, turning, or changing lanes
- Operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) by alcohol, over-the-counter medications, or prescription drugs, often due to the stresses of this career
Types of Driver Error That Frequently Lead to Truck Collisions
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the causes of truck accidents generally fall into one of six categories:
- Vehicle issues
- Environmental factors
The first four categories contain factors that the driver is typically in control of, which make up 87% of these collisions. The other two categories contain factors generally beyond the driver’s control.
Several causes fall into the four categories related to truck drivers. We explore some of the most common examples below.
Speeding and Inadequate Surveillance
Exceeding the speed limit or going too fast for weather or road conditions are common decision errors among truck drivers. As commercial vehicle operators, they are responsible for meeting strict delivery deadlines. Falling behind can put their jobs in jeopardy, causing many to drive faster than it is safe or legal to do so.
Going too fast can also lead commercial truck drivers to make other decision errors that frequently result in accidents, including:
- Following other vehicles too closely: Providing enough space is crucial, as commercial vehicles require much more time to slow down and come to a complete stop. Failure to do so leads to severe rear-end collisions and rollovers.
- Failure to check blind spots: Smaller vehicles easily fall into a trucker’s blind spots. As such, turning, merging, or changing lanes without properly checking for other vehicles can lead to sideswipes and fatal underride collisions.
Drowsy Driving Due to Long Hours Behind the Wheel
Drowsy driving is a major safety issue for truck drivers—and another common side effect of their tight delivery schedules. Long-haul drivers are especially at risk, as they often drive up to 11 hours at a time with only a couple of short breaks.
To prevent truckers from falling asleep at the wheel, the FMCSA imposes hours of service limits on commercial vehicle operators. These regulations also require drivers to have a certain number of consecutive hours off between long shifts. Exceeding these limits may qualify as negligence in a personal injury or wrongful death case.
The use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and even certain legal drugs can hamper a truck driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely. Some drivers may fail to recognize the potential side effects of prescription or over-the-counter medications. For example, certain drugs can cause consumers to become drowsy or reduce their reaction times, inhibiting their ability to maintain control of a vehicle or other heavy machinery.
Whether the driver intended to become intoxicated before getting behind the wheel or not, they can be liable if an accident occurs. Negligence does not require proof of intent in civil cases.
Distracted driving can also cause a truck accident. These vehicles require skill and focus to operate correctly, and even a few seconds with their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel can cause a truck driver to lose control of the truck or miss hazards in the road. Distracted driving may include:
- Texting while driving
- Eating or drinking at the wheel
- Using devices for navigation or entertainment purposes while driving
Other Factors That Often Lead to Truck Accidents
Though their actions commonly cause these collisions, truck drivers are not always at fault for an accident. Commercial vehicle accident cases often implicate other parties. For example, some accidents occur due to the trucking company’s negligence. This may include:
- Pushing drivers to violate hours of service regulations
- Failure to keep up with basic truck maintenance
- Improper inspections
- Poor hiring practices
Alternatively, companies responsible for loading trucks with cargo can be at fault for doing so incorrectly. In some cases, maintenance workers fail to perform repairs properly. Dangerous weather, damaged roads, and poor lighting are beyond the control of truck drivers and their employers but may leave other entities liable. We’ve outlined several of these factors below.
Inexperience and Professional Negligence
Commercial truck drivers must undergo a certain amount of specialized training and receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL) before they can operate vehicles over a certain size and weight.
When trucking companies hire someone without the proper credentials or fail to provide the necessary training to inexperienced truck drivers, it can lead to collisions. Poor hiring practices can also cause trucking companies to hire someone with a history of driving violations and other issues, potentially increasing the risk of a collision.
Inadequate Servicing and Maintenance
Truck drivers, the owners and operators of fleets of trucks, and truck service technicians must inspect their trucks and any equipment used for repairing or servicing a truck on a regular basis. A lack of maintenance, a failure to service vehicles, and errors made while servicing vehicles can all contribute to truck accidents.
If not properly maintained, everything from the truck’s fluid levels, the condition of its brakes and tires, and its indicator lights and mirrors can have a role in an accident. Equipment used to load and secure cargo should also be functioning correctly.
Drivers should also perform a pre-departure safety check before getting behind the wheel of a truck. Inspections for commercial motor vehicles are mandated by federal law, per the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) § 396.11.
Road and Weather Issues
Poor visibility, rain, snow, and cold or icy conditions can wreak havoc on a truck driver’s ability to maintain control over their vehicle. Rain, sleet, and snow can reduce the truck’s traction with the road, and poor visibility can limit the time a driver has to react to dangers or changes in traffic patterns on the road ahead.
While weather factors are largely out of anyone’s control, the state of the roadways can significantly affect driver safety, especially during severe weather. As such, government entities or construction companies in charge of road maintenance can be liable when the following results in a truck collision:
- Road damage
- Debris on the road
- Improperly marked traffic control devices
- Poorly arranged detours and road adjustments
Recoverable Damages in a Truck Accident Case
If you were injured in a truck accident caused by another party’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages in an insurance claim or civil lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, your injuries, and other factors, the following damages may be recoverable:
- All costs of current and future accident-related medical care
- Property damage
- Lost income and reduced earning capability
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement and paralysis
If your loved one died in a truck accident, an alternate set of damages may be recoverable in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Our firm handles truck accident cases with various causes in Ohio, and we want to hear about your collision.
The Fitch Law Firm LLC Could Fight for Your Truck Accident Damages in Ohio
The Fitch Law Firm LLC represents truck accident victims in Columbus and other cities across Ohio. If you were hurt in this type of accident, we may be able to guide your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit while you focus on recovering from your injuries. We also take wrongful death cases.
For a free consultation on your case with a member of our team, call the Fitch Law Firm LLC today at (614) 545-3930. Our main office is located on Michigan Avenue in Columbus, but we serve clients from several Ohio locations.