Top Ten Causes of Commercial Trucking Accidents
June 1st, 2017
In 2016, there were more than 34,000 accidents involving commercial motor vehicles on Texas roadways. Those crashes resulted in 584 fatalities and 1,426 incapacitating injuries. Due in large part to the difference in size and weight of the vehicles, most of the fatalities and serious injuries were to drivers or occupants of passenger vehicles.
Ten years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the first national study regarding the causes of commercial motor vehicle accidents. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study is still regarded as the most comprehensive information available on the risks associated with commercial trucking and other commercial motor vehicles.
Top 10 Causes for Accidents Attributed to Commercial Truck Drivers
When the commercial vehicle was determined to be the cause of the accident, the 10 most common causes were:
- The vehicle being overweight
- The driver making an illegal maneuver
- Inadequate surveillance
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Following too close
- Misjudging distance to or speed of another vehicle
- A stop being required before the crash
- External distractions
- Brake problems
Notably, just two of these causal factors (the vehicle being overweight and brake problems) concern the vehicle itself and one (a stop being required) concerns the environment. Seven of the top 10 causes involve driver errors and omissions.
Commercial Truck Accidents Attributable to Cars and Light Trucks
In crashes involving one truck and one car or other passenger vehicle, the critical reason for the accident was attributed to the passenger vehicle more than half the time. All of the top 10 causes associated with these accidents involved the driver of the passenger vehicle, as opposed to vehicle problems or environmental challenges.
The causes fell into three broad categories:
- Diminished driver capacity, such as fatigue, alcohol consumption or illegal drug use
- Inattention, such as looking at a mobile device or changing CDs
- Poor decision making, such as driving too fast for conditions
Liability in Commercial Trucking Accident Cases
When the truck driver or faulty equipment on the truck is responsible for a crash and passengers in the other vehicle, pedestrians or others are injured, the injured parties may be entitled to compensation. However, determining and proving liability in an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle can be tricky. Some of the key complications that arise include:
- Complex state and federal laws: though automobile accidents are typically governed by state law, federal safety regulations are often a factor in commercial motor vehicle accidents
- The driver/company relationship: commercial truck drivers may operate as independent contractors or employees, and companies contracting with independent truckers may exert varying degrees of control, meaning investigation is typically required to determine whether the driver is personally responsible, the company is responsible, or both.
- Evidence may be difficult to obtain: a commercial truck driver can’t work without his vehicle, offering an incentive to make repairs as quickly as possible and get back on the road. If the accident was the result of faulty equipment or the damage to the vehicle offers evidence about the accident, that evidence may be lost if the injured party doesn’t act quickly.
- Evidence may be unreliable: federal law requires maintenance of log books to ensure that commercial drivers observe hours in service restrictions, but falsification of logs is a common problem in the industry.
Enlisting the help of an attorney experienced in commercial truck accident cases as soon as possible after the accident can be your best protection against missed deadlines, overlooked parties and lost evidence. Call us for a free consultation: 800-298-0111.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.