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The Hidden Dangers: Addressing Common Causes of Truck Accidents

June is National Safety Month – a time for organizations and individuals to devote attention to safety issues faced in the workplace, on the roads, and anywhere safety awareness must be paramount. Truck accidents are a major concern as we head into the summer months because more drivers will be on the roads alongside truck traffic for travel and recreation. An accident with a semi-truck comes with a much higher degree of risk for injuries and property damage.

Truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries, resulting in a severe financial impact and long-term ramifications for the victim. With these risks, addressing the common causes of truck accidents and what drivers can do to stay safe when traveling alongside truck traffic is important.

Truck Accident Statistics are Sobering

According to both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Administration, there has been a rise in crashes involving trucks. From 2010 to 2021, there was an increase of 52% in fatal crashes involving large trucks.

From 2020 to 2021 alone, the increase was 18%. In the same time period, serious injuries from crashes involving large trucks rose 62%, with an 11% increase from 2020-2021.

22% of truck crashes involved serious injuries, with 1% of the crashes being fatal. Fatal crashes involving trucks typically occur on interstate highways but are also likely to happen in rural areas where median barriers do not protect drivers from head-on collisions and intersecting roads cross highways with fast moving semi-trucks. In most of these crashes, the victim was not the truck’s occupant but a passenger vehicle. In Ohio, there were over 6,000 crashes involving large trucks alone in the first half of 2024.

Accident between a semi-truck and a small silver sedan.

Insufficient Brakes Can be a Major Concern

The more a vehicle weighs, the more it will need to rely on its brakes to slow or stop. When the brakes are insufficient, the truck driver will not have the ability to stop as quickly and effectively, such as at a controlled intersection where the light changes from green to yellow to red.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, brake problems were cited for over 30% of truck accidents, compared with only 5% of passenger vehicle accidents.

In addition to the documented weight of the truck and brake requirements, many semi-trucks are driving while carrying loads that put them over the weight restrictions, which further reduces their braking and stopping ability.

For a semi-truck to operate safely, all sets of brakes, which can be up to 12, need to be in good operating condition and properly adjusted. When they aren’t, a driver may not be able to stop in time which could cause a crash.

A recent accident highlights this concern, as it was found after the fatal accident that five out of the truck’s twelve brakes were more than an inch out of alignment, greatly reducing the ability of the truck to stop at a red light.

Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspections May Not be as Thorough as Needed

Truck drivers are required to perform inspections and safety checks of their trucks both before and after a trip. However, these inspections can take time, particularly when the truck in question has up to twelve sets of brakes, a heavy load, and many tires to check.

Truck companies are required by the Federal Motor Safety Regulations to ensure that their drivers perform daily safety inspections of all the truck’s safety equipment. And these companies may even outwardly claim an adherence to these regulations. However, the companies often times impose time constraints and other workload requirements that impose pressure on their drivers to perform cursory inspections, so the trucks get back on the road sooner than is safe. Drivers simply “check the boxes” rather than taking the time to properly perform all of the mandated inspections. In the previously mentioned accident, the truck driver claimed that he had checked his brakes that morning, but with nearly half the brakes significantly out of alignment, it doesn’t seem likely that the inspection was very thorough. These short-sighted practices may help increase profits in the short-term, but when it results in the loss of life or a person’s independence, the cost can be staggering.

Truck Drivers May Not be Operating at Peak Performance

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers are required to stay within the guidelines for driving hours. However, truck drivers also face pressure from the companies they drive for and are often forced to choose between following the federal guidelines and completing their routes.

However, when truck drivers violate the hours-of-service regulations, driver fatigue reduces reaction time and increases the likelihood of an accident. Distracted driving – where the driver is focused on a mobile device or something else in the cab, or even eating or drinking – can also increase the likelihood of accidents. Greater limits are imposed on semi-truck drivers because the impact is so much greater when an accident is caused.

What Drivers Can Do to Reduce the Chances of a Semi-Truck Accident

No driver wants to be involved in an accident, but when drivers are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, the consequences and damages are usually far more severe than an accident with another passenger vehicle. When an 80,000-pound truck impacts a 4,000-pound passenger vehicle, the resulting damage is profound.

Truck accidents are more than just the accidents themselves. Road obstructions from an initial accident can cause secondary accidents, cargo spills or debris on the highway can be an environmental concern, and the financial impact is significant.

Victims in accidents with trucks are far more likely to have serious physical injuries, long-lasting physical and psychological injuries, and delayed compensation while dealing with a commercial insurance company and the question of liability. While drivers can’t control the truck driver’s actions or the truck’s condition, they can control how they behave on the roads when driving alongside truck traffic.

The primary way drivers can avoid truck accidents is by being aware of the truck traffic around them. Make sure to stay out of the truck driver’s blind spot, allow trucks plenty of room for stopping distance, avoid fast lane changes that reduce the trucks’ stopping distance, and stay aware of conditions that can be risky for semi-trucks, such as heavy wind or other severe weather.

While many semi-trucks have alert, conscientious drivers who are concerned with safety and properly perform thorough inspections, there are others who may be operating while distracted, exhausted, or stressed and those who are pressured to speed through their inspections in the name of getting on the road quickly.

Since you don’t know, treat every truck as though there may be risks, and stay aware of visibility and braking distance.

 How To Share the Road With Semi Truck Drivers

An accident with a semi-truck can be catastrophic for the driver of the passenger car involved. Drivers who are involved in accidents with trucks face significant property damage and serious injuries, resulting in mounting medical bills and extended periods of disability.

While there are many respected attorneys who can help you fight for the compensation you deserve, it is always best to try to avoid an accident in the first place. Always be aware of the trucks on the road with you and give them the space they need to drive as safely as possible.

Accidents involving semi-trucks are complex, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Contact Arthur Law Firm immediately at (419) 782-9881 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.