Commercial Trucks, Accidents & The Law: The Facts – Part 1

Regardless of what kind of vehicles are involved, accidents can cause a lot of irreversible damage that can leave the victims questioning what direction to take. Commercial vehicle accidents often have to be handled differently than non-commercial accidents.

In the latest report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013, 3,964 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks; an estimated 95,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks. According to the same report, 71% of people killed in large-truck crashes were occupants of the other vehicles. In addition, large-truck drivers in 2013 had the highest percentage (15%) of previously recorded crashes compared to drivers of other vehicle types (motorcycles, 12.9%; passenger cars, 12.8%; and light trucks, 12.4%).

These figures reflect that when it comes to large-truck accidents, drivers and passengers of other vehicles are nearly three times more likely to be injured than truck drivers and truck occupants. Also, those in other vehicles are four times more likely to be killed in a truck crash, as compared to occupants of large trucks.

So, what are the common causes of large-truck accidents? According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the common causes are as follows:

Truck Accidents Caused By Passenger Vehicle Drivers

Drivers of passenger vehicles (primarily cars) often are to blame for traffic accidents with big rigs or other large commercial trucks. The most common type of unsafe act committed by car drivers who get in collisions with large trucks has to do with ignorance of a truck’s performance capabilities, such as limits associated with acceleration braking and visibility.

Common unsafe acts committed by car drivers in the vicinity of large trucks, which often result in truck accidents, include:

  • Driving in the “No-Zones” — the areas behind and beside a commercial truck where the truck driver has limited or zero visibility.
  • Changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck.
  • Maneuvering to the right of a truck that is making a right turn.
  • Misjudging an approaching truck’s speed at an intersection, and making a left turn in front of the truck.
  • Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly.
  • Failure to slow down or speed up when a truck begins to change lanes or merge.
  • Unsafe passing, particularly passing with insufficient headway.
  • Passing a truck, then being blown out of position by air turbulence or cross-wind.
  • Pulling into traffic from the roadside in front of a truck without accelerating sufficiently.
  • Driving between large trucks.
  • Abandoning a vehicle in a travel lane, or failing to get a disabled vehicle completely off the highway and onto the shoulder.

 Truck Accidents Caused by Commercial Truck Drivers

In addition to the dangers involving the size and weight of the trucks used in commercial transportation and shipping, a number of characteristics inherent in the business can contribute to traffic accidents. These include:

  • Inadequate training as to driving technique, safety concerns, and defensive driving.
  • Systems of compensation that encourage faster vehicle speeds and more hours of consecutive vehicle operation than would normally be advisable.
  • Unrealistic schedules and expectations of trucking companies that encourage drivers to hurry, despite safety risks involved.

For more information, visit The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMSCA) Safety section with tips and resources for commercial truck drivers and other motorists.

Next week, in part 2, we will address what to do if you are ever involved in a large-truck accident.

If you, or someone you know, have been injured in an accident that was the fault of a big rig or large truck, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the law offices of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti LLP at 1-800-LAW-1010 (1-800-529-1010) or fill out a contact us form for a free case evaluation.