What Is The Number One Cause Of Truck Accidents?

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    Trucks keep the lifeblood of our economy flowing. The role these massive vehicles play in the supply chain is fundamental. Trucks are instrumental in “making things move” within the economy by transporting essential goods from manufacturers to distributors and then to customers. However, their increasing presence on our roads also raises the risk of tragic accidents that can result in life-altering injuries and fatalities.

    While various factors contribute to truck accidents, driver error remains the single most significant cause. Distracted driving, speeding, and other types of driver performance and decision errors all play a major role in these devastating crashes. Interestingly, all these factors show us that truck accidents and their violent and catastrophic consequences can be prevented. This is why addressing them as soon as possible is crucial, as these tragic events remain a pressing concern, especially in major areas like Los Angeles and Pasadena’s 210 Freeway.

    What Is The Leading Cause Of Truck Accidents?

    Driver error is the number one cause of truck accidents in California and the rest of the United States. These mistakes usually happen when motorists fail to practice safe driving or ignore traffic signs and road rules.

    Such negligent driving can take many forms, including the following:

    • Misjudging distances
    • Using phones and other distractions while driving
    • Driving aggressively
    • Tailgating or following another vehicle too closely
    • Overcorrecting
    • Driving too fast
    • Failing to take mandated breaks
    • Taking dangerous lane changes
    • Driving right after taking medication that adversely influences the body
    • Driving while drunk or high on drugs
    • Failing to check the vehicle adequately before driving

    Unfortunately, negligent drivers who commit these errors put themselves and other road users at risk of injury or death.

    Truck Drivers Are On The Roads Eight Times Longer Than Other Drivers

    Most long-haul truck drivers log 80,000 to 110,000 miles annually, while the average American driver only covers around 12,000 to 14,000 miles.

    This significant difference in road time translates to a higher risk of getting involved in accidents. Long hours behind the wheel can lead to impaired judgment. Repetitive routes and long stretches of highway can cause a decline in alertness and an increased risk of mistakes.

    Driver Errors Leading To Truck Accidents

    Strict schedules and tight delivery windows imposed by trucking companies or logistics service providers (LSPs) can also incentivize dangerous driving behaviors, such as:

    Driving Under The Influence (DUI)

    Alcohol, drugs, and certain medications can adversely affect reaction time, coordination, judgment, and decision-making. Some illegal substances may even alter perception and distort reality, causing a driver to react recklessly and unpredictably. In an accident, these impaired drivers can’t think straight and may leave the scene, resulting in a hit-and-run.

    While the State of California has already released a comprehensive safety plan for reducing impaired driving, the number of DUI accidents is still rising. Driving while intoxicated is both a criminal offense and a breach of a driver’s duty of care. If the driver causes an accident, they could face civil court lawsuits, criminal charges, and fines.

    California has a BAC limit of 0.04% for drivers operating a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This is higher than the normal legal limit of 0.08% for non-commercial drivers. This stricter limit reflects the increased risk a massive vehicle poses in the hands of an impaired driver.

    Distracted Driving

    Distracted Driving

    A distraction is any activity that diverts a truck driver’s attention from safely operating the vehicle. Some examples include eating, drinking, using mobile phones, and conversing with other occupants. Truckers distracted while driving may cause an accident by failing to react to traffic events or notice a red light.

    Let’s take the use of phones while driving as an example. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending a single text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. In that brief window, their vehicle would have traveled the entire length of a football field at 55 mph. Any road hazard the driver might fail to see could result in an accident.


    Another common cause of truck crashes is speeding. According to California Vehicle Code 22350, drivers must drive safely and responsibly, regardless of the posted speed limits.

    Adverse weather and road conditions, in particular, demand extra caution from truck drivers. They must drive slower than the speed limit since it can be hard to slow down and stop when there’s rain, fog, snow, and ice.

    A speeding dump truck, for instance, causes extensive damage in a crash, especially to smaller, lighter cars. High speeds, combined with the truck’s large size and weight, build up enough force to cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities during collisions.

    Reckless & Aggressive Driving

    Both commercial and non-commercial drivers frequently exhibit reckless and aggressive driving behaviors. They might violate traffic laws, run red lights, weave through traffic, fail to yield the right-of-way, and change lanes without using turn signals. These actions create dangerous situations that put other road users at risk.

    Tailgating, for example, is especially dangerous when a large vehicle, such as an Amazon truck, is involved. These trucks have a longer stopping distance than passenger vehicles — 196 feet compared to the average of 133 feet (when traveling at 55 mph in ideal conditions). When a truck driver follows too closely, they might not be able to brake in time, causing them to rear-end the vehicle in front.

    Drivers must maintain a safe following distance at all times. A general rule of thumb is maintaining at least one second of distance for every 10 feet of vehicle length below 40 mph. For example, a 70-foot tractor-trailer should maintain a seven-second distance behind the leading car.

    Fatigued Driving

    Truck drivers typically take long-haul routes. However, these extended periods behind the wheel make them more susceptible to fatigue. Similar to DUI, fatigue impairs reaction time and decision-making. Recognizing this critical risk, federal and local governments have established regulations limiting the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits truck drivers to a total of 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour period. The Hours of Service (HOS) regulations also impose a 30-minute off-duty break for drivers after 8 hours. Drivers must be off duty for ten consecutive hours to reset their work day.

    Additionally, drivers cannot drive more than 60/70 hours within 7/8 consecutive days. They must take 34 or more consecutive hours off duty to restart their work week. Many accidents can be easily prevented if only drivers of delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles adhere to these regulations and take proper rest.

    Why Do Truck Drivers Violate Hours Of Service Regulations?

    Despite the hours of service regulations, some truckers still drive while exhausted. They could lack sleep for personal reasons or deliberately violate truck and traffic regulations to reach their destinations more quickly.

    Tight deadlines set by trucking companies can create a strong incentive for drivers to break HOS rules. Truckers may drive for longer stretches to avoid penalties, pay cuts, or even losing their jobs. Moreover, these companies sometimes assign routes and schedules that are impossible to complete within legal driving hours. They might also pressure drivers who haven’t finished the mandatory off-duty rest periods to continue driving.

    Exhaustion takes a heavy toll on truckers. A fatigued driver struggles to concentrate, makes poor decisions, and reacts slower. They also face the terrifying possibility of succumbing to exhaustion and falling asleep at the wheel.

    Lack Of Proper Training As A Cause Of Driver Error

    Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their drivers are properly trained before they get behind the wheel. This responsibility goes beyond simply meeting the minimum legal requirements for training. Truck companies should also invest in continuous education and skill development. Training classes should cover topics such as:

    • Vehicle operation
    • Safety protocols
    • Emergency response techniques
    • Compliance with regulations
    How Do Shortages Impact The Training And Safety Of New Truck Drivers?

    The trucking industry is currently facing a significant shortage of truck drivers. In 2023, the American Trucking Association reported a deficit of 78,000 truckers. Additionally, the industry will need to hire 1.2 million truck drivers over the next decade to meet the increasing freight demands. These factors place immense pressure on the existing workforce.

    Companies might be forced to dispatch new drivers before they’re fully prepared to maneuver 80,000-pound vehicles safely. They might expedite the training process, leaving drivers unable to handle emergencies, account for wider blind spots, and judge distances accurately.

    As a result, amateur drivers might make mistakes when changing lanes and maneuvering in tight spaces. They might also experience difficulties adjusting their speed appropriately to highway conditions, turns, and changes in the weather.

    Truck Drivers Are Required To Perform Inspections

    The FMCSA mandates truck drivers to conduct regular inspections. Drivers must complete two types of inspections during their trips:

    • Pre-Trip InspectionBefore they go on the road, drivers must ensure that all parts of the truck are functioning correctly, including:
      • Brakes
      • Engine
      • Tires
      • Steering mechanism
      • Lights and reflectors
      • Horn
      • Windshield
      • Mirrors
      • Coupling devices
      • Emergency kit

    This inspection must also include reviewing the previous post-trip report. Before starting the trip, drivers must confirm that all previously identified issues have been addressed.

    • Post-Trip Inspection — After the trip, drivers should do another inspection to identify any issues that might have occurred during the journey.

    Drivers must complete a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report to document any issues they discover during their inspections.

    How Does Negligent Truck Inspection Contribute To Accidents?

    When truck inspections are skipped or performed poorly, critical safety problems can go unnoticed. As a result, the driver might encounter mechanical defects during the trip, such as tire blowouts, brake failure, and steering problems. All of these can cause a devastating accident.

    Several factors contribute to negligent inspections. Tight schedules and demanding deadlines can pressure drivers to skip inspections or rush through them, overlooking crucial checks. Furthermore, drivers may not have received adequate training on conducting proper inspections, leaving them unequipped to identify potential problems.

    What Are The Other Causes Of Truck Accidents?

    Truck drivers are not always the only ones at fault. There could be other reasons contributing to an accident, including the following:

    Overloaded Trucks

    If you have experience driving along freeways and highways, you might have seen signs for truck weigh stations. These areas are where trucks and their cargo are inspected to ensure they follow Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations about overloading. According to California Vehicle Code Section 2813, all commercial vehicles are required to stop at these stations when:

    • The California Highway Patrol is conducting inspections.
    • There are signs requiring drivers to stop.

    Commercial trucks are subject to cargo weight limits depending on their base weight and the type of freight being transported. These limits help ensure road safety by preventing these vehicles from carrying dangerously excessive loads.

    Too much weight might put undue stress on the vehicle’s components, such as the brakes and tires, leading to premature wear and tear. Moreover, an overloaded truck is harder to maneuver and control, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Despite these risks, trucking companies continue to use this practice to cut costs.

    Road Hazards

    Numerous commercial vehicle accidents are caused by dangerous road conditions beyond the driver’s control, from potholes and icy roads to construction zones.

    Unfamiliar roads can also present some risks for truck drivers. Urban interchanges, with their intricate network of lanes and exits, can be confusing and may lead to mistakes like driving the wrong way. Meanwhile, rural areas often have narrow roads and steep inclines that are difficult to navigate.

    Truck drivers are encouraged to check the current roadway conditions before going on their trip. In California, they can call the Caltrans road condition telephone hotline at (800) 427-ROAD (7623) or visit the Highway Conditions Information web page.

    Bad Weather

    Although truck drivers usually encounter rain or fog during their trips, they should remain mindful and not underestimate these weather conditions. For example, when the air temperature drops, the rain might turn into ice, which makes the road surface slippery. Truck drivers are encouraged to exit the road at this point to avoid accidents and ensure that they do not endanger their own and other road users’ lives.

    Unrealistic Time Constraints

    Some trucking companies prioritize their profits above all else, pushing their drivers to transport cargo as quickly as possible. Truckers often have to drive at excessive speeds to meet tight delivery deadlines. This pressure to deliver goods quickly can lead to unsafe driving practices and may compromise the safety of both the drivers and other road users.

    How Dangerous Are Truck Accidents?

    According to the National Safety Council, more than 5,800 trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2022. These crashes resulted in catastrophic injuries, property damages, and even wrongful deaths for other motorists.

    Since trucks usually weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars, people in smaller vehicles are more vulnerable to a collision. The heavier the truck is, the deadlier the force it can generate. Even in a seemingly minor fender bender, the damage a truck can create can be extensive.

    In crashes involving motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians, trucks tend to cause severe injuries as these parties have less protection than passenger car occupants. Most truck accident victims commonly sustain any or a combination of the following injuries:

    Many of these injuries require extensive medical treatment and costly hospital bills. Victims may also need therapy if they develop psychological problems and other mental health issues due to the accident.

    Common Types Of Truck Accidents

    Common Types Of Truck Accidents

    Driving along major highways should not be scary. However, accidents are something you cannot ignore. Any or more of the causes listed above can lead to a variety of truck accidents, including:

    Rear-End Accidents

    Most people think that rear-end accidents are minor. However, this is not usually the case when trucks are involved. When an 18-wheeler hits a passenger car in the back, the resulting damage could be devastating, regardless of the truck’s speed. The occupants of the smaller vehicle might sustain whiplash and spinal cord injuries.

    Rollover Accidents

    Heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses have a higher center of gravity than regular cars. This means they’re more likely to fall over when there are sharp turns or strong winds. Overloading these vehicles makes them even more unstable, raising the risk of tipping over. When a truck starts to lose balance, drivers may also instinctively overcorrect, worsening the situation and possibly leading to a rollover accident.

    Jackknife Accidents

    A jackknife accident occurs when the trailer swings outward and makes a sharp angle with the cab, resembling a jackknife. Most of the time, these semi-truck crashes happen when drivers stop too quickly or the roads are wet and slippery. These conditions make it challenging for the driver to maintain control of the big rig and prevent the trailer from swinging dangerously.

    T-Bone Accidents

    Also known as broadside crashes or side-impact collisions, T-bone accidents occur when a truck crashes head-on with the side of another vehicle. These often occur at intersections where vehicles continuously travel perpendicular to one another and cross paths. Side-impact collisions are more dangerous for passengers seated on the affected side. They have minimal protection against the impact of an 80,000-lb vehicle.

    Sideswipe Accidents

    Sideswipe accidents happen when a truck crashes into a passenger vehicle side by side. Typically, these collisions involve two motor vehicles traveling in the same direction. In these accidents, it’s common for trucks to push cars off the road or into other lanes, leading to a multi-car pileup.

    Wide-Turn Accidents

    Since tractor-trailers are long, truck drivers cannot make the same tight turns as other motorists. Truck drivers need extra space before turning, which could increase the risk of wide-turn collisions even in other lanes.

    Underride Accidents

    Underride collisions rank among the most fatal truck accidents. They occur when a smaller vehicle runs into the back of the truck and goes beneath the trailer. Usually, victims don’t survive these incidents, but when they do, they will likely suffer severe and long-term injuries.

    Is It Always The Truck Driver’s Fault For An Accident?

    Truck Inspections

    Truck drivers may be held accountable if they disregard traffic regulations or make driving mistakes that result in collisions. However, several other parties could also be blamed for a truck accident. Some examples are:

    • Trucking Companies—If the driver’s employer was negligent and caused the accident, they could be held partially responsible. Some examples of negligence on their part include:
      • Employing drivers without a CDL and letting them drive without proper training,
      • Not performing background checks,
      • Failing to provide appropriate training, including continuing education and testing, and
      • Failing to adhere to both state and federal regulations, including those established by the FMCSA.
    • Vehicle Maintenance Providers—The individuals or companies responsible for maintaining the truck can be held liable for vehicle accidents caused by brake malfunctions, mechanical failures, and other issues concerning faulty repairs. Contractors have certain responsibilities, such as:
      • Providing qualified and certified repair personnel to perform maintenance on the vehicles,
      • Thoroughly checking to see if any part needs repairing or replacing and
      • Communicating promptly with the company and/or driver about any potential safety issues.
    • Truck Manufacturers—If an auto defect caused the accident, the truck or the part’s maker, distributor, or retailer could be held liable under product liability laws.
    • Other Motorists on the Road—Some truck accidents can be caused by smaller cars, which means the other drivers could also share responsibility. For example, a driver recklessly changing lanes may hit a speeding truck before the truck crashes into your car. At least two parties would be held responsible in this scenario.

    It’s also possible that there are more liable parties than victims may realize, which makes truck accidents more complicated than other types of traffic collisions. Only an experienced injury lawyer specializing in truck accidents can help determine who the liable parties are and establish their negligence.

    How Has Technology Affected Truck Driving?

    Innovations in the trucking industry have contributed to safer roads. Many new safety features, such as blind-spot warning systems, lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control, are designed to prevent truck accidents. These safe-driving technological advancements help reduce the risk of collisions by making drivers more aware of their surroundings.

    However, technology also has its downsides. Smartphones, for example, create more opportunities for distracted driving, including:

    • Using navigation apps
    • Talking to employers or family members
    • Watching shows to avoid boredom
    • Scrolling through music playlists
    • Checking social media

    Driving for long hours can be monotonous, but that’s no excuse for getting distracted while driving. Even a few seconds of inattention could lead to a catastrophic accident.

    How To Avoid Truck Accidents

    As a motorist traveling with massive trucks on California roads, avoiding accidents involving them as best as possible requires constant presence of mind and always practicing safe driving. Remember these tips when sharing the road with trucks to avoid getting involved in a serious or fatal crash.

    • Provide trucks with enough space to maneuverTrucks limit your visibility due to their size, making it harder to see stopped or slowed traffic, road conditions, and traffic signs. By giving yourself a lot of space between your vehicle and the truck in front of you, you have more time to make a sudden stop or swerve. You can also use the 3-second rule for proper braking and distancing.
    • Watch for blind spotsHere’s a little tip to help determine if you are in a truck’s blind spot: check its side mirrors. If you cannot see the driver’s face in the mirror, then they can’t see you either. They won’t be able to see you when they’re turning or changing lanes.
    • Use your signalsWhen you want to change lanes or make a turn, use your turn signals well ahead of time. Remember, trucks need more time to slow down or stop. By signaling early, you can alert them and give them time to adjust their speed or maneuver accordingly.
    • Be extra careful in bad weatherSlippery roads and impaired visibility during rainy weather can increase the possibility of accidents. Such collisions can become fatal, especially when trucks are involved.
    • Stay calm and focusedNo matter how nerve-wracking the road can be, staying calm allows you to focus on driving and avoid accidents. While honking your horn when a truck driver cuts you off may be tempting, maintain your composure and stay alert.

    Steps To Take After A Truck Accident

    If you’re hit by a commercial truck, the first thing you need to do is remain calm. Assess your condition and those involved in the crash. Then, move to the side of the road close to the scene and follow these steps.

    1. Call 911 as soon as possible. The dispatcher will connect your call to the local emergency responders if you are on a highway.

      Report the accident to law enforcement authorities. Motorists must also report accidents within 24 hours to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You should get an accident report no matter how minor the collision is. Cooperate with the authorities and don’t admit fault.

    2. Let the paramedics assess your condition. They can provide first-aid treatment and take you to the ER if necessary.
    3. Gather as much evidence as possible, including photos of the incident, the contact information of the witnesses, and the truck’s license number.
    4. Visit your doctor for a full medical evaluation. Some injuries might not show immediate symptoms, so it’s important to consult with a physician to determine possible health issues.
    5. Do not admit fault. This is one of the most common mistakes people make after a vehicular accident. Don’t even say sorry. You don’t have to lie, but don’t give your opinion.
    6. Don’t post anything on social media. You may let your family or friends know what happened privately, but posting your stories online can cause legal issues later. Everything you share with the public can be used against you when pursuing a claim.
    7. Consult with truck accident lawyers. You will need help filing a claim and calculating the full extent of your damages. Moreover, your personal injury attorney can negotiate with the other party on your behalf.
    Frequently Asked Questions
    Do Truck Drivers Lose Their CDL If They Get A DUI Offense?

    Driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or certain prescription medications is a major offense. For commercial drivers, the first offense leads to revoking their CDL for one year. If they were carrying hazardous materials, suspension extends to three years. A second offense results in a lifetime revocation.

    Some states might impose additional penalties, such as fines, jail time, and the suspension of the non-CDL license. In California, the driver may also be required to take alcohol education classes.

    Do I Need A Lawyer After A Truck Accident?

    Yes! You need injury lawyers who are well-versed in all commercial trucking laws and regulations. It can be challenging to regain your life after suffering injuries in a truck accident. Good personal injury attorneys give you a better chance of recovering compensation and holding the at-fault parties accountable for your injuries.

    Your injury attorney will also protect you from greedy insurance companies. The trucking companies and insurers will do everything in their power to reduce the amount of money you may receive. To maximize your commercial truck accident settlement, you need a team of qualified personal injury lawyers.

    What Percentage Do Truck Accident Lawyers Charge In California?

    Personal injury lawyers can take anywhere between 25% and 40% of the final settlement or award amount. It will vary based on the complexity of your case, but the contingency fee agreement will be discussed during your onboarding process.

    How Long Do I Have To File A Claim After A Truck Accident In California?

    According to California’s statute of limitations, you have two years from the date of the truck accident to file a personal injury claim. If you file beyond the deadline, the court might dismiss your case, even if it has valid grounds. When a government agency is involved, the timeframe is only six months. Still, exceptions and extensions may apply in certain cases, such as those involving:

    • Victims who are minors
    • Defendants who are out of state or in jail

    It’s vital to consult with the best injury attorneys specializing in truck accident cases to guide you through the process of filing truck accident claims. They can help you comply with these deadlines.

    What If I Am Partly At Fault For A Truck Accident?

    If you are partially at fault for a truck accident, you can still claim damages from the other liable parties. California follows a pure comparative negligence system, which means that even if you are 99% at fault for the collision, you can still recover compensation. However, the percentage of your fault would lower your claim. For example, if the jury finds you 30% at fault in the accident where you sustained $20,000 in damages, you would only receive $14,000 after deducting $6,000 (30% of $20,000).

    What Are The Damages You Can Recover In A Truck Accident Claim?

    Getting injured in a truck accident caused by a negligent party entitles victims like you to fair compensation for tangible and intangible financial losses. Hiring good truck accident lawyers will help you recover damages through an insurance claim or civil lawsuit. The amount you can receive will depend on the circumstances of the accident, the type and severity of your injuries, and other factors. Generally, you can recover the following damages:

    • All present and future medical care related to the accident, including medication, surgery, and rehabilitation
    • Property damage for repair and/or replacement
    • Lost wages and reduced future earning capability
    • Pain and suffering
    • Scarring, disfigurement, and paralysis

    In case a collision with a truck resulted in the untimely death of a loved one, a skilled trucking accident attorney can help you recover damages for funeral and burial expenses and loss of companionship through a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.

    Contact The Truck Accident Lawyers California Trusts

    If you’re thinking, “I need a personal injury lawyer,” look no further. Arash Law, spearheaded by Arash Khorsandi, Esq., can investigate, determine liability, build a compelling case, protect your rights, and help you compensate for all your damages. Learn why Arash Law is the best truck accident law firm in California.

    We have years of experience helping accident victims and a successful track record of obtaining the compensation they are owed. Our team of personal injury lawyers has secured over $500 Million in settlements and awards for them. We remain committed, devoted, and persistent in our efforts to help victims of car accidents, truck collisions, slip-and-falls, and other personal injury cases.

    Our truck accident attorneys are committed to being your ally until you win your case. Remember, your success is our success. Reach out to our personal injury attorneys at (888) 488-1391 or complete our online form. We offer free consultations, during which you can discuss your accident without risk or obligation. Our team is here for you and will answer all your questions and concerns. We won’t get paid unless you get paid.

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    DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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