Big trucks: most people are used to sharing the road with them. Trucks transport countless pounds of goods across the United States every day, providing a vital service to all Americans. They can also, however, pose an immense hazard on the road.
Truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the driver is at fault. Other hazards and challenges, however, may be outside the driver’s control. Regardless of the cause of the accident, wrecks with big trucks often cause substantial injury to the occupants of other involved vehicles.
1. Drivers breaking the rules of the road.
Truck drivers must undergo stringent training before they get behind the wheel of a big truck and head out on a route for the first time. There are often tracking devices in trucks that keep a log of their speed, how fast they have to slow or stop, and even how hard they turn. These devices provide a wealth of data for the driver’s company.
Nevertheless, some drivers choose to ignore the rules of the road. They may choose to speed, especially if they have tight deadlines to meet or they are nearing the end of the maximum number of hours they can spend on the road each day and want to make it to a specific destination before they run out of time. Truck drivers may also try to avoid coming to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs, since a full stop may force heavier braking.
When truck drivers break the rules of the road, other drivers may have a hard time getting out of the way. Serious accidents, and severe injuries, can result from poor truck driver decisions.
2. Drivers who choose to drive while inebriated.
The legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) for most drivers across the nation is 0.08. For truck drivers, however, that number is just 0.04. Truck drivers cannot, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, drink any type of alcohol within four hours of getting on the road. Truck drivers operate very large vehicles and require all of their facilities when they get behind the wheel.
Despite these regulations, alcohol use poses a substantial hazard across the trucking industry. Drug and alcohol use for truck drivers is high around the world—and truck drivers in the United States have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than truckers in any other country.
Truck drivers spend a lot of long, lonely hours on the road each day. They may engage in very few diversions while out on the road, and they often spend the majority of their time away from friends and family. Those long hours away from home take their toll on truck drivers, some of whom struggle with addiction as a result. Eventually, addictions may progress to drinking when they need to drive and eventually result in truck drivers getting behind the wheel while inebriated.
Drunk drivers pose a danger to everyone around them. Truck drivers must operate large vehicles that require more room to stop, turn, or change lanes than other vehicles. They need all of their critical reasoning, motor skills, and reaction times at their best to maintain the highest possible level of safety for everyone who shares the road with them.
3. Exhausted truck drivers.
Federal regulations prohibit truck drivers from spending more than 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift behind the wheel each day. Those regulations also require that truck drivers take a break of at least 30 minutes after spending 8 hours on the road.
Even within those limits in place, however, truck drivers spend a lot of hours behind the wheel. They can struggle with road haze; their mind starting to drift as they spend what feels like countless hours behind the wheel. Road haze can prove particularly difficult as drivers head down long, straight stretches of road with few distractions.
Unfortunately, exhausted or drowsy truck drivers may have some of the same symptoms shown by truck drivers who choose to drink and drive. As exhaustion increases, they may struggle with slowed reaction times, tunnel vision, or even lack of awareness of everything around them. A truck driver who falls asleep behind the wheel leaves the truck with no one in control of it, which can lead to the truck careening out of control and causing substantial damage in an accident.
Despite the known dangers posed by drowsy drivers, especially drowsy truck drivers, the truck driver shortage has made it more difficult for many trucking companies to give their drivers adequate time off. In many cases, truck drivers now push themselves harder than ever to meet deadlines and maintain the transportation of goods across the country.
4. Blind spot accidents.
Big trucks have massive blind spots. The average truck has blind spots where the driver cannot see the road around them on every side of the vehicle, including both the front and the rear.
Truck drivers become very familiar with those blind spots. They know they need to pay close attention to the position of other vehicles around them on the road, especially in heavy traffic. They may signal well before they need to change lanes or make a turn. However, truck drivers can still miss the presence of other drivers in their blind spots, especially if that driver stays in the blind spot for an extended time. In a blind spot accident, the truck driver often does not notice the presence of the other driver until a collision occurs.
5. Shifting load accidents.
Shifting load accidents occur when the cargo inside the trailer of a truck, or on the back of a flatbed, shifts unexpectedly. Shifting cargo can increase the risk of a jackknife accident or even cause the entire truck to flip over, especially during a sharp turn. Sometimes that means a single-vehicle truck accident. In other cases, the accident may result in serious injury to others on the road.
Shifting cargo can change the entire balance of the truck. Properly loading and unloading cargo can help decrease those risks. However, if the loading team does not secure the cargo properly, a sharp turn or stop can send that cargo crashing around the inside of the truck. That moving cargo then changes the position of the trailer, which may cause the trailer to jerk out of position.
Shifting cargo on a flatbed truck can cause even more serious problems. A flatbed truck has straps designed to hold the objects on the trailer in place. Most flatbed drivers check those straps at every stop to ensure that they continue to safely secure the cargo. In some cases, however, straps can slip loose. The truck driver may not even realize that the cargo has moved until it falls off, leaving extreme damage in its wake.
6. Lack of training.
It takes a great deal of training to secure a commercial driver’s license. Truck drivers must go through multiple hours of training both inside and outside a truck to get a truck license.
That training, however, may not fully prepare them for everything they will face on the road. Inexperienced truck drivers may not have the training they need to know how to handle specific hazards if they come up. They may have trouble recognizing how much room they need to stop or how much space they need to leave to make a right turn. Inexperienced truck drivers may also find themselves in trouble if the truck does start to shift out of control in any way, from a pending jackknife accident to a slick spot on the road. Those inexperienced drivers may also have trouble dealing with problems caused by other drivers, from hovering in a blind spot to pulling in front of them unexpectedly.
Unfortunately, many trucking companies do not have the time to provide additional training for their drivers. The truck driver shortage has led many companies to put drivers behind the wheel faster and encourage them to take on longer routes sooner. Inexperienced drivers may also end up on routes in high-traffic areas or areas with known narrow roads or GPS difficulties, simply because the trucking company does not have anyone else to send.
7. Right turn accidents.
Many trucks make very wide right turns to see everything on that side of the vehicle before committing to the turn. While truck drivers have large blind spots on every side of the vehicle, the right side can prove particularly problematic when it comes to getting a good view. Turning toward that side may require a slight left turn before turning right.
Some drivers may interpret the truck’s movements as a decision to turn left, not right, especially if they do not notice the truck’s turn signals. A driver who moves up onto the truck’s right side and into the truck’s blind spot can end up in a serious accident with the truck.
8. Other drivers cutting off a truck.
Big trucks weigh a great deal more than passenger vehicles, and they require a great deal more room to stop as a result. The average truck driver may need an estimated 350 to 450 feet to bring the truck to a safe stop at just 55 miles per hour—and that is in good weather conditions with fully functional brakes. If the truck driver faces any other hazards that could increase stopping time, it may require even more room to bring the truck to a safe stop.
Unfortunately, sometimes drivers fail to take that into account when pulling over in front of a big truck. Especially at red lights or stop signs or in traffic jams where the big truck may have little room to maneuver, the truck driver cannot come to a full stop in time to avoid an accident.
9. Poor weather.
Dangerous weather impacts all drivers on the road, including truck drivers. In poor weather conditions, a truck driver may need even more room than usual to maneuver safely. While trucks have multiple wheels on the ground, which can decrease the impact of a single tire slipping off the road, on large stretches of slick road, truck drivers may have a very hard time controlling their vehicles. Poor weather conditions can significantly raise the risk of a jackknife collision or a truck sliding through a red light or stop sign, causing serious damage to everything in the way. Truck drivers, however, often must remain on the roads despite dangerous weather conditions. Trucking companies may even pressure their drivers to continue on their usual routes when the drivers feel uncomfortable with current weather due to tight deadlines or lack of other available drivers.
When a big truck causes an accident, it can mean substantial injuries for the people in the other vehicles involved in an accident. When other drivers fail to take proper care around big trucks, it may not just be that driver who ends up getting involved in an accident. If someone else’s negligence led to your accident, you may deserve compensation for your injuries. Contact a truck accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible for more information about how to pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries.