6 Common Causes of Truck Accidents
In this section, we’ve provided information on the following 6 common causes of truck accidents:
- Trucking companies hiring truckers on drugs
- Dangerous out-of-service-trucks
- Chameleon carriers
- Truck driver fatigue
- No punitive damages
- Bad weather
Trucking companies hiring truckers on drugs
Unfit drivers who are addicted to drugs or have health issues are a major common cause of truck accidents, injuries and deaths. These drivers carelessly ignore important safety and licensing requirements. But it’s up to the truck companies who hire them to properly screen them for drugs.
For instance, in a seminal study, the National Transportation Safety Board performed blood screenings on 168 truck drivers who were killed in truck crashes, and detected illegal narcotic drugs or alcohol in 33 percent of their blood concentrations.
And in 2008, Michigan was listed among the top 12 most sanctioned states in the nation that allow truck drivers with serious medical problems — including heart disease and seizure disorders — to drive tractor-trailers. Michigan was also one of the top states that fail to require truck drivers to carry valid medical certificates, according to a review by the Associated Press of 7.3 million commercial driver violations compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2006.
Dangerous out-of-service trucks
Another common cause of truck accidents is out-of-service trucks. One in four trucks on the roads today are considered “out-of-service.” This means that the truck has so many service violations, that it would have to be taken off the road and towed to the nearest mechanic after being pulled over by law enforcement. Many trucking companies fail to require or train their drivers to properly check for and address these violations, leading to truck crashes.
Common causes of truck accidents from out-of-service trucks come from the following truck service violations:
- Defective brakes,
- Bald tires and
- Loads that dangerously exceed weight limitations.
There are many trucking companies that cut safety corners to save money, hire unfit truck drivers, cause deadly crashes and then when they’ve racked up too many safety violations, they reopen under a new name. These trucking companies are called “chameleon carriers” and they are another common cause of truck accidents.
According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability office, more than 500 trucking and bus companies that were ordered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) to be shut down for safety violations are continuing to operate under different names. The GAO report also found another 1,073 commercial trucking firms that are believed possible “reincarnations” after incurring fines and violations.
Truck driver fatigue
Truck driver fatigue is the leading cause of truck accidents. But when truckers get tired behind the wheel, the negligence is really on behalf of the trucking companies that employ them.
These trucking companies often disregard federal laws that are designed to prevent truck accidents due to tired truckers. The laws involve regulated hours of service that truckers must abide by, and screening truckers for medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive.
But to get loads to their destinations quicker, trucking companies will often push their drivers (with either financial incentives or the threat of losing their jobs) to drive beyond the regulated hours, no matter what it takes. They will also often ignore serious medical conditions that cause drowsiness, such as sleep apnea; or even send their drivers to certain doctors who will write them a clean bill of health.
All of these factors contribute to this being one of the leading causes of truck accidents. Consider a recent survey stating that 20 percent of truck drivers nationwide admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in a given month.
No punitive damages
How the absence of punitive damages allows bad trucking companies to break the law and avoid being punished for egregious behavior that results in injury and death.
Weather is another common cause of truck accidents but plays a role in less than 20 percent of Michigan truck accidents, but even those crashes are preventable.
For example, truck accident lawyers, police and expert accident investigators state that where weather was a main cause of truck accidents, the truck driver failed to comply with the law, such as reducing the speed by 1/3 of the posted speed limit on wet roads, 1/2 on snow, or slowing to a crawl on ice. Or they failed to comply with federal regulations on braking and hours of service.
The Michigan Basic Speed Law requires a driver to travel at a “careful and prudent” speed in all driving conditions, meaning driving at a speed that allows one to stop within the clear distance ahead. Depending on the conditions, the speed according to the Michigan Basic Speed Law may be lower than the posted limit.
Meanwhile, there are a number of Michigan weather conditions that truck drivers must pay special caution. Truckers must be carefully prepared and more alert when shifting gears through fog, rain, snow, sleet, hail and even very hot temperatures.
Driving in changing weather conditions is further complicated on hilly terrain, at night, across railroad intersections and on hazards like construction zones, pavement drop-offs, objects laying in the roadway and merging ramps.
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