Every day, commercial truck drivers deliver a wide range of goods to individuals, communities, and businesses across the United States. Although these massive vehicles are vital to a successful economy, they pose very serious risks to other motorists on the road because of their substantial size and weight. A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds compared with the average passenger vehicle, which weighs anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 pounds depending on the type of vehicle. In the event of a serious truck accident, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are often the ones who suffer the most catastrophic injuries and fatalities. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are more than 100,000 truck accidents in the United States each year that cause nearly 5,000 fatalities. By understanding some of the common types of truck accidents that occur on roads and highways across the country, motorists and truck drivers can take steps to prevent them.
Following are examples of some of the most common types of traffic accidents involving large commercial trucks:
- Jackknife accidents: This is a serious accident that occurs when the tractor trailer folds in on itself and forms a 90-degree angle. These accidents typically happen when a truck driver loses control of the vehicle or stops too suddenly. When the driver hits the brakes, the trailer starts to swing wide, which can be extremely dangerous if there are other vehicles in the vicinity. These accidents are more likely to happen when the road surface is slick because of inclement weather, or if the driver is speeding or driving recklessly.
- Rear-end accidents: As the name suggests, these occur when a truck crashes into the back of another vehicle. Unfortunately, owing to the massive size and weight of large trucks, the passenger vehicle is often severely damaged and the occupants sustain various, often fatal injuries. Oftentimes, these accidents are caused by a truck driver who is distracted, drowsy, or impaired at the time of the crash.
- Rollover accidents: These accidents are among the most dangerous for the truck drivers. They often occur when the truck driver loses control of the vehicles because of a tire blowout, from speeding, or from unsecured cargo.
- Head-on collisions: These are particularly devastating accidents that almost always cause fatal injuries. They tend to occur when the truck driver becomes distracted or drowsy or loses control of the truck, causing him or her to swerve into oncoming traffic. In most cases, it is the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in the accident that suffer the most devastating injuries, most of which are fatal.
- T-bone accidents: Also known as a side impact collision, these accidents occur when a truck crashes into the side of another vehicle. Unfortunately, the passenger vehicle absorbs most of the impact directly, causing devastating injuries to the occupants, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and death.
- Underride collisions: These are another common type of truck accident that occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into a truck and ends up under the body of the trailer. The resulting injuries are often particularly severe, including massive head injuries, brain injuries, and decapitations.
- Runaway trailer accidents: These accidents occur when the speed of the trailer exceeds the speed of the truck. When a truck driver exceeds the speed limit, there is an increased risk of losing control of the trailer. If the brakes fail and the truck is careening down a hill, this can have catastrophic consequences for the vehicles in the vicinity of the truck.
- Blind spot accidents: Commercial trucks have large blind spots, also known as the No Zone, located directly in front of the truck, behind the truck, on the driver’s side next to the side mirror, and on the passenger’s side next to the side mirrors. When a vehicle is in a truck’s blind spots, the motorist is at risk of being hit by the truck or forced off the road.
- Tire blowouts: There are a number of factors that can cause a tire blowout, including defective manufacturing, improper air pressure, unbalanced cargo, worn out tires, and dangerous road conditions. A tire blowout can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a rollover accident, a jackknife accident, or the truck swerving into another lane.
- Accidents related to defective equipment: When a truck’s equipment is defective in some way, it can lead to very serious accidents. For example, if the brakes are defective, the truck driver may not be able to slow down or stop in time to avoid hitting another driver. Truck drivers have a responsibility to ensure that their trucks are inspected and maintained regularly, and that any necessary repairs are made as soon as possible.
- Unsecured cargo accidents: If the cargo inside the truck is not properly loaded or secured, it can become imbalanced inside the truck, which can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. In some cases, the cargo can come loose and fall out onto the street, hitting other vehicles in the vicinity.
What are Some of the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Although some truck accidents are caused by inclement weather or poor road conditions, the majority of serious truck accidents can be prevented if truck drivers make safety a priority, ensure that their truck is properly maintained, and avoid any distractions. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of preventable truck accidents:
- Inadequate training: Truck companies have a responsibility to ensure that their truck drivers receive the proper training in order to be able to safely operate a massive commercial truck.
- Improper cargo loading: When a truck’s cargo is not loaded properly or securely, it can come loose or imbalanced, which can increase the risk of an accident.
- Failure to maintain the truck: Truck drivers are responsible for ensuring that their truck is inspected before every trip and making sure that the necessary maintenance repairs are made before the next trip.
- Distracted driving: When a truck driver is distracted by a phone call, a text, or anything else that takes his or her attention off the road, the consequences can be devastating. This is one of the most common, yet preventable causes of truck accidents.
- Drowsy driving: This is a common problem among truck drivers, owing to the pressure that truck drivers are under to meet tight delivery deadlines. Although truck drivers are required to follow federal hours of service (HOS) requirements, too many truck drivers continue driving, even though they have exceeded the maximum number of hours allowed to be on duty.
- Reckless driving: Speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, and tailgating are all examples of reckless driving that can be extremely dangerous, particularly when the driver is behind the wheel of a massive truck.
How can Truck Accidents be Prevented?
Although truck accidents are some of the deadliest accidents, particularly for occupants of passenger vehicles, there are steps that truck drivers can take to prevent them from happening, including the following:
- Avoid distractions: Distracted driving is dangerous behavior, regardless of who is driving. However, when a driver is distracted while operating an 80,000-pound truck, the consequences can be particularly devastating. Truck drivers are strongly urged to put their phones away, avoid all other distractions, and keep their attention focused on the road ahead at all times.
- Get plenty of sleep: Drowsy driving is believed to be just as dangerous as drunk driving, particularly if the motorist has been awake for 18 consecutive hours or more. HOS regulations were put into place in order to prevent drowsy driving among truck drivers. Truck drivers should also avoid taking any prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications that can cause drowsiness. All motorists should avoid getting behind the wheel if they are experiencing symptoms of drowsiness.
- Do not drink and drive. It goes without saying that it is dangerous, and illegal, to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drunk driving accidents involving large trucks often result in devastating injuries and fatalities, yet they are entirely preventable.
- Follow the rules of the road: Like other motorists, truck drivers are required to follow the speed limit, use their signals properly, and avoid reckless driving behaviors such as tailgating and weaving in and out of lanes.
- Pay attention to blind spots: Although motorists should avoid driving in a truck’s blind spots, the truck driver is responsible for paying attention to the other vehicles in the vicinity so that he or she can see when another vehicle may move into the truck’s blind spot.
Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Assist Injured Victims of Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a devastating truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at ACTS Law as soon as possible. We will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and hold the negligent party responsible for your injuries. Our skilled and dedicated legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process and fight to ensure that you receive the financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. With offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.