The most common cause of trucking accidents across the United States is driver error. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that drivers’ actions or inactions were the direct cause of 88% of trucking crashes in 2011.
Driver fatigue and sleep deprivation are overwhelmingly to blame. Many drivers violate federal regulations called “hours of service” rules and work longer than permitted to increase revenue. These violations often come at the urging of the companies they work for, putting profits above safety.
The trucking industry plays a major role in the economy of Texas and the United States. Trucks in America are responsible for the majority of freight movement over land, and are vital tools in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing industries.
18-Wheelers are large trucks used in the trucking industry. They are also often referred to as tractor trailers, big rigs and semis. 18-Wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and be up to 80 feet long. An 18-Wheeler’s engine is up to 6 times larger than a car engine and an 18-Wheeler needs 40% more time to stop than a car.
Truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Obtaining a CDL requires extra education and training beyond that required to operate a passenger car.
Truck drivers are also subject to Federal and State regulations regarding safety. For example, truck drivers must pass a physical exam and keep a log of their driving hours. These and other safety regulations regarding interstate commercial driving are issued by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).
The Texas Department of Transport (TXDOT) issues rules and regulations in compliance with FMCSA rules and regulations and works to provide safe and reliable transportation within the state.
- Rear-end: One of the most common types of truck accidents. It is caused by tailgating and sudden stops. If a vehicle is traveling too close behind another vehicle it will not be able to avoid a crash when the driver in front of them puts the brakes on suddenly and unexpectedly. Rear end crashes can result in whiplash and other serious neck injuries
- Head-on: A head-on crash can be caused by reckless driving, drug and alcohol use and failing to control the truck properly. Head-on collisions are often the cause of substantial injuries and death.
- Sideswipe: Sideswipe accidents occur when two vehicles are driving next to one another in the same direction and the sides of the two vehicles make contact with one another. Sideswipe accidents often happen when a driver is trying to make a lane change without first looking to make sure there is no car already in the other lane. Sideswipes can also occur when a vehicle strays out of its lane of travel.
- Driving off road: The condition of the road can cause a truck to leave the roadway. An example would be ice on the road. Anytime a truck leaves the road, a rollover is possible and serious injuries can occur.
- Jackknife: Jackknife accidents are one of the most dangerous types of truck accidents and occur when a truck’s trailer skids, the trailer can swing around, forming a 90-degree angle with the tractor. While the trailer is skidding, the truck driver has no control over the vehicle. That loss of control is a danger to all other motorists sharing the road. Jackknife crashes often cause pile-ups of multiple vehicles.
- Rollovers: When truck tires fail to “grip” the road, the driver can lose control while the truck slides sideways. This sliding with the momentum and weight of the truck can cause a rollover.
- Air Brake Failure: When a truck’s brakes fail, the truck will be unable to stop when on a downgrade. The truck becomes unmanageable and various types of accidents can happen including rollovers, jackknifes and rear-end crashes.
- Tire Blowouts: When a tire blows on an 18 Wheeler or other large truck, the truck becomes incredibly difficult to safely manage. Due to the sheer size and weight of the truck, the driver’s ability to control the truck is limited or disappears altogether.
- Load Shifts: If the load is packed or secured incorrectly, a load shift can happen, causing the driver to have difficulty controlling the truck. The load shift may cause the truck to leave its lane, jackknife, or go off the road.
- Lost Loads: If the trailer is packed incorrectly, some of the load may be ejected from the trailer onto the roadway. The loss of the load will cause the trucker to have difficulty controlling the rig. The loss of some or all of a load can also cause problems for drivers behind the who swerve to avoid hitting it. Crashes involving lost loads can lead to multiple vehicle pile-ups and multiple serious injuries and deaths.
- Permanent disabilities such as loss of, or loss of the ability to use, an arm or a leg
- Spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis/quadriplegia
- Permanent brain damage resulting from sudden, severe impact to head
- Massive burns/scarring resulting from explosion/fire
- Multiple broken bones
- Serious internal injuries
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