Truck drivers cross over state lines and even international borders every day. All of those miles pose challenges, and there are a myriad of ways truck drivers can cause accidents. When an 80,000-pound truck collides with a passenger vehicle, it is highly likely to cause catastrophic injury or death.
The Morgantown truck accident lawyers at Colombo Law have helped many clients maximum compensation for injuries and the death of loved ones in collisions with big rigs. One of the keys to our success is our thorough understanding of the many issues that lead to truck accidents.
Increased speeds increase crash risks. The higher the speed, the more extensive the injuries and the greater likelihood of fatalities in the event of a collision.
Commercial trucks take longer to stop than standard passenger vehicles. In addition, the high center of gravity of an 18-wheeler makes a jackknife or rollover accident far more likely when high speeds are involved.
Truck Driver Fatigue
Fatigued driving is a major problem in the trucking industry. The likelihood of an accident increases sharply when truck drivers get behind the wheel when they are drowsy.
Drowsiness lessens the truck driver’s ability to control the vehicle and impairs judgment. Reaction time to changing road conditions and traffic flow is reduced, making it difficult for the truck driver to make a safe decision while behind the wheel. Tired truck drivers may fall asleep or misjudge driving conditions or distances.
There are laws and regulations designed to prevent truck drivers from logging long hours and driving while tired. However, the hours of service regulations are routinely thrown out the window when truck drivers are under a strict delivery deadline.
Distracted driving can take multiple forms:
- A visual distraction causes drivers to move their eyes away from the road.
- A manual distraction moves the hands away from the wheel.
- A cognitive distraction causes the driver’s mind to drift away from the act of driving.
Each type of distracted driving can lead to accidents. Given the long hours of operation and the routine nature of driving for long stretches, truck drivers frequently succumb to any number of distractions when they are behind the wheel of a big rig. Unfortunately, issues such as texting and driving, eating, reaching for objects, adjusting the radio, and more can all lead to serious collisions.
Failure to Check Blind Spots
Due to their immense size, the blind spots (also known as “no-zones”) are much larger on commercial trucks. No-zones on a tractor-trailer include:
- 20 feet in front of the vehicle.
- Approximately one vehicle lane to the left of the semi (driver’s side) and two vehicle lanes to the right (passenger side) that extend backward at an angle.
- Nearly 200 feet from the back of the tractor-trailer.
Serious accidents can occur when a truck driver fails to notice vehicles in these blind spots. These collisions occur most often when the truck driver is attempting to change lanes or merge into traffic, so motorists should be conscious of the danger when driving near semi-trucks on highways and multi-lane roads.
Inadequate Truck Driver Training
To operate a truck, drivers are required to hold a valid commercial driver license, or CDL. At minimum, CDL training will teach the driver how to operate an 18-wheeler safely and how to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
CDL training provides commercial drivers with a foundation for driving a rig. However, as with driver’s ed, it is only a starting point.
It is up to employers to perform background checks to make sure driver candidates have the necessary qualifications and are fit for the job. Trucking companies should invest in ongoing training to ensure their drivers’ safety and professionalism. Unfortunately, many trucking companies fail to make this investment.
The evidence in a truck accident claim may suggest that the truck driver had no business behind the wheel. If this is the case, both the driver and the trucking company may be held liable.
Failure to Inspect and Secure Cargo
Before truck drivers start a haul, they must check that all cargo is secured correctly. A failure to inspect the cargo can contribute to collisions with other vehicles, as well as accidents caused by cargo falling into the road.
Poorly loaded and secured freight can impact how the truck driver operates the vehicle. When liquid cargo is involved, a sudden rush of fluid moving forward or backward increases the risk of an accident.
Driving Unfamiliar Roadways
Navigating new roads is a consistent part of a truck driver’s job. Truck drivers are responsible for managing their speed and adjusting for road conditions in a variety of situations, from city driving to lonely highways.
Careless and inattentive driving in an unfamiliar locale can lead to accidents with other vehicles. The risk of a crash is often increased because the truck driver is under stress due to the new surroundings while still facing the pressures of staying on schedule.
Driving Under the Influence
Commercial drivers are prohibited from using alcohol within 4 hours of going on duty (see § 392.5 of the Code of Federal Regulations). Obviously, the use of illegal drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) is also prohibited for truck drivers.
Driving under the influence of any of these substances is highly dangerous for any driver. Impairment behind the wheel limits driving ability, impairs judgment and focus, and increases the risk of an accident.
Truck drivers should be drug tested regularly, but this may not happen. Drug abuse is more common among truck drivers than you may realize.
Federal regulations require regular and random drug testing. In addition, drug testing is required for any truck driver involved in a fatal accident, a collision involving bodily injury where someone is taken to the hospital, and a crash resulting in disabling damage to one or more vehicles.
Large commercial trucks carrying tens of thousands of pounds of cargo require regular maintenance and repairs. A failure to maintain any vehicle part can lead to a truck accident, including tire blowouts, jackknifing from an improperly attached trailer, and malfunctioning brakes.
Truck maintenance is essential for driving safely. Responsibility for this falls on multiple parties, including the truck driver to perform inspections during the haul, fleet mechanics and maintenance companies to do their jobs correctly, and trucking companies to maintain the vehicles they own.
If negligent maintenance was a factor in the truck accident, multiple parties can be held liable. A knowledgeable attorney can collect evidence and build a strong claim on your behalf.
Many different issues can lead to truck accidents. Thorough investigation is necessary to determine how negligence on the part of the truck driver and other parties caused the crash that led to your injuries or the death of your loved one.
Have you been hurt by a truck? Colombo Law has the knowledge and experience to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Please call Colombo Law at (304) 599-4229 today for a FREE case review. Our truck accident lawyers serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.