Causes of Truck Accidents

May 8, 2024 | By Steffens Law Accident Injury Lawyers
Causes of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are among the most devastating vehicle collisions, often resulting in severe injuries, property damage, and even fatalities. Due to the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks, the consequences of these accidents can exceed those involving smaller passenger vehicles.

If you suffered injuries in a truck crash, the cause might indicate who you can hold responsible for your losses. Discuss your situation with a truck accident attorney in Omaha as soon as possible.

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Driver Error

Causes of Truck Accidents

One of the most common causes of truck accidents is driver error. Truck drivers are responsible for operating large, heavy vehicles for extended periods, often under challenging conditions. When a truck driver makes a mistake or engages in negligent behavior, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Some examples of driver error that can lead to truck accidents include:

  • Fatigue: Truck drivers often work long hours and may be tempted to push themselves beyond their limits to meet tight deadlines. However, fatigued driving can impair a driver's judgment, reaction time, and ability to maintain vehicle control, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Distracted driving: Just like other drivers, cell phones, GPS instructions, or other distractions can take truck drivers’ attention away from the road. The size and weight of their vehicles and the longer stopping distances required make distracted driving particularly dangerous for truck drivers.
  • Speeding: Truck drivers may feel pressure to meet tight delivery schedules, leading them to exceed posted speed limits or drive too fast for conditions. Speeding reduces a driver's ability to control their vehicle and increases the severity of any resulting accidents.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol, illegal drugs, or even certain prescription medications can impair a truck driver's judgment and reaction time, making it more difficult to drive safely.
  • Inexperience: Newer truck drivers may lack the skills and experience to handle the unique challenges of operating a large commercial vehicle, particularly in adverse conditions such as heavy traffic or inclement weather.

To help prevent accidents caused by driver error, truck drivers must prioritize safety and follow all applicable regulations, including hours-of-service rules limiting the time they can spend behind the wheel without rest.

Motor carriers are also responsible for properly training and supervising their drivers to ensure they drive safely.

When truckers fail to drive safely, you can hold them liable for any resulting injuries. Truck accident lawyers can help victims seek compensation from negligent drivers and trucking companies.

Mechanical Issues

Mechanical failure or defects can cause truck accidents. Given the size and complexity of commercial trucks, even a small mechanical issue can have serious consequences if not addressed promptly.

Some common mechanical issues that can contribute to truck accidents include:

Brake Failure

Brake failure is one of the most severe mechanical issues that can lead to truck accidents.

A truck's brakes need to stop a massive vehicle that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. When brakes fail, the truck may not stop in time to avoid a collision, with catastrophic consequences.

Several factors can contribute to brake failure in commercial trucks, including:

  • Wear and tear: Truck brakes endure significant stress due to heavy loads and must stop repeatedly. Over time, brake components such as pads, rotors, and drums can wear down, reducing their effectiveness and increasing the risk of failure.
  • Overheating: When brakes are used excessively, such as when a truck is descending a long, steep grade, they can overheat and lose their stopping power. This is known as brake fade and if the driver cannot slow the vehicle using other means, such as engine braking, the truck can crash.
  • Improper maintenance: Regular maintenance and inspections ensure a truck's brakes function correctly. Failure to replace worn brake components or properly adjust the system significantly increases the risk of failure.
  • Manufacturing defects: In some cases, defects in the design or manufacturing of brake components may cause brake failure. Defects in the design or manufacturing of brake components may cause brake failure in some cases.

Truck owners and operators must strictly adhere to maintenance schedules and promptly make necessary repairs or replacements to minimize the risk of brake failure. Drivers should also receive training to recognize signs of brake problems, such as unusual noises or changes in pedal feel, and to report these issues immediately.

Tire Blowouts

Speeding Truck Accident

Tire blowouts are another common mechanical issue leading to serious truck accidents. Commercial truck tires support the vehicle's heavy loads but remain susceptible to failure if improperly maintained or encounter adverse road conditions.

A tire blowout occurs when the tire's structure fails, causing a rapid loss of air pressure. This can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, particularly if the blowout affects one of the front tires or the driver cannot maintain a straight course while slowing down.

Several factors can contribute to tire blowouts in commercial trucks, including:

  • Underinflation: Improper tire inflation can cause the sidewalls to flex excessively, generating heat and increasing the blowout risk. Underinflation also makes tires more susceptible to damage from road hazards.
  • Overloading: Overloading a truck beyond its rated capacity can strain the tires, increasing the risk of a blowout.
  • Wear and tear: As truck tires age and accumulate miles, they become more susceptible to failure due to wear and tear. Factors such as improper alignment, uneven wear, and exposure to harsh conditions can all contribute to tire degradation.
  • Road hazards: Debris on the road, such as nails, glass, or sharp objects, can puncture a tire and cause a blowout. Potholes and other road defects can also damage tires and increase the risk of failure.

To reduce the risk of tire blowouts, truck owners and operators should maintain proper tire inflation, avoid overloading vehicles, and regularly inspect tires for signs of wear or damage.

Drivers should also receive training to recognize signs of a potential blowout, such as vibration or loss of control, and to respond appropriately to minimize the risk of an accident. This does not always happen, and companies and you can hold drivers accountable when crashes result.

Improper Steering and Suspension Maintenance

A truck's steering and suspension systems are key in maintaining vehicle control and stability, particularly at high speeds or in adverse conditions. When these systems are not properly maintained, it can lead to many problems that increase the risk of accidents.

Some common steering and suspension issues that can contribute to truck accidents include:

  • Worn or damaged components: Over time, steering and suspension components such as ball joints, tie rods, and shock absorbers can wear out or become damaged, leading to a loss of control or stability.
  • Improper alignment: Improperly aligned truck's wheels can cause the vehicle to pull to one side or the other, making it more difficult for the driver to maintain control.
  • Inadequate maintenance: Regular maintenance, such as lubrication and adjustments, ensures that steering and suspension systems function correctly. Neglecting these tasks can lead to premature wear and an increased risk of failure.
  • Overloading: When a truck is overloaded, the excess weight can strain the steering and suspension components, increasing the likelihood of failure or reduced effectiveness.

To minimize the risk of accidents caused by steering and suspension problems, truck owners and operators must adhere to a strict maintenance schedule, including regular inspections, lubrication, and replacements of worn components.

When improper maintenance causes a crash, a truck accident attorney can identify liability and stand up for the rights of injured victims.

Improperly Secured Cargo

Damage Calculation

Cargo shifts are another significant cause of truck accidents, particularly when the load is improperly secured or balanced within the trailer. When cargo shifts during transport, it can cause the vehicle to become unstable, increasing the risk of rollovers, jackknifes, or other serious accidents.

Several factors can contribute to cargo shifts in commercial trucks, including:

  • Improper loading: Unevenly distributed or insecurely fastened cargo can shift during transport, causing the vehicle to become unbalanced.
  • Inadequate securement: Federal regulations require that approved devices and methods secure cargo to prevent shifting or loss during transport. Failure to meet these requirements significantly increases the risk of a cargo shift.
  • Sudden maneuvers: Even properly secured cargo can shift if the driver makes a sudden maneuver, such as swerving to avoid an obstacle or braking hard. This highlights the importance of maintaining a safe speed and following distance to allow for gradual changes in direction or speed.
  • Vehicle defects: In some cases, defects in the vehicle, such as a faulty trailer door or a weak spot in the flooring, may cause cargo shifts.

Truck owners and operators should properly secure all loads using approved devices and methods. Drivers should also receive training in safe loading practices and inspect their cargo regularly during transport to identify potential issues.

When parties fail to handle cargo appropriately, a truck accident attorney can hold the proper parties liable for any resulting accidents and injuries.

External Conditions

In addition to driver error and mechanical issues, external factors can also contribute to truck accidents. The truck driver cannot control these conditions but they can still significantly affect the vehicle's and its occupants' safety.

Some external conditions that can lead to truck accidents include:

  • Adverse weather: Rain, snow, ice, and fog can all make it more difficult for truck drivers to drive safely. These conditions can reduce visibility, increase stopping distances, and make it more difficult to maintain vehicle control.
  • Road hazards: Potholes, debris, or other obstructions can cause truck drivers to lose control of their vehicles or suffer damage that leads to accidents.
  • Construction zones: Work zones often involve narrowed lanes, shifted traffic patterns, and the presence of workers and equipment, which can increase the risk of accidents for trucks and other vehicles.
  • Other motorists: Passenger vehicle drivers who engage in risky behaviors around trucks, such as cutting off a truck or driving in its blind spots, can contribute to accidents.

While truck drivers cannot control external conditions, they can take steps to minimize their impact on safety. This includes reducing speed in adverse weather, maintaining a safe following distance, and remaining alert for potential hazards on the road. Truck drivers who fail to use proper caution in such situations should be fully responsible for any injuries they cause.

What to Do After a Truck Accident

If you suffer injuries in a collision with a commercial truck:

  • Get a medical check-up: Get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. Some injuries, including whiplash or internal bleeding, may not be instantly noticeable.
  • Report the incident: Immediately notify law enforcement and your insurance company of the accident. Tell the police what happened, but refrain from admitting fault or apologizing, as these actions can be detrimental in future legal proceedings.

Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer

William V. Steffens, Truck Accident Lawyer
William V. Steffens, Truck Accident Attorney

Truck accidents can have devastating consequences for all involved. Still, by understanding their common causes and having the right legal assistance, injured victims have a better chance of obtaining justice and financial recovery for their losses.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a truck accident, don't hesitate to seek the help of an experienced truck accident attorney who can walk you through the legal process and battle for the justice you deserve.

With the right support and representation, you can focus on your recovery, knowing that your legal team will work diligently to hold the responsible parties accountable and secure the compensation you need to move forward.

Your truck accident lawyer will handle your case, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for your best interests, allowing you to prioritize your health and well-being during this challenging time. Seek your free consultation today.