Knowing the leading causes of truck accidents can keep you safer. It helps you know what to look for when you’re driving by these vehicles, and what you need to watch for in your own driving to avoid fault.
Though a bit outdated, the FMCSA created the Large Truck Crash Causation Study in the early 2000s. This is an excellent source to answer questions about the leading causes of truck accidents.
Types of At-Fault Truck Accidents
The study looked at the proportion of accidents in different categories. The three critical events for crashes they looked at were driving outside of the lane, losing control for some reason, or a rear-end collision.
55% of the crashes they looked at had one of these reasons as the cause for the crash. This implies that in a little over half of truck accidents the commercial driver is the one at-fault. It shows that you should not be quick to assign blame in an accident. It could go either way.
Major Reasons for Truck Accidents
Of the accidents that met the critical events standard, the study looked at the major reasons why the accident happened. Only 13% of them were the result of a vehicle malfunction or environmental factors. The rest were all driver issues.
38% of the accidents were caused by a driver making a poor decision, like driving too fast or following too closely. 28% were due to distracted driving or inattention. These are all in the driver’s control and show negligence.
12% were caused by something that disabled the driver, like falling asleep or an emergency medical condition. The last 9% were through panic or overcompensation.
The Top 10 Factors in Truck Crashes
After they crunched the numbers, the FMCSA found the ten leading causes of truck accidents with passenger vehicles. In order, they are:
- Traffic interruptions
- Unfamiliarity with the area
- Failure to use mirrors
- Driving too fast
- Illegal maneuvers
- Falsely assuming what the other drivers would do.
- Distracted driving
This shows that the most dangerous time around these vehicles is not when they’re speeding, but when they’re in stop and go traffic or when you’re approaching a crash scene on the interstate.
It also shows that passenger vehicles should do more to stay visible inside a driver’s mirrors. Remember that if you cannot see their mirrors, they cannot see you. Avoid following behind a truck too closely and give them plenty of space and time to move.
Avoid Aggressive Truck Drivers
Since cargo truckers are on a deadline for deliveries, they’ll sometimes skirt the rules or drive aggressively. They may also speed to make up for lost time. As the list shows, these are dangerous factors that lead to truck crashes.
If you notice a truck is weaving a bit or driving strangely, it’s better to stay back behind it for a while and give it space in case there’s a problem. In addition to aggression, some drivers use drugs to stay awake or cope with the stresses of the road and that causes poor judgment.
Truck Driver Fatigue on the Road
Federal hours of service regulations state that truck drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours at a stretch, nor drive more than 60 hours in a week. They also must take long breaks. When these rules are broken, fatigue can make a truck driver cause an accident.
These are good guidelines for non-professional drivers too. As nice as it may be to push onward, there’s a limit before you become too dangerous to yourself and other vehicles. Take frequent breaks to let your mind rest, and stop for the day once you get near the 11-hour limit.