Five Common Causes of Truck Accidents

December 8, 2022 @ 9:00 am

Tractor trailers are big. A truck hauling a typical flatbed or enclosed trailer is 70 to 80 feet long. Loaded, it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds—more if it’s overloaded, extra-wide or heavy-duty. The center of gravity for a semi is higher than that of a car, sitting about one-third of the trailer’s body height above the chassis floor—many feet above the road surface. Every maneuver is large in scale. Turns require more space. Stopping takes about double a car’s time and distance. Add to that the human element of a driver plus the drivers of all of the other vehicles on the road, and you’ll quickly see why truck accidents remain a concern for all of us traveling Louisiana’s roads and highways. Here are five common causes of truck accidents.

1. Weather

Louisiana is known for its rainstorms. In fact, “Louisiana receives more rain on the average than any other state,” according to the state climatologist, “with an average of 59.3 inches.” Meanwhile, US Department of Transportation national statistics indicate a little over 20 percent of vehicle crashes are weather-related. Crash statistics lead with wet pavement and rain as the most frequent weather conditions, with 70 percent of weather-related crashes involving wet pavement and 46 percent involving rain. Precipitation can affect visibility distances, impede traction and road friction, and even obstruct lanes or submerge driving surfaces. Stormy weather and wind can simply roll trucks and their trailers over. For example, in March of 2022, a storm blew at least two semis over on I-20. That’s a truck, its trailer and 15 to 20 tons of cargo creating a hazard — not to mention all the drivers who slow traffic to stare and possibly cause additional accidents.

Related: What to Do If You’re Hurt in a Trucking Accident

2. Impaired and Distracted Driving

Driving while impaired or distracted accounts for 40 percent of all highway fatalities according to Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development data. Impaired driving is driving after consuming alcohol or other substances that might impair driver judgment. Distracted driving is the result of drivers having their attention on things other than driving. Common distractions include phones and texts, food, beverages, pets and passengers. Researchers at the University of Utah found that “People are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08%.”

3. Unwieldy or Dangerous Loads

Loads may be imbalanced. Side to side or front to back, uneven load distribution can affect a driver’s ability to steer and cause trailers to swing out of their intended path, lift from the tractor and even roll over. Loads that exceed weight limits can not only strain mechanical assemblies but also impair a driver’s ability to control the load—especially on inclines and declines. Unsecured or improperly secured loads can move. This can cause a shift in the vehicle’s center of gravity and make maintaining control of the semi difficult. If loads fall from the truck, they can become obstacles in the lane of traffic or even flying cargo. Many loads commonly hauled by a tractor-trailer in Louisiana can be unwieldy or dangerous for any or all of these reasons and include petroleum oils, natural gas, forestry products like logs and timbers, agricultural products like soy and corn, polyvinyl chloride, and both organic and inorganic compounds.

Related: The Physics of a Trucking Accident—and Why It’s Important 

4. Driver Error or Miscalculation

Driving is maintaining control of a moving vehicle while constantly making judgments about what to do and when to do it. However, mistakes happen—especially if a driver has been logging long hours and is tired or sick. Drivers may misjudge the speeds of other drivers, lane accessibility, or traffic or roadway conditions. A truck driver may misinterpret the intentions of other drivers or make decisions based on the errors of other drivers—like other drivers failing to use turn signals or cutting in front of the semi. A truck driver may miss road signs and find themselves running out of their travel lane or have to react quickly to a shift in the load or an abrupt change in traffic patterns. According to the Institute for Safer Trucking, “50% of all fatal work zone crashes involved a large truck.”

5. Deferred Truck Maintenance

Machines require regular preventative maintenance, but it’s something that is often put off despite the fact that it actually saves companies money in the long run. Brakes can deteriorate with use, and brake linings can develop leaks that affect the air pressure system and its ability to function properly. Tires log thousands of miles, so insufficient tread depth and low or inappropriate air pressure are both hazards. Electrical systems need constant maintenance to ensure that all lights, flashers, turn signals and other electrical systems work so that other drivers can see the truck and anticipate what it’s going to do. Even fluids matter. Leaks can not only release hazardous substances that impact other drivers but also affect the performance of everything from the truck’s engine to its brakes.

Related: Highway Hazards: The Liability of Big Trucks 

Truck accidents happen, and when they do, they happen fast. The sizes, weights and speeds involved often mean that people get injured—possibly even killed. Meanwhile, as a victim of negligence, you’re left to face a trucking company and their insurance company alone.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident caused by a semi, it might be time to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. Reach out to the personal injury lawyers at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik for a free consultation. Complete the form on our website, or call us at 800-655-4783. Tell us about your case, and let us help you get the compensation that you deserve.



Impaired, Distracted



Driver Error

Deferred Maintenance

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