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Causes of Tractor-Trailer Wrecks

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Every year, more than 500,000 tractor-trailer wrecks occur in the United States. For thousands of people, such accidents are fatal.

Tractor-Trailer Accident

Causes of Tractor-Trailer Wrecks

Semi-trucks often weigh over 80,000 pounds so injuries people sustain in crashes are usually more severe than in car accidents. About 20% of these accidents are caused by truck drivers. The rest is usually the car drivers’ fault.

Truck accident statistics show Texas leads the nation in fatal truck accidents. Houston leads Texas with the most 18-wheeler fatal truck accidents.

If you are hurt in an accident with a semi-truck, call our law firm and talk with a big truck accident lawyer with over thirty five years of experience in winning huge truck crash settlements- (281) 587-1111!

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The most common reasons for tractor-trailer wrecks are:

1. Fatigued Driving

It’s not a rarity to find a sleepy driver behind the wheel of a big rig. The reason is simple. Trucking companies are under serious pressure to deliver as much cargo as quickly as possible. That’s why many drivers are working for 16 hours in a row.

Studies show that some truck drivers average four to five hours of sleep every day, which is not sufficient to stay alert on the road.

Even though Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations clearly state the limit on drivers’ working hours, many companies tend to find a way around these restrictions. In such cases, truck drivers often don’t have much choice: keep driving or lose the job.

Many drivers are paid based on the number of miles they drive. Such an incentive keeps them on the road even when they are tired. But it is often only after a truck accident investigation that violations of hours of service are discovered.

2. Poor Maintenance

Big rigs must be properly maintained by the trucking companies. However, some companies may put regular inspections off in favor of completing orders faster. Eighteen-wheelers are expensive to maintain so skipping an inspection or two can be a way to save time and money for a struggling trucking company.

Whatever the reason for poor maintenance is, it results in accidents. Faulty brakes, tire blowouts, or something as seemingly unimportant as worn-down windshield wipers can cause serious wrecks.

3. Distracted Driving

Distractions are a big problem for all drivers on the road. Since truck drivers spend long hours behind the wheel, they face the issue more often. Driving long distances can become boring, especially when the road seems empty and uneventful.

Some drivers let their guard down and start texting, eating, playing with the radio, calling, and doing other things that keep their attention off the road.

4. Weather Conditions

About 22% of motor vehicle accidents are weather-related. Of them, 73% happen on wet pavement while 46% occur when it’s raining. Since tractor-trailers are heavier, harder to control, and less maneuverable than regular cars, they are more susceptible to weather-related wrecks.

Lack of proper maintenance can contribute to accidents in bad weather conditions.

5. Lack of Training

Proper truck driver training is essential to safety on the road. Inexperienced drivers with inadequate training don’t have sufficient knowledge to react to dangers and emergencies.

Some companies prefer hiring inexperienced drivers due to their lower rates. As a result, a person without proper training sits behind the wheel of a large and dangerous vehicle.

Drivers with a CDL still require ongoing training to help them learn how to respond to poor weather conditions, equipment failures, and emergencies. If the company doesn’t provide proper training, it may be held responsible for the wreck. Negligent hiring of truck drivers is a real problem in Texas.

6. Driver Errors

Even experienced drivers can make driver errors, such as:

  • Failing to check blind spots
  • Not making sufficiently wide turns
  • Driving too fast on wet roads
  • Speeding
  • And more

Without proper ongoing training, high-quality equipment, and timely maintenance, the chances of driver errors occurring are higher.

7. Improper Loading

Improperly loaded cargo can cause the truck to get into an accident or overturn. If the loading team, including the driver, is pressed for time, it may not distribute the weight properly. This may lead to maneuverability problems or lost loads.

Another common issue is overloading. Even though clear loading limits exist, some companies may overload the truck to fulfill their contract quicker. Overloading could lead to:

  • Brake failure
  • Increased stopping time
  • Problems with control
  • Higher speed when going downhill
  • Overturning

All the above could cause fatal wrecks.

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8. Alcohol and Drug Use

Driving an 18-wheeler under the influence is highly dangerous. Meanwhile, surveys showed that more than 20% of truck drivers are doing it. Usually, the underlying cause of such actions is the wish to stay on the road longer to earn more money.

When truck drivers are under the influence, their reactions are slow. In emergencies, they are unlikely to avoid a collision.

9. Speeding

Just like other drivers, truckers may choose to exceed the speed limit. Since a tractor-trailer is a heavy vehicle, its breaking time is generally longer. As a result, speeding may result in serious collisions.

Reasons for speeding vary from being pressured to arrive earlier to trying to cover more miles in one day to receive higher pay. When it comes to 18-wheelers, each extra mile per hour puts the driver and other motorists in danger.

10. Road Rage

According to AAA, as many as 80% of American drivers succumb to road rage and aggressive driving at least once a year. Truck drivers aren’t an exception. The number of fatal accidents related to road rage is growing annually.

Aggressive behavior behind the wheel of a big rig could be highly dangerous. Since the stopping time and maneuverability of a tractor-trailer are lacking compared to regular cars, the consequences are more severe.

11. Other Drivers

The behavior exhibited by other drivers can also become the reason for tractor-trailer wrecks. Such actions include:

  • Driving in zero-visibility zones
  • Abrupt lane changes in front of the 18-wheeler
  • Making a left turn in front of the big rig
  • Failing to keep a distance
  • Failing to give the truck space for changing lanes or merging
  • Unsafe passing
  • Entering the traffic in front of the truck without maintaining a proper speed
  • Driving between large trucks

Driving a large and heavy vehicle requires extra attention and special training. A lack of a consistently serious approach makes some tractor-trailer wrecks unavoidable.

To speak with a top-rated truck accident lawyer in Texas, call us at 281-587-1111!