Trucking accidents can be extremely serious and result in significant injury to those involved. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were over 7,000 accidents involving large trucks and buses in North Carolina in 2020, leading to almost 5,000 injuries and 200 fatalities. As with most vehicle accidents, trucking accidents are generally caused by driver error, meaning many of them are preventable.
What follows are common causes of trucking accidents.
Driver fatigue is a common cause of both car and truck accidents, but it is more prevalent in trucking accidents. Truck drivers are often driving long distances with few breaks. Many trips involve multiple days on the road, and frequently truck drivers sleep in their vehicles, meaning they’re not getting quality sleep.
There are regulations around how many hours a truck driver is permitted to drive at one time, how much sleep they are required to get, and how frequently they need to take rest breaks. However, many drivers and trucking companies don’t follow those regulations, so driver fatigue is still a major problem.
Even though truck drivers are professional drivers, they can still get distracted behind the wheel. Driving for long periods can be tedious, especially if the driver is going through a rural area. It can be tempting for a driver to pick up the phone to shoot a quick text, open Spotify to search for a podcast, or dig into a pre-packed lunch. Even the simple act of fidgeting with the air conditioner can take a driver’s eyes off the road long enough for a collision.
Because of the pressure truck drivers face to meet deadlines and get in as many trips as possible, they may drive faster than the posted speed limit. Because trucks are so much larger than other vehicles, speeding is even more dangerous for truck drivers. It’s much harder for them to stop a truck on short notice or quickly change direction. Many trucking companies install speed trackers or speed limiters on company vehicles to combat speed-related accidents, but not all trucks have this new technology.
Driving Under the Influence
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules on when truck drivers can drink and how high their blood-alcohol concentration can be when they get behind the wheel. It is also prohibited for drivers to operate under the influence of any drugs, and periodic drug testing is required. Unfortunately, there are still accidents caused by drivers operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers operating under the influence suffer from poorer judgment and longer reaction times, often leading to unsafe driving practices.
Improperly Secured Cargo
Truck drivers are frequently carrying very heavy loads. There are regulations on how much weight a truck can carry and how that weight should be loaded, but mistakes happen. An improperly loaded truck is more likely to blow a tire or tip over during lane changes or turns. There is also the risk that improperly secured cargo will fly off the truck, blocking lanes or hitting nearby vehicles. Both the cargo company and the driver have an obligation to ensure the vehicle is loaded properly.
Aside from the initial training required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, it’s also important that truck drivers are trained on how to handle challenging circumstances. Severe weather conditions are even harder to navigate in a large truck, so it’s crucial that the driver has training on how to avoid skidding, jackknifing, or tipping.
Factors Outside of the Driver’s Control
While most accidents are caused by driver error, some are out of the truck driver’s control. Performing regular maintenance on a truck takes time and money, so many trucking companies try to minimize the maintenance work they do and complete any maintenance quickly. Unfortunately, that can lead to trucks being put on the road without being safe to make the trip causing malfunctions for the driver to handle. It is also possible that there is a manufacturing defect with the truck. In these cases, the trucking company, the maintenance shop, or the manufacturer can be liable.
Common Trucking Accident Injuries
Due to the size and weight of trucks, trucking accidents tend to result in serious injuries, especially when the other party is a smaller vehicle. Injuries that commonly result from a trucking accident include:
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries (including whiplash)
- Broken bones
- Cuts or lacerations
- Brain or head injuries
- Internal injuries
How to Avoid Trucking Accidents
Most trucking accidents can be avoided with some diligence and defensive driving. Always make sure to be aware of your surroundings and follow all posted speed limits and road signs. Avoid talking on the phone, texting, fidgeting with the radio, or doing anything else that takes your eyes off the road.
When driving near a truck, use extra caution. Don’t linger in their blind spots, and make sure to provide ample room if you’re pulling in front of them.
What to Do After a Trucking Accident
If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident, you should immediately seek medical attention and file a police report. Even if you don’t think you have sustained a serious injury, it is important to get evaluated by a qualified medical professional. Many injuries, such as whiplash, don’t always appear immediately but may have long-lasting effects and require costly treatments.
Contact an Experienced North Carolina Trucking Accident Attorney
Trucking accident injuries can be severe and leave you with financially crippling medical costs. An experienced attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve while focusing on resting and recovering. Our attorneys have extensive experience dealing with trucking accidents. Let us help you understand your legal options and get a maximum settlement. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.