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Home / Truck Accident / 5 Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents

5 common causes of semi-truck accidents

5 Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are among the most catastrophic events on freeways, often leading to severe harm and damages given the sheer size and weight of these vehicles.

Large trucks constituted around 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2021. The repercussions of these accidents extend far beyond the immediate devastation, with incidents leading to losses and terrible human suffering. The magnitude of these disasters underscores the need for increased awareness, comprehensive education, and enhanced road safety protocols.

To foster a safer and more informed driving community, this article outlines the five most prevalent causes of truck accidents. Understanding the common precursors to these tragic events can help us work collectively towards implementing proactive preventive measures and cultivating a secure driving environment for all.

What is The Difference Between a Truck and a Semi-Truck?

Understanding the difference between a truck and a semi-truck is fundamental in the context of this article. A semi-truck, also known as a semi-tractor or tractor-trailer, has a defining characteristic—the tractor unit can detach from the trailer unit. This flexibility allows semi-trucks a unique advantage over rigid trucks and trailers.

Along with providing versatility in hauling different types of cargo, this distinct structure also poses specific challenges and risks on the road. Given their articulated nature, semi-trucks require specialized knowledge and skills for operation, particularly when maneuvering, reversing, or navigating through traffic. A nuanced understanding of the unique differences and operational demands of semi-trucks is central to assessing the causes of accidents involving these vehicles and devising appropriate preventive measures.

5 Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents

Multiple factors contribute to the occurrence of road accidents in general, and semi-truck accidents in particular. Dissecting these factors will help us shed light on the underlying issues.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

Driver fatigue is a predominant cause of semi-truck accidents, often caused by the exhaustive nature of long-distance driving common in the trucking industry. The long hours on the road, often with few breaks, can create an environment in which fatigue severely impacts a driver’s alertness and reflexes.

These situations are linked to the demands of the trucking industry, where companies often expect drivers to deliver their consignments in the shortest possible time. Drivers end up finding themselves under constant pressure to deliver within exacting and sometimes unreasonable deadlines. The effort to meet delivery windows often leads to drivers forgoing sleep.

The resulting sleep deprivation can build up over days and weeks, leading to exhaustion, loss of concentration, and even sleeping at the wheel. The National Centre of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has determined fatigue to be the primary cause of multiple truck-related accidents and reiterated the significance of addressing this problem. The importance of semi-truck drivers maintaining vigilance, situational awareness, and psychomotor responsiveness is pivotal to road safety.

Abuse of Alcohol and Drugs

The abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs is a notable concern in the trucking industry, with cases of driving under the influence being frequently reported in the media. The ramifications of such behaviors are grave, as impaired driving significantly elevates the risk of collisions.

The staggering reality is that 32 people in the United States succumb to crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver daily. That works out to one fatality every 45 minutes. This alarming statistic underscores the severe and often fatal consequences of impaired driving, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue robustly.

The scope of substance abuse is not limited to illicit drugs and alcohol. It also encompasses prescription medications that can hamper one’s ability to drive safely and make sound judgments. Given the history of alcohol and drug abuse in the trucking industry, the scenario of a truck driver traversing the country while consuming substances at various stops is not hard to imagine.

Lack of Skill and Improper Truck Maintenance

Commercial truck drivers are mandated to complete a specific amount of training hours and attain a baseline level of proficiency before receiving the green light to operate commercial vehicles on public byways.

Adherence to these training protocols, however, is not always strict or universal. This can result in inadequately trained drivers taking control of multi-ton vehicles and escalating the risk factors on the road.

Truck drivers and owners are also required by state and federal laws to maintain their vehicles and keep them in top condition before venturing onto a road. Sadly, the realities of maintenance costs and time constraints sometimes lead to lapses in regular upkeep. The combination of suboptimal maintenance and inadequate training contributes significantly to truck accidents, painting a concerning picture of road safety.

Excessive Speed and Weaving Through Traffic

Deadline pressure is a constant reality for semi-truck drivers. Additional factors such as weather conditions or heavy traffic can sometimes make meeting deadlines near impossible without breaking the speed limit.

The sight of Big-Rig Trucks overtaking at high speeds can compel drivers of smaller vehicles to drive off the road, make abrupt lane changes, or overcompensate to avoid collisions. Such high-speed engagements between trucks and cars can spell calamity, posing grave dangers to all involved.

The intersection of high speeds, substantial vehicular dimensions, and the unpredictability of road conditions can converge to create perilous situations. It calls for the adoption of vigilant driving practices and strict adherence to traffic regulations to mitigate the risk of accidents.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a significant contributor to semi-truck accidents. While operating these massive vehicles over extended distances, semi-truck drivers may lose their focus or awareness due to the monotony of the journey. Instead of focusing solely on the road, they might be tempted to use their phones, adjust their music, or engage in other activities that take their attention away from driving.

In 2021 alone, distracted driving was behind the deaths of more than 3,500 individuals in the US. It’s a figure that highlights the potentially lethal repercussions of diverted attention while driving. Every fragment of a second is pivotal during driving, and even something as simple as averting one’s gaze from the road momentarily can be grave.

Road Responsibility and Safety

Addressing the issue of semi-truck accidents requires a collaborative approach with a focus on strict adherence to traffic rules, heightened awareness, and shared responsibility. The adoption of vigilant driving practices, coupled with comprehensive education and enhanced safety protocols, can significantly mitigate the risks associated with semi-truck operations.

An experienced Glendale semi-truck accident lawyer can provide indispensable support, offering guidance through the complexities of legal processes and helping victims secure rightful compensation.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a truck accident in the Glendale area, call The Shirvanian Law Firm at (818) 835-5396 to arrange a consultation today.


Is a semi-truck the same as an 18-wheeler?

Yes, the terms semi-truck and 18-wheeler are often used interchangeably. A semi-truck refers to the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers designed to carry freight. An 18-wheeler is a specific type of semi-truck that has a total of 18 wheels, comprising 10 wheels on the tractor unit and eight wheels on the trailer.

How can fatigue be minimized to prevent semi-truck accidents?

Minimizing fatigue among semi-truck drivers involves several strategies:

  1. Adherence to Hours-of-Service Regulations: Drivers should strictly follow regulations that limit driving hours and mandate rest breaks and off-duty time.
  2. Proper Scheduling: Employers should ensure delivery schedules are realistic and allow drivers adequate time to rest between shifts.
  3. Healthy Lifestyle: Drivers must maintain a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper sleep to enhance alertness and overall well-being.
  4. Use of Rest Stops: Drivers should take advantage of rest stops and rest areas to take short naps or breaks when feeling fatigued.
  5. Regular Medical Check-ups: Regular health assessments can help in identifying and addressing any underlying health conditions that can contribute to fatigue.
  6. Educational Programs: Trucking companies must provide education and training on the importance of sleep and the risks associated with driving while fatigued.

Have the Best Attorneys on your side, call The Shirvanian Law Firm today.