Typical causes of large truck crashes
Among the common factors cited in tractor trailer accidents are:
• Aggressive driving, which includes such unsafe driving behaviors as speeding, tailgating (following too closely), cutting other vehicles off, and unsafe lane changes.
• Distracted driving, particularly texting while driving and other use of cellphones. Research commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows the odds of being involved in a crash, near crash, or unintentional lane deviation are 23 times greater for truck drivers who text while driving than for those who do not.
• Fatigued or drowsy driving. Truck drivers’ long work hours cause sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep/rest cycles, and fatigue, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says. Institute research has found that truck drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours are twice as likely to crash.
• Impaired driving, involves both drunk driving and drugged driving. Because truckers are subject to testing and may lose their commercial license, drunk driving accidents among truck drivers are relatively rare compared to drunk driving among passenger vehicle drivers.
• Improper maintenance. The IIHS says tractor trailers with defective equipment were twice as likely to be involved in crashes as trucks without defects. Brake defects were the most common problem, followed by faulty steering equipment.
Another problem with truck crashes is the danger of underride, which is caused by the height of commercial trucks.
In an underride crash, a passenger vehicle slides partially or wholly under a truck or trailer, increasing the likelihood of death or serious injury to the shorter vehicle’s occupants.
Rear underride guards, which are required on trucks of appropriate size, are supposed to stop this from happening, but IIHS research indicates that even guards that meet federal safety standards can fail in relatively low speed crashes.