Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted what they called The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the findings of which remain relevant.
According to the study, major causes of truck accidents include driver inexperience, defective vehicle design or manufacture, fatigue, drunk driving, and speeding. The frightening part is that drivers may engage in these behaviors days, weeks, or even months before an accident occurs.
Unfortunately, these accidents are often deadly. Most big rigs weigh around 80,000 pounds and are unable to slow or stop quickly. Furthermore, most truckers work for companies or are contracted out, so liability can be difficult to decipher when an injury victim wants to pursue compensation.
That’s where Carner & DeVita come in. Since 1957, we’ve served clients in the Long Island area and helped them recover the compensation they need. Trust a truck accident lawyer on Long Island to investigate your wreck and seek the maximum amount of damages available.
Long-Haul Trucking: America’s Lifeline
It’s not hyperbole to say that big rigs and truckers keep the country running. Of all goods shipped from one part of the country to another, 70% are transported via truckers. Every year that number rises.
Unfortunately, so do the number of accidents involving trucks. Since 2009, fatalities in truck accidents have risen 57 percent. Out of all fatalities involving automobiles, at least 74% involve big rigs. The country saw 4,102 deaths involving semis in 2017 alone.
A lot of the blame falls not on the truckers, but on other drivers on the road. While fatalities among truckers have steadily fallen every year since 1975, almost 98% of the accidents are caused in part or whole by other passenger vehicles on the road. Many drivers fail to understand that handling a truck is a different skill set than driving a car.
Accidents caused by passenger vehicles often stem from:
- Reckless passing. This can be abrupt lane changes near a truck, unsafe passing, or driving in a truck’s “no-zone” where the driver’s visibility is limited. Trucks also displace a lot of air when rolling down the road, and drivers often fail to adjust for the cross-wind or air turbulence.
- Maneuvering around a truck. This could be driving on the right side of a truck that’s making a right turn or misjudging the speed making a left turn in front of the truck. It’s also highly inadvisable to drive between two trucks for any extended period of time.
- Improper merging or failing to adjust speed when a truck begins to change lanes or merge. It’s best to stay out of their way. Failing to accelerate sufficiently when pulling into traffic can also be a danger.
While other people on the road can and do cause truck accidents, the negligent actions of the driver or the trucking company itself can also be a major cause of collisions.
Driving a Truck Requires a Lot of Skill and Training
Not just anyone can jump behind the wheel of a fully-loaded 18-wheeler. It takes a good deal of training and a particular set of skills and knowledge to safely operate a large truck.
Apart from a valid driver’s license, the State of New York requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) of some grade. This could be achieved by having a valid CDL from another state or attending a special school for truckers. Getting certified takes between three and six weeks, depending on the school. The course includes hands-on practice, a written test, and a period of riding with a qualified driver. The typical courses cost between $2,000-$5,000.
Trucking has become highly regulated over the past 40 years, making the business safer than ever. Truckers are limited to 11 hours behind the wheel with at least 10 hours between drives. They’re also limited to 70 hours on the road during a normal week. Most truckers are employed by a trucking company. Fully independent truckers who own their rigs and are responsible for everything it does are rare these days.
Because of the demands of commerce and capitalism, most truckers are kept to a tight schedule. Usually, a third party will be responsible for loading and unloading the trailer, and truckers must stop at weigh stations and keep logs of their travels. However, time is money and every second counts, and these demands could lead to drivers being the cause of accidents.
The following behaviors are also main causes of truck accidents:
If you’ve ever made an hours-long drive, you know how tiring it can be. Imagine doing that for 10 hours a day, every day. Truckers are under a lot of pressure to make their travel time as brief as possible and many suffer from fatigue and overwork. This can build up over time, and if the trucker does not properly rest, they can find themselves drowsy or even falling asleep at the wheel.
Alcohol and Drug Use
Like other drivers, some truckers have been guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs. To help deal with fatigue, truckers often consume a large number of stimulants, from caffeine to over-the-counter stimulants. These can lead to a driver being jittery and reckless.
Poor Maintenance and Insufficient Training
It takes a good bit of work to get a CDL. This doesn’t stop some truckers and companies from putting individuals who haven’t been sufficiently trained behind the wheel to save money.
Similarly, a truck requires a lot of regular maintenance, particularly the tires and air brakes. In fact, diligent maintenance is enforced in part by federal law. Some companies cut corners on this necessary maintenance to increase profit, which has disastrous consequences when a tire blows out or brakes fail.
Like everyone else, truckers are on the road because they have to get somewhere. But unlike most of us, they’re usually under a deadline and time is not always on their side. Unforeseen events like traffic snarls or accidents could seriously cut into a trucker’s time. Being late could mean a loss of income, and a lot of truckers will try to make up for lost time by driving too fast for too long. Or they might try to make riskier maneuvers on the highway to avoid getting slowed down.
Driving too fast in a big rig carries the same dangers of lessened reaction time but with much greater consequences. The heavy weight of vehicles can cause them to overturn after a sudden maneuver, and the driver may not have the time and space to safely react to any unexpected hazards.
Across the board, one of the biggest causes of highway accidents is distracted driving, and big rigs are not immune. Public or satellite radio as well as the iconic citizen band radio can distract a trucker on a long haul who’s looking for some good music or checking on conditions down the road.
And, just like the rest of us, truckers can be guilty of texting while driving or checking social media sites while the truck is in motion. Driving long distances can be incredibly boring, and truckers trying to keep sharp may find themselves paying less attention than they should.
Weather Could Also Be a Cause
If you’ve lived in New York for any length of time, you understand just how quickly the weather can change and how dramatic our winters can be. No amount of driver training can prepare someone for the unexpected. Mother Nature can definitely deal out surprises, especially during winter.
While the weather doesn’t amount to one of the main causes of truck accidents, it accounts for enough. Be vigilant when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Snow and ice on the roads can lead to disastrous accidents, but so can standing water left behind by a strong summer storm.
Involved In a Trucking Accident? Call Us.
An accident involving an 18-wheeler is often a different case than a standard automobile crash-up. Truckers are usually backed by big companies with lawyers trained to deal with this situation. Even your insurance company benefits from not paying out on policy and will work harder to do that than help you.
Call us. The truck accident attorneys at Carner & DeVita have over half a century of experience dealing with trucking accidents on Long Island. Our knowledgeable staff can help you seek the compensation you need after a collision with a big truck.
Don’t wait. Call us today at 631-380-4417 to set up a no-risk consultation, and make the first steps toward getting your life back in order.