Driving an enormous commercial truck requires highly-specialized training. Truck drivers need to know how to safely navigate around smaller vehicles, properly secure loads, and maintain control during tire blowouts or poor weather conditions.
Trucks have the potential to cause catastrophic damage in truck accidents. Recent studies indicate that more than 25 percent of serious and fatal trucking collisions are caused by fatigue or inadequate training.
What are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
In order to prevent truck accidents, it is important to know what causes them. Some common causes include the following:
The average commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. That is 20 to 30 times the size of the average passenger vehicle. A machine of that size and force requires a significant distance to come to a complete stop, especially at high speeds, during poor weather, or when traveling downhill.
To offer some perspective, consider that it takes a car or SUV traveling 65 miles per hour around 300 feet to stop. At the same speed, it takes a large tractor trailer around 525 feet to stop. Truckers that exceed the speed limit or tailgate the driver ahead of them lose the crucial space they need to react quickly.
Alcohol or Drugs
Drugs and alcohol significantly impact a driver’s ability to safely operate a truck in many ways. High doses of stimulants, including cocaine and amphetamines, can make drivers overconfident and more inclined to take risks. Depressants, like alcohol and painkillers, slow reaction times and can make drivers very drowsy. Marijuana and other hallucinogenic drugs impair reaction time and concentration.
Drivers tend to associate distracted driving with mobile phones. Texting and driving is a major problem in the trucking industry. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that truckers are 23 times more likely to be involved in wrecks while using cellphones.
However, a phone is not the only distraction. Eating a meal, turning to reach for something, or adjusting the radio or other controls for even a few seconds can lead to devastating wrecks.
Truckers are particularly susceptible to the effects of fatigue. Traveling for extended periods of time along monotonous stretches of highway is mentally and physically taxing. Fatigue alters driving in similar ways to drugs and alcohol. Lack of sleep slows reaction time and impairs motor skills.
Financial incentives for truckers to reach their destinations as quickly as possible can discourage them from pulling over and getting much-needed rest.
Signs of fatigue and drowsy driving include:
- Frequent yawning
- Heavy eyelids
- Forgetting the last few miles traveled
- Missing exits and turns
Shifting or Overloaded Cargo
Anyone who has every driven near a truck carrying poorly loaded cargo knows how ominous an overloaded or unsecured load can look.
Improperly loaded trucks can cause the following:
- Tire blowouts caused be extra weight.
- Worn brakes due to increased friction.
- Rollover accidents due to the shifted center of gravity.
- Challenges controlling trucks with excess weight in the back.
State and federal laws limit cargo for commercial trucks, but that does always mean trucking companies comply with these guidelines.
Every driver is responsible for ensuring their vehicle is safe to operate and all the parts and equipment are well-maintained. Truck drivers and operators are required to inspect brakes and other parts, and record their results before every trip.
All necessary repairs must be completed and reported in writing. Neglecting routine maintenance can lead to breakdowns and serious accidents.
Poor Road Conditions
Sometimes, the cause of a truck accident is out of the motorist’s control. Poor weather or hazardous road conditions can make driving more difficult. Any seasoned driver knows to slow down and proceed with caution in bad weather and road construction. Good training helps drivers navigate these obstacles while maintaining control.
What Causes Poor Training?
Effective trucker training addresses all the common safety issues mentioned above. With all the hazards that truckers face, it is surprising some commercial truck driver schools offer brief, three-week Commercial Driver License (CDL) programs. Three weeks may not be enough to prepare trainees to safely operate multi-ton rigs in all conditions, especially considering a significant part of the training is spent in the classroom.
It is up to trucking companies to ensure their employees have the practical skills and knowledge they need to be safe drivers. While some advertise they are willing to hire drivers right out of school, others offer additional training and require new truckers to spend time working under more seasoned drivers.
Improper training is a widespread problem for several reasons:
- The time it takes to provide extra training.
- The cost of training a new driver.
- Truck driver shortage, which is expected to double over the next decade.
Many trucking companies simply do not have the staff or the resources to offer additional training for new hires. Lack of resources leaves inexperienced drivers ill-prepared to handle unexpected hazards, leading to more truck accidents.
Can I Sue After a Truck Collision?
Anyone who has been injured in a truck accident should make their health their top priority. It is important to document any treatment for injuries, including surgery, hospitalization, medication, or physical therapy. These records will be an important part of any future personal injury claim.
The next step is to schedule a case review with an attorney who has specific experience handling tough truck accident cases. Wrecks involving commercial trucks are complex because liability can lie with the company that manufactured the rig, the company that hire the driver, or the actual driver.
How Can I Prove Liability?
A successful claim depends on clearly establishing the details of how and why a truck accident occurred. When poor training is to blame for a tragic collision, the company that put that driver behind the wheel may be responsible for damages.
Depending on the nature of a claim, damages for a truck accident might include:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of wages and future earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of the ability to provide companionship for a partner
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
What are Punitive Damages?
Companies that are especially careless in putting ill-trained drivers behind the wheel may also be required to pay out punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to penalize companies that act egregiously and endanger the lives of others.
Examples of actions that might warrant punitive damages include falsifying safety inspections, not allowing rest breaks, or allowing traffic violators to continue driving without retraining. Punitive damages are deterrents to other companies, encouraging them to comply with safety training and trucking laws.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer?
An experienced lawyer understands state and federal laws governing truck owners and operators. They can determine who is at fault for a truck collision and take the necessary legal steps to hold them responsible for a victim’s injuries.
A truck accident can be devastating in so many ways. A skilled attorney can review a person’s case and recommend the best legal course of action to recover compensation for physical injuries, lost income, and property damage.
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Hold Careless Truck Drivers Accountable for Accidents and Injuries
Inadequate training remains a problem in the trucking industry, which causes an increase in accidents. If you were injured by a negligent truck driver, one of our Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers can help. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we proudly represent injured truck accident victims. Contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237 for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.