What Causes Truck Accidents?

In 2015, 60 percent of fatal large truck accidents occurred on rural roads, while 25 percent occurred on interstate routes such as I-35 in Travis County, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

As the oldest personal injury law firm in Austin, Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, has extensive experience handling serious truck accidents. After six decades of service, we can pinpoint the causes of and parties responsible for truck accidents. Negligence is always a factor, but truck accidents are caused by many factors and sometimes involve many parties that can be held liable.

Negligence Of Truck Drivers

Driver's error is the most common cause of commercial truck crashes. Unfortunately, drivers who get behind the wheel of large commercial motor vehicles do not always act responsibly. They often make reckless decisions that lead to tractor-trailer wrecks, such as:

  • Speeding — Truck drivers often travel above the speed limit or go too fast for weather or road conditions. When mammoth 18-wheelers go too fast, drivers can easily lose control and cannot avoid collisions.
  • Distracted driving — Activities such as texting, talking on a cellphone, eating, drinking or playing with a GPS device can prevent a truck driver from keeping adequate surveillance of the road and surrounding traffic.
  • Impaired driving — Driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or over-the-counter medications can impair a driver's physical and mental faculties, greatly increasing the risk of a crash.
  • Drowsy driving — Driving while excessively drowsy can be just as dangerous as impaired driving. Unfortunately, many truck drivers violate FMCSA's "hours of service" regulations, which limit the number of hours they can be on the road during a given period.
  • Aggressive driving — In a rush to meet delivery deadlines, truckers may also drive aggressively. They might tailgate, weave through traffic and refuse to yield to other vehicles, which places others on the road in danger.
  • Failing to follow traffic laws — If truck drivers make an illegal maneuver such as tailgating, failing to yield to other vehicles, or turning or changing lanes without a signal, they create a risk of an accident. Trucking regulations also require truck drivers to put flares or triangles out to alert other drivers if they must pull over to fix a blown tire or other mechanical problems. If they fail to do so, other drivers might not see the stopped tractor-trailers and cause a serious accident.

If a truck driver engages in any of these negligent acts, the driver could be held responsible for the harm that he or she causes to others.

Negligence Of Trucking Companies

The trucking company that employed the driver could be liable too, based on the driver's negligence. Under Texas law, trucking companies can be held responsible for the negligence of their truckers if the negligence occurs while the trucker is acting within the course and scope of employment.

However, in many cases, trucking companies often contribute to crashes through their own wrongful actions. For instance, the company may be liable if they engaged in:

  • Negligent hiring, training and supervision — If companies hire a driver without conducting a sufficient background check, they violate federal rules and their own policies. They may also fail to properly train a driver on how to handle certain rigs and cargo, or neglect to supervise their drivers on compliance with safety rules.
  • Failing to carry out proper inspection and maintenance — Allowing a vehicle to hit the road without adequate inspection and/or maintenance can lead to dangerous tractor-trailers on the road. Some trucking companies do this to cut costs by avoiding repairs, or they are simply negligent in their inspections.
  • Pressure drivers to engage in dangerous practices — Many companies in the trucking industry encourage drivers to violate state and federal safety regulations by putting profits ahead of safety. For instance, they may set tight delivery deadlines, which force drivers to speed, drive aggressively or violate hours of service regulations.
  • Negligent loading of cargo — If a trucking company permits poor loading of cargo, it can cause the cargo to shift or spill, which can lead to accidents.

Negligence Of Truck Manufacturers

Many accidents result from negligence that can be traced back to the manufacturer of the tractor-trailer or its components, especially if the accident involved:

  • Tire tread separation, tire blowouts or wheel roll-offs
  • Brake failure
  • Hydraulic system problems
  • Defective hitches, couplings and safety chains
  • Defective steering mechanisms

When defective tractor-trailer equipment contributes to a wreck, the manufacturer, distributor and/or retailer of the equipment should be held liable for the injuries and other losses that result.

Other Parties' Negligence

In some cases, the cause of a truck accident may stem from the negligence of other parties, including:

  • Mechanics — If a mechanic fails to properly inspect, maintain and repair a tractor-trailer, their negligent repairs can lead to a dangerous truck on Texas roads.
  • Warehouse operators — Careless loading of trailers by warehouse operators can cause cargo to shift or spill, leading to an accident.
  • Shipping brokers — If a broker does not conduct an adequate background check on a prospective employee or hires an unqualified driver, they could be held liable for a truck accident.
  • Bar, stores or restaurants — A bar or restaurant can be held accountable for a truck accident for its decision to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated truck driver.

Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers. We Are Ready To Help.

Regardless of the cause of your truck accident, our attorneys have the necessary experience and dedication to help you. Contact our firm online or call our Austin office at 512-593-7650 for a free consultation.