We've mentioned before that wrecks involving tractor trailers are on the rise. Since a tractor trailer accident or collision will almost certainly cause greater damage than automobile-only accidents, it's important to remain informed on what to do in case you're involved in one of these collisions, as well as to know what the most likely causes are so you can take steps to keep yourself safe on the roadways.
While tracking and researching the worrying rise in tractor trailer truck wrecks, we noticed some patterns in what caused the collision. We've put together a list of the top causes of tractor trailer collisions, to help you stay informed and cautious while sharing the road.
5. Lack of Research Into Companies or Truck Drivers
While still on the lower end of the list, this is a growing concern as the need to cut costs is emphasized by companies looking to ship goods around the nation.
Often, a company may hire either an independent driver or a trucking company without doing the research to see if they have a good road-safety record or if their individual semi trucks are in compliance with important safety regulations.
A driver with a poor safety record may be a driver who has been subject to a workload he or she simply cannot keep up with — or they may be more reckless while driving when compared with those with better safety records. A company with a top safety record is more likely to allow its drivers time for rest or more flexible deadlines in case of poor driving conditions.
4. Unsafe Loading or Weight Distribution
The driver of a tractor trailer is rarely the same person who loaded the items before leaving the original facility. If the truck wasn't properly loaded, the heavy weight inside may become unbalanced and the driver may not know to be cautious until it's too late.
A tractor trailer accident in this case could result in a jack-knife as the lack of balance causes the truck to tip over when it might otherwise remain steady.
If the load is balanced but not properly secured, the load may slide around and become imbalanced over time — or even fall off the truck entirely and into the roadways and traffic. If you are driving and realize you are driving behind a tractor trailer whose load has not been properly secured, please take all precautions to avoid the possibility of a collision should the load fall.
3. Poor Weather or Visibility
Truck drivers are often on hard deadlines that don't leave time for stopping due to bad weather, even when visibility is low or road conditions become profoundly unsafe. Unsafe driving conditions can occur in minutes, especially during the winter. A winter storm in Michigan recently led to a pile-up accident involving more than 40 vehicles, including multiple tractor trailer trucks. The accident left 3 dead and 11 injured and the highway blocked for hours as rescue workers worked to help those trapped in their cars to escape.
The best way to take steps to prevent yourself from being involved in such a collision is to avoid driving entirely in bad weather or to pull over to a safe place when visibility becomes impaired. If you absolutely cannot stop, exercise extreme caution.
While South Carolina doesn't receive the kind of winter weather that states further north do, we do find ourselves with the occasional snowstorm or ice storm or extreme rainfall. Stay home if possible, but stay cautious if you must drive during bad weather.
2. Mechanical or Equipment Failure
The truth is, most of these causes all circle back to one simple fact — the increasing pressure to cut costs and edge around regulations in order to make harsher deadlines and lower budget allowances. One side effect that is the second-highest cause of wrecks involving tractor trailers? Basic vehicular maintenance is more and more often postponed or avoided entirely, as well as companies or drivers purchasing equipment that is more prone to failure in order to save on cost short-term.
A tire blowout could easily cause a vehicular collision even in small cars — with a much larger tractor trailer, which needs far more distance to come to a controlled stop in the best of conditions, the risk of a resulting collision is far higher. Defective tires, a failure to keep up with brake light or headlight malfunctions, or even simply putting off routine maintenance like oil changes could lead to mechanical failure while on the road.
Annual inspections and maintenance are required for every driver and company, and if these inspections are performed and acted upon, the risk of mechanical failure will be minimal at most.
However, there has been increasing evidence of companies skirting the regulations and either skipping or postponing inspections until it's too late. Since mechanical failure remains one of the top causes of semi truck accidents, it's important to be cautious when sharing the road with these much-larger vehicles.
The #1 Cause of Tractor Trailer Wrecks? Driver Error.
Of course, this isn't limited to tractor trailers. Driver error is the top cause of all vehicular accidents across the board, but with semi trucks, the rate of driver-error-caused collisions is nearly ten times higher than any other cause.
With tractor trailers, driver fatigue (due to longer working hours and fewer rest breaks) are a large factor in driver error-caused tractor trailer collisions, but distracted driving (including texting or talking on the phone while driving), simple inattention, or even substance abuse are all leading issues.
While problems like poor equipment, improper loading procedures, postponed maintenance, bad weather, or lack of research into hiring standards are all serious concerns and leading factors, these are all issues that can be mitigated with regulation changes or increased emphasis on precaution while you are on the road alongside these large vehicles.
On the other hand, driver error is entirely in the hands of the person behind the wheel.
Bluestein Attorneys is Here to Help in Case of Collision.
If you've been involved in a wreck involving a tractor trailer, a motorcycle wreck, or any kind of automobile accident, Bluestein Attorneys is here to help. We have experience helping clients protect their individual rights and to seek recompense after vehicular collisions, and we'd be happy to speak with you about your unique situation. Contact us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or online at any time to request your FREE consultation.