There are many causes of accidents, but most can be broken down into two categories. Those which the driver has control over and those that the driver has no control over. Let’s take a look at situations the driver has control over and the ability to prevent.
Fatigue – Driver fatigue is a very common problem with commercial truck drivers as they are scheduled on long routes and many times need to make up for lost time from traffic or upcoming delivery dates. Driving without sleep or even just a lack of sleep is extremely dangerous when operating a tractor-trailer or large vehicle and is one of the leading causes of truck accidents on our roadways. Get plenty of sleep and don’t drive if you don’t feel 100%.
Speeding – We all go over the speed limit from time to time, but for truckers, it is even more important to keep your speed within the legal limits as driving too fast in a vehicle that cannot stop quickly is a very common cause of accidents. When a heavily loaded truck is going too fast and needs to stop quickly or turn to avoid other vehicles, this can cause rear end accidents, rollovers, jackknifes and pile up car & truck accidents. Always maintain a safe speed when driving commercial vehicles or it could end up costing you.
Driving Too Fast For Road Conditions – When the roads are wet, icy, covered in gravel or sand or even clear but have lots of sharp turns, you need to be extra cautious in tractor trailer type vehicles. Excessive speed can cause you to drive through turns, run into other vehicles that can stop faster than you, drive off the road or lead to many other bad situations. Always be aware of road conditions and keep your speed at a safe level to avoid these kinds of accidents.
Prescription And Non-Prescription Drug Use – Driving under the influence isn’t legal in any type of vehicle, but is even more important for commercial drivers to stay away from because these large vehicles often cause much worse accidents than normal passenger vehicles. The use of prescription drugs is allowed in some cases, but abuse of the doctor recommended daily intake can get you into trouble and impair your ability to safely operate your vehicle. Even over the counter drugs for colds can have a drowsy effect to them which is not safe at all for any driver. Keep it clean and wait to use any medication until you have plenty of time to get them out of your system before driving again.
Alcohol Consumption – Many of us like to have a few beers or cocktails every now and then, but we all know that driving under the influence of alcohol is very dangerous and is a major cause of severe accidents as well as fatal vehicle accidents. This is even more true for impaired truckers because they need to be extra aware of their surroundings to be able to safely operate a large vehicle with heavy loads. Stay off the alcohol and never consume any while driving as that is a recipe for disaster.
Illegal Maneuvers – As with any vehicle, you need to drive within the limits of the laws. This means using turn signals, making sure all of your signals, brake lights and headlights work properly, checking your mirrors before changing lanes, following traffic signs and signals and more. Performing illegal maneuvers with your semi – truck is a sure fire way to get yourself in trouble out there so make sure to keep it legal and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Load Shifts – Drivers are responsible for making sure the load in their trucks is securely fastened down and is not too top heavy. If a load is top heavy and the driver has to go through curvy roads or has to turn sharply to avoid something, the load can fall over or slide to the wrong side of the truck, causing uneven weight distribution which can make the truck rollover, tilt through turns and cause poor handling. Always make sure your truck is properly loaded with even weights on both sides of the trailer and has proper fasteners to keep the tall loads of goods from falling over during quick turns.
Distractions – Distracted driving is becoming more and more common these days as everyone has a smartphone with access to texting, phone calls, the internet, social media platforms and much more right at your fingertips. While that text may seem super important, taking your eyes off the road even for a second can be devastating. Especially since many other people are also driving while distracted, it is even more important to pay full attention at all times while driving a commercial(or regular) vehicle. This includes distractions such as your radio or passengers that are riding with you during your routes.
Illness – You can’t do much to keep from getting sick, but if you are sick and have a route to complete, only proceed if you feel that it is safe to do so and you can maintain complete awareness and quick reaction times throughout the entire run. Stay off of the medications that make you drowsy and get the rest your body needs as soon as possible before returning to driving. You’ll be happy you made that choice.
Now it’s time to look at some of the most common situations that cause accidents where the trucker has no control over it.
Brake problems – Failing brakes are a common problem with trucks that are carrying heavy loads. Especially when driving through the mountains here in Colorado, as the constant use of the brakes down steep hills with heavy loads can often cause brakes to overheat and fail. This situation is very dangerous as the truck will not be able to stop without brakes and many times the driver has to use runaway truck ramps when they are available to avoid getting into an accident with other drivers. The truckers do have some control over this by using their gearbox to help slow them down, but that doesn’t always solve the problem as mechanical issues are abundant across all types of vehicles and tractor trailers are under constant stress so they are even more common.
Tire Blowouts – Even brand new tires can blowout when you least expect it. When this does happen, many times it can cause the driver to lose control over the vehicle which is always dangerous. This can be caused by nails or sharp objects in the road, over inflation of tires or just bad manufacturing and stress tests. While the trucker can control changing out old worn tires, they cannot control when their truck company replaces their tires, how much air the tire installer puts in the tires or any of the manufacturing processes so these kinds of things aren’t usually the drivers fault.
Engine Or Control System Malfunctions – Commercial vehicles are equipped with all types of control systems that have dozens of sensors to keep the trucks from operating in dangerous conditions, but what if those sensors, systems or even the engine or transmission fails? This is outside the control of the driver and can put them in a very scary situation, especially when driving in close proximity to other cars on the road or through sketchy roadways. Make sure to give truckers plenty of space because you never know when they could be experiencing a malfunction.
Poorly Performed Or Overlooked Maintenance From Mechanics – As with anyone, we all have bad days every now and then, which means commercial trucking mechanics can also have bad days. Maybe they forgot to check something on their list or performed their maintenance on the truck quickly and without attention to detail. There are many different things that can easily be overlooked when doing maintenance on such large vehicles and they could end up failing and causing an accident an hour or even years after the maintenance was done.
Other Drivers Actions – Drivers are unpredictable in many situations and when driving a heavy load, it is much harder to quickly and safely react to their driving. The other drivers could be distracted, speeding, driving recklessly, changing lanes improperly, in your blind spots, not using turn signals, braking quickly in front of trucks or just flat out driving illegally because they are in a hurry. All of it is unpredictable by truck drivers and plays a major role in truck accidents across the nation on a regular basis.
Poor Roadway Design/Maintenance – We have all driven down roads where the posted turn speed seems too high or there are massive potholes or unmarked bumps or intersections. This is not the fault of the drivers, but can lead to being in precarious situations many times, even for the most experienced drivers. If you encounter any type of poor roadway maintenance or missing signage, use extra caution because you never know what else could be dangerous up ahead.
Missing Or Hidden Traffic Signs – Have you ever almost blown through a stop sign because there were untrimmed trees or bushes blocking the stop sign from view? Well truckers have to deal with this all the time and just like you, they cannot always see these signs until it is too late. Make sure to always use caution when approaching intersections, especially if they are poorly marked or very dark and hard to see. It could end up preventing a bad accident. And if you are the property owner that has overgrown bushes, branches or anything else blocking the view of road signs, make sure you trim them regularly!
Interruption Of Traffic Flow – We have all been caught off guard by a sudden stop in traffic or unexpected merging due to pulled over vehicles and accidents on the side of the road. This is even more dangerous for semi-trucks as they cannot swerve, brake or avoid these situations nearly as quickly as a car can. Use extra caution when approaching these types of situations, especially if you have a semi truck driving closely behind you. Get out of their way if you can and never stop abruptly in front of commercial trucks.
Unfamiliarity Of The Roads – Driving on roads that you are unfamiliar with can be dangerous if you aren’t paying very close attention to everything around you. Especially when driving through tight twists and turns through the mountains. Many times the posted speeds for turns in the mountains are not safe speeds for heavily loaded trucks to make the turn and can cause them to lose control or have to come into your lane. Make sure to always be careful around semis in these types of conditions because you never know if they are familiar with the road they are driving on or not. It could be a brand new route for them that they haven’t traveled yet or are taking a detour due to road construction.
Some common types of commercial trucks involved in accidents are: semi-trucks or tractor trailers, trash trucks, cement trucks, public transportation buses, school buses, tow trucks, tankers and more. All of these vehicles are extremely heavy, cannot maneuver quickly, cannot brake quickly and are typically carrying heavy loads that make these tasks even more difficult.
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, you need the help of an experienced Colorado trucking accident attorney to make sure you come out the other side of the accident in the best situation possible. We have been dealing with truck accidents for decades and know exactly how to present your case so that you can get the maximum compensation possible for your injuries. Don’t try to navigate these sticky situations yourself, it could end up costing you a lot of money on your claim. Feel free to give us a call with any questions and a free consultation or stop by our office in Downtown Colorado Springs and speak with us in person.