Common Causes of Big Truck Accidents
Posted On June 23, 2020
Author: Gordon McKernan
There are many factors to consider when investigating a big truck accident, with the purpose being to uncover what ultimately caused the accident. At Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys we look at every aspect of a case to determine the real reason the accident occurred.
Truck driver fatigue is one of the chief causes of truck accidents. This is despite the promulgation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations on driving hours, truck drivers, and their companies. A sleepy or fatigued truck driver is controlling an 80,000-pound metal “tank” at high speeds, and should not be endangering the other drivers around them or themselves. Studies routinely used in court show that fatigued drivers are less alert and have slower reaction times in emergency situations. Drivers who actually fall asleep at the wheel commonly cross over the centerline, force other cars off the road or crash into vehicles from behind.
Federal law limits truckers to no more than 11 hours behind the wheel during one shift, and further requires drivers to rest for at least 10 hours between shifts. Truck drivers must keep a detailed account of their hours in their logbooks. These logbooks become crucial pieces of information in these cases, and we’ve seen instances where logbooks are falsified in order to hide evidence that could be damaging to the defense. The Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys team knows where to dig to prove that truck drivers ignored the Hours of Service regulations. We compare suspicious logbooks to data received from GPS tracking devices and the onboard “black box,” as well as truck stop receipts and other pertinent evidence.
Truck Driver Deadlines
The last place you want to encounter a fatigued commercial truck driver is on the highway, but oftentimes these drivers are driving long routes while trying to meet unreasonable deadlines. Commercial trucks can weigh up to forty tons when fully loaded, so when you put a fatigued truck driver behind the wheel the probability of a major accident increases considerably, with the results often being catastrophic. Complying with tight company deadlines can create added stress for commercial truck drivers, resulting in risky behavior such as speeding and longer stretches of driving. Trucking companies profit from delivering the most amount of goods in the shortest amount of time, so they offer incentives and bonuses for the fastest delivery times. Drivers can sometimes feel pressured to push their limits too far.
Nationwide, as many as twenty-five percent of traffic fatalities in multi-vehicle accidents involve commercial trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created specific guidelines for truck drivers and trucking companies to help prevent driver fatigue. The FMCSA currently limits how long a driver may be driving on the road without stopping for a rest. Despite these regulations, the driver is ultimately responsible for operating the truck safely.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Common sense and federal regulations dictate that 18-wheelers and other big trucks be inspected and maintained regularly to meet certain standards. Truck maintenance is expensive and pulls trucks off the road, causing corporate greed to sometimes trump public safety.
We work with top experts specializing in truck maintenance and repair to prove the negligence of a trucking company in the upkeep of the tractor or trailer for deficiencies such as:
• Bald tires and worn axles
• Worn brakes
• Broken headlights, tail lights or trailer lights
• Missing mud flaps
• Broken trailer latches
• Cracked mirror or glass
• Ripped tarps and broken tie-downs
• Eroded reflective tape
Any of these maintenance issues can lead to an accident if the truck’s load shifts, drops freight, or leaves shredded tire treads in the roadway. Poor maintenance can cause the operator to drive erratically, such as suddenly stopping or swerving. Poor maintenance can also cause accidents if the driver can’t see his surroundings or if other motorists can’t see the truck.
Overweight or Improper Loading
Oftentimes trucking companies try to make more money by overloading a truck or cutting corners on cargo loading regulations. When we investigate a truck accident, we work with experts who can reconstruct the crash and identify the potential loading causes of a big truck accident such as:
• Shifting freight that caused the truck to jackknife or tip over
• Overloading which increased braking distance
• Unbalanced loads that reduced maneuverability
• Improperly secured hazardous cargo
• Unsecured freight that fell from the truck
• Driver error (failure to judge stopping distance)
• Cargo that broke free in a crash and caused injury
• Worn or broken tarps and tie-downs
Big trucks are dangerous enough without compounding this danger with unsafe loading practices. It sometimes requires extensive investigation and dogged determination to get to the real cause of a big truck accident.
Falsified Log Books
Truck drivers are required by law (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act) to keep accurate records regarding rest breaks, cargo weight, driving time, meals, and other important information. Big Rig drivers keep these records manually in logbooks. False records and skipped entries are a serious violation of federal regulations. We have handled many truck accident cases, and are aware of the tricks that some truck drivers use to hide their violations and negligence. From our experience, we know that truck drivers routinely violate the FMCSR laws, with the most common violation involving driving too many hours. To find out if a logbook is fraudulent, and to determine a truck driver’s true behavior, you have to know how to dig deep.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney in Louisiana
Using our over 250 years of combined legal experience, we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of the truth, holding those responsible for your suffering accountable. If you have been injured in a trucking accident, you need experienced attorneys with a proven track record to handle your case. Contact Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
Gordon McKernan graduated with his law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1992. Shortly thereafter, he joined McKernan Law Firm and has been practicing law ever since. He is the owner of the firm, and his primary area of practice is representing ‘ordinary people’ who have been injured because of another’s disregard.