Tractor-trailer accidents occur all over California, from San Diego to Crescent City and everywhere in between. Caltrans reports that “[t]rucking is the predominant mode of freight transportation in California.” This widespread use of trucks on California’s roads sometimes unfortunately leads to significant crashes, badly injuring and killing people. Why are trucking accidents so common? What factors lead to those accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a significant study of what causes large trucks to crash. They reviewed almost 1000 crashes that involved large trucks, creating a database that could be used “to investigate crash causes and contributing factors.”
Most crashes involve more than one cause. For this reason, the study considered a “cause” to be something that increased the likelihood of a crash. Using this definition, the authors identified several issues that should be prioritized to promote trucking safety. These included addressing the problem of truck driver fatigue, gathering information about the condition of trucks involved in accidents, and learning more about how truck drivers performed in accidents.
One major factor that emerged as a potential cause of trucking crashes was the presence of maintenance defects in trucks that were serious enough to have been taken out of service. For example, 32.7% of trucks involved in accidents suffered from significant brake problems, and 23.1% of them were in violation of regulations relating to lights, signals, and markers.
Driver-related factors that contribute to truck crashes include driver fatigue, distracted driving, driver inexperience, and inadequate driver training. Trucking companies may also use pay systems in place that encourage drivers to drive faster than they should or longer than they should. These practices can contribute to dangerous behaviors such as speeding and driving when drowsy.
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