The Most Common Causes of Large Truck Crashes

Because of the sheer size of a truck, accidents involving large trucks are some of the most dangerous types of crashes on the road. When a semi or other large truck crashes with a passenger vehicle, the chance of serious injury or fatality is high. In 2016, for example, almost 4,000 people were killed in large truck crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and thousands more were injured. Here is a closer look at what factors play a role in those crashes.

Driver Decisions Remain the Top Cause of Truck Crashes

In a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study, a selection of crashes were analyzed to determine the underlying cause. The study found that the largest number of crashes occurred due to decisions made by the driver, with 38 percent of the crashes falling into this category. In other words, of all the crashes studied, 38 percent occurred because the driver made a decision that put the truck on a collision course. Some common examples of driver decisions that can lead to a crash include:

  • Speeding
  • Failure to follow posted traffic signals
  • Improper lane changes
  • Driving too close to other vehicles.

Considering the fact that the IIHS estimates it takes 20 to 40 percent more roadway to stop a truck than a passenger vehicle, this makes sense. Going too fast for conditions or following too closely means a truck is extremely likely to crash into the car in front of it. Since a truck weighs 20 to 30 percent more than the other cars on the road, that crash is highly likely to cause a serious injury.

Driver Distraction Another Leading Cause

In the FMCSA study, the second leading cause of truck crashes was listed as poor driver recognition of the danger. This means something caused the driver not to recognize the risk until it was too late. Inattention to the road caused by distractions in the cab is the most common reason for this. Drivers who are distracted by the technology on their vehicles or something they see outside of the vehicle significantly increase the risk of causing a crash.Minimizing distractions and training drivers to avoid becoming distracted is the best way to combat this. Driver recognition problems were responsible for 28 percent of the crashes studied.

Driver Performance Problems Another Leading Cause

Surprisingly, driver performance problems, such as falling asleep, driving impaired or having a medical event while driving, was the third on the list, not the top. This particular cause accounted for 12 percent of the crashes studied. Physical impairment of truck drivers is still a risk, with fatigue being the highest risk, but not quite as risky as distraction or poor driving decisions.

Problems with the Vehicle

Finally, the fourth most common reason for crashes, affecting 10 percent of the crashes studied, was problems with the vehicle itself. Brake problems were the most common of those problems, though other vehicle issues, such as blown tires or defective parts, can also lead to a crash.

Other Common Causes

While these are the most common causes, other factors can cause truck crashes as well. Poor road conditions or weather conditions, for example, make truck driving harder. While weather may be predictable, sometimes a driver can’t avoid driving through ice, snow or rain. Drivers need to be taught how to handle these hazardous road conditions in order to stay safer on the road.

Every time a truck heads out on the road, risks are present. By understanding these risks and taking measures to prevent accidents involving these problems, truck drivers can help protect everyone that they share the road with.



From the Author: Help After a Truck Crash