In 2007 there were over 139,000 large trucks in the US that were involved in non-fatal crashes*, and more than 4,500 large trucks involved in fatal crashes.**
Because commercial trucks are so much larger and heavier than other vehicles, the majority of injuries and fatalities occur in the smaller vehicles or pedestrians that collide with trucks, or with pedestrians.
A large number of accidents involving commercial trucks are not the fault of either the truck driver or because of a truck defect, but are in fact caused in whole or in part by car drivers. This is because car drivers often fail to understand the difference in maneuverability between passenger cars and trucks. Drivers may cut a truck off; pull out in front of a truck and expect it to be able to brake quickly; fail to recognize that a truck is going to turn right while trying to drive around it; be pulled by cross-wind when passing a truck, amongst other things. However, there are many other causes for commercial truck accidents, some of which are detailed below:
One of the most common causes of commercial truck accidents is a mistake by the driver. Although truck drivers are usually well aware that ostensibly their vehicles are more dangerous than others, and are given a lot of training in accordance with truck handling, human error is a common cause of truck accidents. If a driver is stressed or overworked, misjudges a situation, or experiences poor or hazardous road conditions, these can be factors that cause or contribute to accidents. A significant number of accidents (over 8%) occur as a result of driver fatigue.
If a truck is overloaded, it creates dangerous situations for both the driver and other road users. Not only will a heavier truck be more difficult to control, but debris may come loose and hit other vehicles or cause drivers to swerve out of the way. A heavier truck will not be able to stop as quickly and may jackknife or flip over.
Sometimes there can be a problem with the truck itself that causes the accident. If the brakes are not well maintained this can cause an accident by itself, and burst tires can cause a vehicle to lose control, overturn or jackknife. Further if the vehicle has no under ride protection, or has a cab-guard or other piece of equipment that is faulty this can cause an accident to be much worse – both in human cost and vehicular damage - than it would otherwise have been, not only for the truck driver but also for people in smaller vehicles that have collided with the truck.
Although there are far fewer commercial truck drivers arrested for DUI in the US each year than passenger vehicles, a truck driver only needs to have half of the level of alcohol in their blood than a car driver to be over the limit (0.04% for truck drivers, 0.08% for car drivers.)
*Blue Bullet Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS)
** Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).