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Common Causes of Truck Accidents


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Driving a commercial vehicle, like a big rig, requires special training and licensing. There are also rules and regulations about things like how many hours a day they can be on the road and for how many days in a row they can haul. These rules and regulations are set forth to avoid truck accidents, and while they definitely help reduce the number of truck accidents annually, they don't stop accidents altogether. At Goodman Acker, we have experienced lawyers who are well-versed in the common causes of truck accidents.

What Is a Truck Accident?

Truck Accident Attorneys in Michigan
Image via Flickr by Alan Light | Licensed by CC BY 2.0

A truck accident is classified differently than your typical automobile accident because it involves commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers. These accidents tend to be much more catastrophic based on the size of the vehicle involved. Truck accidents often cause much more property damage, and the injuries sustained by those in a vehicle struck by the truck are often significantly worse. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, from 2017 to 2018:

  • Large truck property-only damage accidents increased by 14% to 414,000.

  • Accidents resulting in injuries involving large trucks increased by 5% to 112,000.

  • Fatalities from truck accidents increased 1% to 4,862.

Fatal crashes were most often caused by speeding, inattention, failure to yield the right of way, and impairment of some sort.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents can happen anywhere at any time. However, statistics show that there are several common causes of truck accidents. These causes account for a majority of truck accidents on our roads.


Due to the sheer size of a tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler, it takes longer to slow it down. Driving faster than the posted speed limit means that truckers will need more time and space to slow down or stop safely. Thus, trucks that speed are putting everyone on the road at an increased risk for an accident.

Inattentive Driving

Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle should give their full attention to the road. The sole focus should be getting to your destination safely. However, drivers often eat lunch from the fast-food joint they stopped at, switch radio stations to get to a better song, or use their cell phones. Distracted driving can also be caused by chatting with your passenger or having to listen to the children bicker in the backseat. Anything that takes the driver's attention away from the road increases the risk of getting into an accident.

Failure to Yield

Failure to yield the right of way means that a truck driver didn't allow the other vehicle to go when that driver had the right of way. Failure to yield happens at intersections, traffic lights, left turns, three-way intersections, and at stop and yield signs. Truck drivers may think that they have the right of way because they're larger, but regardless of the size of your vehicle, you still need to follow the rules of the road. The failure to yield causes many of the most severe and fatal car and truck accidents.


This common cause of truck accidents encompasses several factors, but they all fall under impaired driving. A driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses a risk to others on the road because their reflexes, reaction time, and judgment are impaired. Another type of impairment happens when a truck driver is tired or fatigued. Driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence, as your senses are not at their peak. Drivers who spend too much time on the road and not enough time sleeping are hazardous. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can also cause drowsiness.

Failure to Check Blind Spots

As you can imagine, it's hard to see all the way around and behind a big rig truck. This obstructed view means that the driver not only needs to be more aware of their surroundings, including what vehicles are around them, but it also means they need to take more time and care when checking their blind spots. The addition of special blind-spot mirrors or video cameras and other blind-spot monitoring technology helps drivers avoid these types of collisions.

Aggressive Driving

Truck drivers are on a tight schedule. They need to make their deliveries on time in order to get paid, and they have to meet the 'behind the wheels' requirements of their contracts. Sometimes a driver who has fallen behind in their deliveries may start to drive erratically, weaving in and out of traffic to try to close the gap they've created in their schedule. This type of maneuvering isn't easy for semi-trucks and may cause them to lose control or side-swipe another vehicle. Add in speeding to this aggressive driving, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Shifting Cargo

If the truck isn't properly loaded or carries too much cargo, the load may shift during the drive. This cargo shift can cause a truck driver to lose control of the 18-wheeler, especially if the cargo shifts when the driver is braking or making a sharp turn. Cargo shifts can also cause the trailer to become unbalanced, resulting in a rollover accident. A driver who isn't in control of their rig risks colliding with another vehicle or jackknifing in the middle of the road.

Poor Maintenance

As with any vehicle, regular maintenance is required on big trucks as well. Drivers and trucking companies that choose to cut costs by not maintaining their trucks properly put everyone on the road in danger. Trucks that are not maintained can break down on the road, causing an accident. Potential causes of accidents due to poor maintenance include bald tires and defective brakes. Even worse, some trucks are considered out-of-service and shouldn't even be on the road, yet they're still out there. Out-of-service trucks have so many service violations that they should be towed to the nearest mechanic.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a truck accident, reach out to the team at Goodman Acker. With over 150 years of experience, our lawyers have the knowledge to represent you and to get you the compensation you deserve. We offer a free consultation. Contact us today online.