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Large Truck Crashes: What You Should Know

Jason Reese


  • Latest numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) have reported nearly 4,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks (and buses) on U.S. roads each year.
  • While most accidents are created by mistakes made by passenger vehicle drivers, there are several known reasons why truckers may be at fault for an accident including: driver error, poor vehicle maintenance, equipment failure, reckless driving in bad weather, and improper cargo loading.
  • Whatever the cause, when a passenger vehicle collides with these large and heavy trucks, the people inside often face life-long injuries, emotional and financial strains, or even death.
  • Understanding the most common causes of trucking accidents can help all road users be responsible, alert, and hopefully help prevent them.

What You Need to Know About Crashes Involving Large Trucks

Large trucks are typically defined as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds designed, used, or maintained primarily for carrying property, or any vehicle carrying hazardous materials that requires placarding, regardless of weight. FARS defines a bus as “a vehicle with seats for at least nine people, including the driver.” In 2015, of the 32,166 fatal crashes on the Nation’s roadways, 3,838 (11.9 percent) involved at least one large truck (or bus). In addition, there were an estimated 6,263,000 nonfatal crashes, 476,000 (7.6 percent) of which involved at least one large truck (or bus).

Because these accidents are much more dangerous than typical passenger car crashes, due to their incredible size and weight, crashes will often result in life-long injuries, emotional and financial strains, or even death to occupants of passenger vehicles while operators of trucks and buses remain unharmed.

Five Ways Truck Drivers Could Be Held Responsible for a Trucking Accident

Nearly 4,000 people are killed in semi-truck accidents each year, amounting to eleven deaths a day in the U.S. In addition, there are 100,000 injuries related to truck accidents annually. NHTSA has analyzed truck crashes and concluded that these events and driver actions most often lead to crashes:

  • Loss of control of the truck after driving possibly because of some event like a tire blowout or animal crossing or hood flew up
  • Disabling or non-disabling vehicle failure
  • Engine problem
  • Another motor vehicle encroaching on the truck’s lane
  • Poor road conditions due to lack of road maintenance or weather
  • Traveling too fast for road conditions
  • Shifting cargo
  • Lane drifting – either truck or passenger vehicle
  • Driving off the edge of the road
  • Improper truck maneuvering during events (turns and passing through intersections)
  • Coming upon a stopped vehicle
  • Finding objects on the highway
  • Driver fatigue
  • Distracted driving

Trusted voices in the trucking industry, including major freight companies and technology groups like GTG, say the five most common challenges related to the recklessness or irresponsible operating of a truck driver include:

  1. Driver Error: Most road safety studies prove that more than 80 percent of trucking-related accidents are caused by driver error via the passenger vehicle driver, and only 20 percent at the fault of a truck driver. But truck drivers can still make mistakes like other drivers such as drowsy driving or operating while impaired, distracted or recklessly.
  2. Poor Vehicle Maintenance: To keep up with the immense wear and tear on trucks, companies and drivers must regularly check trucks for problems and fix them. Equipment failure, such as worn brake pads, failing tires or a cracked windshield, can cause a major traffic accident.
  3. Equipment Failure: Poor fleet maintenance isn’t the only thing that can cause a truck’s equipment to fail at a dangerous moment. Equipment manufacturers may be guilty of negligence during a part’s production, leading to defective or dangerous components. Parties that may be liable for defective parts in a trucking accident include the parts manufacturer, truck manufacturer, trucking company that sold the truck, and the mechanic who made part repairs.
  4. Bad Weather: Poor weather can throw a trucker for a loop if he or she is not adequately trained and prepared to drive in certain conditions. Rain, snow, and ice can be especially tricky for truckers to drive on, due to the heavy weight and slower stopping speeds of the vehicle. Truckers need to travel at an appropriate speed for all conditions and learn proper braking techniques to avoid skidding, hydroplaning, or jackknifing.
  5. Improper Cargo Loading: Truckers and cargo loading teams have to abide by industry-specific rules when it comes to loading the bed of a commercial truck. There are certain weight, size, length, width, and height limits to a load, as well as special methods of securing cargo for transportation. Mistakes or negligence during loading procedures can make a load fall off into the road, causing catastrophic accidents.

While increased and emerging technologies can help fight against the issues that most commonly cause trucking accidents, driver behavior amongst all road sharers and routine truck safety checks are key in preventing accidents before they occur.

Safe Driving Tactics for Sharing the Road with a Big Rig

Many drivers feel uneasy around big trucks and semi-trailers, but that nervousness may create an even bigger opportunity to make a deadly mistake. Let the team at Wagner Reese help by having you review a few simple driving tactics that we feel can help protect you against facing a tragic accident with these road hogs.

  1. There is no need to drive too closely. Following any vehicle too closely can be dangerous – but following a large truck or bus too closely can be deadly. Also, make sure the truck is far enough behind you before you cross lanes in front of them.
  2. Leave room for bigger vehicles to drive far ahead or behind. This doesn’t mean you should speed, but if you are directly in front of a semi, make sure you allow them adequate room to maneuver and get out of their way.
  3. Never drive distracted, or impaired by alcohol or drugs, and always wear your safety belt.

Lastly, truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers need to be respectful of each other, follow road safety rules closely, and just simply learn to share the pavement.

Involved in a Crash with a Semi-Truck?

If tragedy strikes and you are involved in a crash with a semi-truck (or bus), the team at Wagner Reese can assist. In the case of a loved one lost as a result of a truck accident, our expert wrongful death attorneys can help you to understand your rights and options and will fight to get your family the compensation you deserve.

If you would like legal advice on your accident, call us today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation or speak with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information.


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