Did you know that a fully loaded commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds? These large vehicles often travel at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour on our highways and interstates – even faster if the driver is speeding. The laws of physics ensure that when these heavy vehicles collide with other people or objects, massive devastation occurs.
Many truck accident victims suffer catastrophic and life-altering injuries, while many others lose their lives. Therefore, you should know some of the most common causes of truck accidents in California so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
Fatigued Driving and Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for regulating interstate truck drivers. One regulation required by the FMCSA is that truckers must follow hours of service rules, which are designed to prevent fatigued driving truck accidents. Hours of service rules limit how long truck drivers can operate within a certain period before they are required to rest. However, drivers may ignore these rules, even if there is a risk of being caught.
For example, a fatigued Walmart truck driver caused comedian Tracy Morgan’s accident, which caused him to suffer serious injuries and resulted in another person’s death. Investigators determined the driver was speeding and had been awake for more than 24 hours. Unfortunately, fatigued driving accidents involving trucks are commonplace in California and across the country.
New regulations require most truck companies to install electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their vehicles so it is more difficult to falsify hours of service information. ELDs record driving time and other information that can help inspectors identify drivers who are cheating and not taking mandatory rest breaks. At the same time, there are also concerns that these mandatory devices encourage dangerous driving and speeding as truckers then try to make up for productivity losses.
There are also additional reasons truck drivers experience fatigue. Some commercial drivers may suffer from untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which interrupts breathing during sleep. Individuals with this treatable condition may suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness.
Speeding and Dangerous Driving
You must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate an 18-wheeler. Drivers undergo a medical examination and must participate in training. However, training does not necessarily guarantee that commercial truckers will drive safely. Wrecks like the recent crash in Colorado could easily happen (and probably has happened) on roads in California. In that case, a commercial trucker was driving at twice the posted speed limit when he ran into other vehicles.
Commercial truck drivers also cause accidents if they are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Like any other driver, alcohol or drugs can slow reaction time, interrupt focus and cause other issues that significantly increase the risk of an accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a blood alcohol concentration of .10 interferes with the ability to maintain lane position and properly brake.
Negligent Hiring and Truck Accidents
Commercial trucking companies may hire unqualified drivers to save money. In some cases, companies even hire truckers who do not hold CDLs. Some drivers may have disqualifying medical conditions, and others may have a history of safety violations that bar them from holding a CDL. For instance, commercial drivers can lose their CDLs for drug and alcohol violations. A history of accidents might also make a truck driver unqualified to hold a CDL.
Negligent retention is another common issue in the commercial trucking industry. This is where a company continues to employ an unqualified or dangerous driver. Depending on the circumstances, the company could be liable for damages if that driver injures or kills other motorists.
Poor Maintenance and Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks may suffer from maintenance issues. Parts of the truck can come off and hit other drivers. Trucks with poor brakes or tires may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision with other vehicles. Power steering and transmission issues could very easily cause a truck accident. All of these parts must be maintained and kept in working order.
Federal regulations require trucking companies to regularly inspect their vehicles and to perform maintenance. However, this does not mean a company can wait until a part breaks before performing maintenance on a vehicle. Preventative maintenance measures are also required by federal regulations.
Distracted Driving and Truck Accidents
Distracted driving is not only an issue for regular drivers, but also commercial truckers. Federal regulations on mobile phone use are very strict. Truck drivers are only allowed to use a phone in a very limited number of situations.
There are other types of distracted driving that could lead to a wreck, such as eating or using other electronic devices.
About Our San Jose Truck Accident Lawyers
Needham Kepner & Fish LLP is a personal injury law firm in San Jose. You can reach out to our San Jose truck accident lawyers if you or a loved one suffered harm due to a negligent truck driver or company. Schedule a consultation with us by calling (408) 956-6949. You can also use our online contact form.