With so many commercial trucks on the road, it's inevitable that accidents will occur from time to time. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 333,000 large trucks involved in traffic crashes in 2012. Although most truck drivers and trucking companies follow the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), instances of carelessness and negligence still occur.
However, not all trucking accidents are the fault of the driver. Trucking accidents usually cause much greater damage than regular automobile accidents and can cause serious harm to both the driver and people in other vehicles.
Trucking accidents happen for many different reasons, and each trucking accident is unique. However, the causes can often be grouped into several different categories. Here are some of the most common causes of trucking accidents in Florida:
Truck drivers often operate vehicles that weigh up to 80,000 pounds and are up to 100 feet in length. Unfortunately, the pressure to stay awake and make deliveries on time leads many truck drivers to use stimulants and other drugs to stay awake. Driving while under the influence of drugs is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Drugged driving is proven to slow reaction time, decrease motor skills, and impair judgment.
For this reason, federal regulations require trucking companies to regularly test their drivers for alcohol and drugs. Tests must be performed prior to employment, after a serious accident, and periodically throughout the year. These tests look for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines.
Truck drivers make their living driving, and employers often expect that their employees work – or drive – as much as possible. However, if you've ever driven while tired or for a long period of time, you know that fatigue makes it harder to concentrate and drive safely. Truck drivers who drive when fatigued is much more likely to get into an accident.
There are regulations in place on both the federal and state levels that dictate how long drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel. Additionally, drivers are supposed to keep track of on-duty non-driving hours, on-duty driving time, and off-duty time to ensure that they're complying with these regulations. If an accident occurs while on-duty, attorneys will typically look at this logbook to make sure the driver complied with all regulations and that they weren't driving for longer than allowed.
Failure to Watch Blind Spots
Truck drivers are trained to watch for vehicles that enter their blind spots, also known as the no-zone. The "no-zone" is an area where another vehicle disappears from your view. Trucking accidents are more likely to occur when a car is in the no-zone. While on the road, it's important that drivers are mindful of the no-zone, especially when attempting to switch lanes.
Bad weather makes the road dangerous for all vehicles, but it's even worse for large commercial trucks. Weather conditions, such as heavy rain, are a common cause of trucking accidents in Florida. Drivers who aren't used to Florida's heavy rain need to be extra cautious while on the road. The heavyweight of a truck means more momentum, meaning that drivers need to account for a greater braking distance on slippery roads. Steering and handling are also negatively affected when weather conditions are less than ideal. It's easy to lose control of a truck, which can result in the truck hydroplaning, tipping, or causing an accident.
Loading the Trailer Improperly
Trucks are very heavy, and because of this, they're more dangerous than most other vehicles on the road. Most of the weight from a truck is in the trailer, which is what hauls the truck's load. When a trailer isn't loaded properly, it can affect the handling of the truck or cause the trailer to tip, causing an accident. Improper loading often occurs when freight isn't properly secured and falls off the truck and into the road.
Improper Inspection or Maintenance
Proper maintenance is important for any vehicle but even more so for large commercial trucks. The weight of large trucks in addition to the distance traveled can wear out brakes, tires, and other parts of the vehicle much faster than a regular vehicle. Proper maintenance will increase safety on the road for the driver and everyone else on the road. Typically, trucking companies have very detailed and specific inspection procedures to ensure that a truck is fit to be on the road. However, if these duties aren't performed properly, an accident is far more likely to occur.