The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a federal government agency that regulates and provides oversight of commercial motor vehicles that use America’s roadways. As part of the work it performs, the FMCSA collects data and statistics about large commercial motor vehicle crashes that occur throughout the country. They often report on this data to show trends in truck crash statistics, and they officially compile and release the Large Truck Crash Causation Study to identify the most common causes of tractor trailer crashes.
According to the FMCSA study, the most common causes of tractor trailer crashes are:
- Driver-Related Factors. The FMCSA identified that the majority of truck crashes were caused by problems with the truck driver, such as speeding, distraction, impairment (alcohol or drugs), and fatigue.
- Vehicle-Related Factors. Issues related to the truck itself, such as brake problems, tire issues, and other mechanical failures, also contributed to a significant number of crashes.
- Bad Weather. Adverse or hazardous weather conditions, such as rain, ice, snow, and fog, caused many crashes. These hazardous conditions can lead to a number of problems, including poor visibility and slippery road surfaces that cause a loss of tire traction.
- Road-Related Factors. Roadway characteristics, such as construction zones, poorly marked lanes, roadway defects, and uneven road surfaces, were factors that caused tractor trailer crashes.
- Traffic conditions. Problems related to traffic flow, including congestion and sudden stops, were noted to be factors that caused some crashes involving large trucks.
- Driver Inexperience or Lack of Proper Qualifications. Inexperienced drivers, especially those new to the trucking industry, are statistically more likely to be involved in crashes than experienced drivers.
This list of truck crash causes has both good news and bad news. The good news is that every single one of these causes of crashes is essentially preventable. If drivers follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations and rules from the commercial drivers license manuals, they will avoid the driver-related factors like fatigue, illness, drugs, alcohol, or other impairments that cause crashes. Drivers and motor carriers will also make sure tractors and trailers and all of their equipment and parts are properly maintained and in good working order. Drivers will use extreme caution in hazardous weather. Drivers will drive properly on bad roadways or when traffic conditions increase danger. Trucking companies will make sure drivers are properly qualified and trained.
The bad news, at the same time, is that there are rules in place that drivers are not following. Crashes keep happening even though there are rules in place. So while it is true that many drivers and trucking companies know the rules, it appears to be equally true that truck drivers who cause crashes oftentimes violate those clear rules.
It is certainly the case that crashes can be caused by a multitude of reasons. And it is just as certain that some crashes can occur even when a tractor trailer driver follows all of the rules of the road.
But there is little question that the far majority of crashes that do happen never should have happened in the first place. These crashes were preventable. If truck drivers followed the rules of the road, must of those crashes would not have happened.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a tractor trailer crash, please contact experienced truck accident lawyer Robert E. Byrne, Jr. Bob has extensive experience helping victims of tractor trailers and their families, and he has passed the board certification exam for truck accident law. Bob can be reached at 434-817-3100.