Causes of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are among the most devastating incidents on our roads. When a passenger vehicle collides with a large commercial truck, the results can be catastrophic, often leading to severe injuries or even fatalities. These trucks’ sheer size and weight make them formidable opponents in any crash, and the consequences can be life-altering for those involved.

Here, experienced truck accident attorneys will explore the primary causes of truck accidents.

Driver Error

Causes of Truck Accidents

One of the most significant factors contributing to truck accidents is driver error. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a study that revealed driver error is ten times more likely to cause a crash than any other factor. The study identified four critical areas of driver error that accounted for more than half of the 141,000 truck accidents analyzed:


Non-performance accidents occur when a truck driver physically cannot drive safely due to fatigue, medical emergencies, or other health issues.

Falling asleep at the wheel is a common cause of non-performance accidents, as truck drivers often work long hours and may not get enough rest between shifts. When drivers fall asleep, they lose control of their vehicle, leading to serious accidents, particularly at high speeds.

Medical emergencies, such as heart attacks or seizures, can also cause non-performance accidents. If a driver experiences a sudden medical issue while behind the wheel, they may lose consciousness or cannot control their vehicle, leading to crashes. If not properly addressed, other medical conditions, such as diabetes or sleep apnea, can also contribute to non-performance accidents.

Non-performance can be difficult to identify and prove. These accidents require the assistance of a skilled truck accident attorney.

Poor Recognition

Poor recognition errors occur when truck drivers fail to notice or respond to important information in their environment, such as traffic signals, road signs, or other vehicles. Various factors, including distraction, inattention, or poor visibility, can cause these errors.

Distraction is a major contributor to recognition errors. Truck drivers may take their eyes off the road to check their phones, adjust the music, or eat while driving. Even a momentary distraction can cause a driver to miss a stop sign or a pedestrian crossing the road.

Inattention can also lead to recognition errors. Drivers may become complacent or lose focus during long stretches of monotonous driving, which can cause them to miss important details, such as changes in traffic patterns or road conditions.

Decision Errors

Causes of Truck Accidents I Decision Errors

Decision errors occur when a truck driver makes a poor choice or judgment call while operating their vehicle, such as driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, or misjudging the speed of other vehicles. Various factors, including inexperience, overconfidence, or external pressures, can cause these errors.

Inexperienced drivers may be more likely to make decision errors because they may not have the skills or knowledge to handle complex driving situations. They may also be more prone to taking risks or making impulsive decisions behind the wheel.

Overconfidence can also contribute to decision errors. Drivers who feel invincible may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as speeding or aggressive driving. This can be particularly dangerous when operating a large commercial vehicle, as the consequences of a mistake can be much more severe.

External pressures, such as tight delivery deadlines or financial incentives, can also lead to decision errors. Drivers who feel pressured to meet unrealistic expectations may be more likely to take risks or make poor choices to save time or money.

Performance Errors

Performance errors occur when truck drivers lack the physical or cognitive skills to drive safely. These errors can be caused by a variety of factors, including lack of experience, inadequate training, or physical limitations. They can lead to accidents caused by factors such as panic, overcompensation, or poor directional control.

Panic can cause performance errors when a driver faces a sudden or unexpected situation on the road, such as a vehicle swerving into their lane or a pedestrian stepping out in front of them. In these situations, a driver may react impulsively or make a sudden, jerking motion with the steering wheel, causing them to lose control of their vehicle.

Overcompensation can also lead to performance errors, as drivers who are inexperienced or unsure of their abilities may overreact to minor steering or braking inputs, leading to accidents. This can be particularly dangerous when operating a large commercial vehicle, as the truck’s size and weight can make it much harder to regain control once it has been lost.

Poor directional control can also contribute to performance errors, as drivers who lack the physical strength or coordination needed to steer and maneuver their vehicle may be more likely to drift out of their lane or collide with other vehicles or objects.

Equipment Failure

Another significant cause of truck accidents is equipment failure. If equipment failure caused your truck accident, a skilled truck accident attorney can assist in recovering compensation for your damages.

Common equipment failures include:

Faulty or Poorly Maintained Brakes

Brakes are one of the most important safety features on a truck, and when they are not properly maintained or are faulty, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Brake failure can make it impossible for truck drivers to stop their vehicles in time to avoid a collision, leading to serious accidents and injuries. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles’ brakes are regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced when necessary to prevent these types of accidents.

Improperly Inflated or Worn Tires

Causes of Truck Accidents I Improperly Inflated or Worn Tires

Tires are another important component of a truck’s safety system. Improperly inflated or worn-down tires can contribute to accidents.

Underinflated tires can cause a truck to handle poorly, making it more difficult for the driver to control the vehicle. Overinflated tires can be more susceptible to blowouts, which can cause the driver to lose control of the truck. Worn tires with insufficient tread can also reduce traction, making it harder for the truck to stop or maneuver safely, especially in wet or slippery conditions.

Defective or Missing Safety Equipment

Trucks must have certain safety equipment, such as underride guards, to help prevent serious accidents and injuries. Underride guards prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath a truck in a collision, which can cause devastating injuries or fatalities. When this safety equipment is defective or missing, it can leave other motorists vulnerable to serious harm in the event of an accident.

Malfunctioning or Defective Lights

Lights help truck drivers see the road ahead and make their vehicles visible to other motorists, especially at night or in poor weather conditions. When a truck’s lights are malfunctioning or defective, it can make it more difficult for the driver to see potential hazards on the road and for other motorists to see the truck. This can increase the risk of accidents, particularly in low visibility conditions.

Overall Poor Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key for keeping trucks in safe operating condition and preventing accidents caused by equipment failure. When trucking companies fail to properly maintain their vehicles, they put their drivers and other motorists at risk. Poor maintenance can lead to a wide range of problems, from worn brakes and tires to engine and transmission failures, all of which can contribute to serious accidents on the road.

Unbalanced Cargo

Properly loading and securing cargo is necessary to maintain a truck’s stability and prevent accidents. When cargo is not balanced correctly, it can shift during transport, causing the truck to become unstable and increasing the risk of a rollover accident.

Overloaded trucks can also be more difficult to control and stop, particularly in emergencies. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles are loaded safely and securely to prevent these types of accidents.

Transmission Failure

The transmission is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels. When it fails, it can cause a truck to lose power or become impossible to control.

Various factors, including poor maintenance, overloading, or manufacturing defects, can cause transmission failure. When a truck’s transmission fails while the vehicle is in motion, it can lead to serious accidents, particularly if the failure occurs at high speeds or in heavy traffic.

Part Manufacturing Defects

Even when trucking companies and their drivers take all necessary precautions to maintain and drive safely, accidents can still occur due to manufacturing defects in truck parts.

Defective tires, brakes, steering systems, and other critical components can unexpectedly malfunction, leaving drivers incapable of controlling their vehicles and preventing accidents. In these cases, the manufacturers of the defective parts may be held liable for the resulting accidents and injuries.

To minimize the risk of equipment failure, truck drivers and companies must perform thorough pre-trip inspections and regular maintenance on their vehicles. The FMCSA mandates these inspections to ensure that trucks are in proper working order before hitting the road. Trucking companies should also have strict maintenance schedules and promptly address any issues.

Company Priorities

The pressure to meet delivery deadlines can sometimes lead trucking companies to prioritize speed over safety. This can result in unrealistic schedules, improper loading, driver fatigue, and increased stress levels, all contributing to a higher likelihood of accidents.

Per OSHA, crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in legal costs, medical expenses, lost productivity, and property damage. Unfortunately, companies fail to prioritize safety over productivity.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is another factor that can contribute to truck accidents. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can significantly impair a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Trucking companies should implement strict substance abuse policies, including pre-employment screening and regular drug tests throughout a driver’s employment. However, they do  not always follow strict enough guidelines regarding driver substance use.

Poor Weather Conditions

Poor Weather Conditions I Causes of Truck Accident

Adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, or ice, can create hazardous driving situations for truck drivers. These conditions can reduce visibility and slippery roads and increase the risk of accidents. Truck drivers must undergo training to adapt their driving techniques in inclement weather, such as reducing speed, increasing following distance, and exercising extra caution when braking or turning.

Trucking companies should also equip their vehicles with appropriate safety features, such as all-weather tires, anti-lock braking systems, and traction control, to help drivers maintain control in challenging weather conditions. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to postpone or cancel deliveries to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. This does not always happen, and crashes result.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a growing concern for all motorists, including truck drivers. Distractions include texting or talking on the phone, eating or drinking, or reading while driving.

Trucking companies should implement strict policies prohibiting the use of electronic devices while operating a vehicle to combat distracted driving. Drivers should also undergo training to minimize other distractions and to pull over safely if they need to attend to any non-driving tasks.

When truck drivers ignore the risks of distracted driving, they should be liable for the resulting harm.

Inexperienced Drivers

As the trucking industry faces a driver shortage, companies may hire less experienced drivers to fill the gap. However, inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents, as they may lack the skills and knowledge to handle the unique challenges of operating a large commercial vehicle.

Trucking companies should invest in strong training programs for new drivers, including classroom instruction, simulated driving experiences, and on-the-road supervised training to mitigate this risk. Improper training and supervision of new drivers can lead to crashes and liability.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a crash, seek the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney. Truck accident cases can often involve multiple parties, such as truck drivers, trucking companies, and vehicle or parts manufacturers. An attorney who handles truck accident cases can guide you in pursuing the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help after a truck accident. A skilled Macon personal injury lawyer can provide the support and advocacy you need during this challenging time, allowing you to focus on your recovery and rebuilding your life.