Trucking Accidents: Prevalence, Causes, And Legal Liability

Prevalence of Trucking Accidents

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatal truck accidents are more common than many are aware of. An estimated eleven fatal crashes occur on a daily basis in the U.S., killing nearly 4,000 individuals—and injuring over 100,000 people—each year. Since 2009, these fatalities have steadily risen in response to an upsurge in goods being shipped on U.S. highways, coupled with increasingly unrealistic delivery schedules. In fact, in the past two years alone, the number of trucking accidents has increased 20 percent. However, because trucking accident fatalities occur throughout the country in relatively small quantities, they don’t attract national attention as other accidents—such as plane crashes—do.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that truck traffic through Montana accounts for 14 percent of the state’s annual average daily amount, with the greatest amount of truck traffic on Interstate 90 between Billings and the Idaho border.

Causes of Trucking Accidents

Causes of trucking accidents include inadequate training, driver fatigue, compensation systems which encourage driving at quicker and unsafe speeds, malfunctioning or unsafe vehicles, risky inclement weather driving, unrealistic pickup and delivery schedules, companies' failure to screen for potentially problematic drivers, improper loading, driver distraction, or driving while under the influence.

In many cases, however, passenger vehicles provide the impetus for such accidents. Common unsafe passenger car driver actions include driving in those areas next to and behind commercial trucks where the driver has limited visibility, abruptly changing lanes or merging into traffic in front of a truck causing it to brake quickly or maneuver, failure to adjust one’s speed when trucks change lanes or merge into traffic, unsafe passing, driving between large trucks, misjudging an approaching truck’s speed at an intersection, or driving while under the influence.

Legal Considerations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 49 governs the trucking industry and sets standards and regulations for trucking companies, drivers, and owners, while also providing guidelines for determining liability in the case of an accident. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FMCSA oversee these regulations, in addition to state departments of transportation. In cases of trucking accidents not caused by passenger vehicles, legal responsibility and liability can attach to the driver, the truck’s owner, the vehicle manufacturer, the company that leased the truck, and/or the loader of the truck’s cargo.

If you are the victim of a trucking accident or would like more information, please contact us.