Semi-truck crashes have a lot in common with collisions involving smaller vehicles. Most of the time, the factor that caused the crash has something to do with human error. A driver in one of the vehicles makes some kind of mistake, such as misjudging the stopping distance required during certain types of weather or driving too fast given road conditions. That mistake then leads to an inability to respond to changing traffic conditions and a collision.
When looking at an analysis of semi-truck collisions involving passenger vehicles, there are certain trends that are hard to ignore. For example, the vast majority of crashes caused by 18-wheelers are due to something the driver did or didn’t do. Decision-making errors, inadequate surveillance and non-performance are among the top reasons commercial drivers cause wrecks.
However, roughly one in 10 semi-truck collisions occur because of something wrong with these large vehicles. Why are vehicle issues such a major safety concern with semi-trucks?
Big trucks are harder to manage overall
Commercial trucks take longer to accelerate or decelerate than passenger vehicles. Relatively minor operator failures can lead to catastrophic incidents in which other people could potentially suffer life-altering injuries. Not only do semi-truck drivers need to have special training and comply with stricter laws than those that apply to passenger vehicles, but they also need to be more aware of their vehicle’s condition and limitations.
Issues with the tires, steering system or brakes of a semi-truck could lead to preventable, tragic collisions. Even problems with the turn signals or brake lights could put others at risk of dangerous rear underride collisions. Additionally, issues with the vehicle could lead to the driver losing control. Trucking companies and owner-operators therefore need to be proactive about routine maintenance and repairs.
Maintenance issues are only one category of potential vehicle issues. When drivers are unaware of moving or liquid contents in their trailer or when a company improperly loads the trailer that a semi-truck must haul, the risk of the driver losing control and experiencing a jackknife incident or rollover is substantially higher.
Acknowledging the connection between poor vehicle maintenance and semi-truck collision risk might help people better assert themselves if they end up affected by a semi-truck crash.