Truck Accident Statistics: 5 Common Causes and Prevention

Three Semi Trucks Convoy on the Eastern Colorado Highway, United States. Trucking and Shipping Theme.

The trucking industry is vital to the economic wealth of the United States. Almost $700 billion worth of goods is transported by truck each year in America. Currently, over 800,000 truckers are working just in the United States to transport goods and necessities across the country. 

Trucking is an essential job, but it can also be a dangerous one. Did you know that every 15 minutes, a person is killed or injured by a truck? 

There are approximately 500,000 truck accidents in the United States each year, resulting in approximately 5000 deaths each year. 

And truck accidents and resulting deaths have been consistently on the rise for years. In 2018, the number of fatalities caused by large truck crashes in the United States was 4,136. This number is 31% higher than it was in 2009. 

That year, 16% of fatalities were truck occupants, 67% were occupants of cars and passenger vehicles, and 15% were from pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. 

These numbers can be hard to hear, but it’s crucial we continue to discuss truck accident statistics. Working together, we can help reduce these numbers and make the road safer for everyone. 

The Good News

While truck accident statistics are staggering, and it can be difficult to discuss these fatalities, discussion and education are key to prevention.  

Understanding what causes truck accidents is the first step to preventing them. For truckers, knowing the main reasons truck accidents happen can help you make changes to prevent becoming another statistic. 

For fleet owners and managers, understanding truck accidents can help you implement new roles and policies to keep your drivers safe. 

If you’re a trucker or fleet, owner or manager, keep reading. The trucking industry of the United States can work together to keep truckers, drivers, and pedestrians safe on the roads. 

Leading Causes of Truck Accidents

Accidents happen, but they don’t always have to. Here are the main reasons truckers have accidents on the road. 

  1. Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents in the United States. Approximately 13% of truck crashes are due to driver fatigue. 

The trucking lifestyle can be demanding, and it’s common for truckers to push themselves to drive long hours. There are regulations in place to try to prevent driver fatigue. In a 14 hour work period, a trucker can drive 11 hours. Meaning that after the 14 hour mark, drivers must take a 10-hour break. 

However, 11 hours is a long time. So if you feel yourself getting tired, don’t push yourself to keep driving. Take breaks throughout your day and stop driving if you start to feel fatigued. 

If you are pressed for time but feel tired, pull into a rest stop and take a quick nap. Even short breaks can make a big difference.

It can be tempting to finish a delivery faster, but it’s not worth it. Pushing yourself to drive through fatigue risks your life and the lives of others on the road around you. 

  1. Speeding

Speeding is another widespread cause of truck accidents. Speeding accounts for 1 in 3 driving accidents in the United States. 

But for trucks, the speeding accident fatalities are often much higher. Trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. With that kind of weight, drivers must be extremely careful not to drive too fast. 

With 80,000 pounds, it’s impossible to slow down or stop quickly. So when you’re speeding and a negligent driver in front of you makes a quick lane change or hits the breaks, disaster could happen. 

With bad weather, driving conditions, or roads, it’s necessary to slow down. Even if you are going the speed limit, that may be too fast if the roads are icy or wet. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suggests reducing your speed by half one third on wet roads and by half or more on snowy or icy roads. 

Use your judgment, slow down, and always leave lots of space between yourself and other vehicles. 

  1. Unsecure or Overloaded Cargo 

Unsecure or overloaded cargo is also a common cause of truck accidents. If cargo is not secured correctly, it can fly off your truck or break through trailer walls and hit another vehicle or pedestrian. 

When semi-trucks are overloaded, they are prone to jackknifing and delays in braking. An overloaded truck can also experience mechanical problems because of the extra weight. Don’t take the chance; an overloaded truck is dangerous to the driver and everyone else on the road. 

As a trucker, it’s important you understand how to secure a load. Upskilling through CDL license or truck driver training is essential for correctly and safely securing loads on your vehicle and checking your truck’s weight. 

Always follow loading safety protocols, and never load above the allowed limit. 

  1. Unfamiliar Roadways

Unfamiliar roadways account for many accidents. Truckers will accidentally turn onto a one way, miss a stop sign, or get distracted looking at their GPS and cause a crash. Unfamiliar roadways often create distracted drivers. 

Unfamiliar roads can cause driving accidents for any kind of vehicle, but for trucks, the accidents have a higher likelihood of causing fatalities. 

To avoid accidents due to unfamiliar roadways, always plan your route ahead of time. Look at your map and GPS before you leave, and memorize your route. 

If you get confused on the road, pull over before you check directions. If you are unable to pull over, remain calm. Keep driving until you find a safe place to pull over. 

Driving out of your way is an inconvenience, but it’s nothing compared to the inconvenience or many more serious consequences of distracted driving accidents. 

  1. Neglecting Maintenance 

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), negligent maintenance contributes to approximately 40% of truck crashes.

This includes brake malfunctions, tire blowouts, electrical problems, and more. Brake malfunctions are the most common malfunction to cause accidents. 

Luckily, if you keep your truck properly maintained, you can save yourself from dangerous, and even deadly, mechanical malfunctions. Regular maintenance can also extend the life of your vehicle and prevent roadside breakdowns. 

For regular maintenance, it’s essential to check: 

  • Oil 
  • Transmission fluid
  • Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Rear-axle rotation
  • Tire pressure
  • Engine function

Prevent Truck Accidents

Don’t let 2021 be the year you become a statistic.

Take breaks to avoid fatigue, slow down on icy and wet roads, secure your cargo correctly, do not overload your truck, plan your route before you leave, and stay on top of regular maintenance. 

You can do most of these steps yourself, but for regular maintenance and repairs, you need a repair shop you can trust to keep your truck in excellent condition and to keep you and others safe on the road. 

At Kelly’s Truck, we have over 50 years of experience working with trucks and truck drivers. We offer an extensive range of services and have a wide variety of parts on-site, so we can get you and your truck back on the road as quickly as possible. 

We scale our services to meet your needs, from minor maintenance to large repair jobs. Kelly’s Truck does it all. And we offer roadside assistance, in case you ever have a breakdown. 

Contact Kelly’s Truck at our San Leandro location today, or request a quote online, and know you’re doing your part to keep the roads safe.

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