In 2020 there were over 111,800 trucking accidents in the USA. Because of this, we want to offer eight common causes of truck accidents, and some tips to help prevent accidents as much as possible.
In 2020 there were over 111,800 trucking accidents in the USA. Accidents involving a semi truck are usually more serious because of the size, and the type of cargo being hauled. These accidents lead to bodily injury or death, damage to the truck or property, legal or insurance issues, and they can often force a driver off the road for an extended period of time.
Because of this, we want to offer eight common causes of truck accidents, and some tips to help prevent accidents as much as possible.
Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents, claiming 3,522 lives in 2021 and over 4,000 in 2020. Whether it be texting, a dog barking, eating/drinking, changing the radio station, or checking the route navigation, a distracted driver is a dangerous one.
As a general rule, driving should be the only task a driver does. Never send or read a text message while driving. Plan the route, radio station, playlist, or anything else before leaving. And try to keep the eating and drinking to a minimum.
Speeding is the second-highest cause of accidents on the road. Compared to cars, semi-trucks exert more force on whatever they make an impact with because of their sheer size and weight. This means it’s vital for drivers to be aware of their speed and distance between other vehicles.
Delivery times are important, but safety is a much higher priority. Plus, lower speeds mean less fuel consumption. Drive at a legal and reasonable speed. A speed limit is not a suggestion, and not a minimum. It’s the maximum speed at which drivers are allowed to drive on a particular portion of road.
The weather is unpredictable and can change in an instant. Being prepared to react to changing weather conditions is very important. Changes in temperature or clouds could mean the weather may begin to act up. Depending on the season there may also be ice, snow, water, more animals, or debris on the roads.
Taking precautionary measures like using chains or cleaning off the top of the trailer can be helpful toward preventing accidents. The speed and following distance should be adjusted accordingly as well. Even something simple like using the turn signal for a longer period can help in preventing an accident.
Accidents triggered by driver fatigue are often the most serious. Going without sleep for 24 hours can impair cognitive abilities as much as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10%, which is higher than the legal limit for driving in many countries. After about 17 hours of being awake, responsiveness and alertness begin to deteriorate rapidly.
Follow the rules about driving hours and get enough sleep. There are strict regulations about how many hours a driver can be behind the wheel and the number of breaks needed for a reason. These might be the most important rules to follow as a truck driver.
Trucks are about four times the length of a typical car. This means drivers must be more aware of their surroundings to ensure a vehicle isn’t in the blind spot. Although this may seem obvious, about ten percent of accidents are attributed to a lack of visibility. These blind spots can hinder a driver’s ability to see while driving, and when backing up to a loading zone.
When making a delivery it’s important to conduct a pre-check of the surrounding area. Passenger vehicles may take a shortcut in an area where they don’t belong, or there could be other delivery vehicles coming and going. Having a spotter is also helpful to an extent. However, a spotter is typically only able to watch one part of the truck. The driver is the one who needs to be checking all aspects of the truck while driving or backing.
Drivers with a dedicated route will be very familiar with their roadways. For everyone else, the routes might not be as familiar. Unfamiliarity with the roads could cause distractions like needing to check a GPS, an atlas, or road signs.
It’s important to be familiar with the route ahead of time. Since a truck might not be able to use the same roads, entrances, exits, or underpasses as passenger cars. Get the lay of the land ahead of time if possible. Check a map and then compare it with the GPS to obtain a full picture of the route. Knowing bridge and trestle clearances ahead of time is also very helpful.
Sometimes the local roads can be just as tricky to navigate as the highway. This is where reaching out to the customer or manager at a delivery location can help. Call ahead, let them know approximately what time to expect delivery, and ask if there are any road hazards or special conditions that a driver should be aware of.
The most common out-of-service violation for an inspection is brake defects. A flat tire is the most common reason for a truck breakdown. If they had been checked, both of these issues could have been avoided.
It’s very important to inspect the truck regularly before and after every trip. This includes brakes, tires, fluid levels, mirrors, etc. Drivers who perform PTI inspections will be able to locate any issues and keep up with the necessary regular maintenance.
To correctly assess the truck and trailer, it’s essential that a driver knows their vehicle inside and out. They need to know how it typically operates, what noises are common, and when something should be addressed. As for the trailer, drivers also need to know what they are hauling with each load.
Drivers need to know what to do if there’s an emergency. Even a minor accident can become a big problem if there’s cargo that includes substances that are harmful if released into the air or water.
If a driver is in an accident and hasn’t performed a pre-trip inspection, the liability of that accident will likely fall on them, even if it wasn’t their fault. This is a major reason why it’s important to do inspections.
Truck drivers can be prone to health issues like obesity, lung cancer, obstructive sleep apnea, an unbalanced sleep routine, and muscular injuries. These issues can lead to fatigue, a lack of concentration, a lack of alertness, and a lack of mobility.
Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s tempting for some weary truckers to use amphetamines or cocaine as stimulants while driving, but this is not a safe solution. When drivers use these drugs to stay awake unnaturally, it raises the likelihood of taking risks like speeding, unsafe lane changes, or other poor maneuvers. Plus, they’re more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when the stimulants wear off.
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Staying healthy plays a huge role in safe driving. Eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of rest, are essential for safe driving. Being diligent to maintain a healthy lifestyle can make a driver feel refreshed, have more energy, and be more alert and aware.
While some accidents are impossible to avoid, drivers who regularly follow these tips will greatly minimize the number of accidents in which they are involved. A driver is the most important part of a truck, so it’s up to you to remind yourself of these tips frequently to ensure that you are as safe as possible while on the road.