Truck accidents can be some of the most severe and devastating incidents on the road. If you suffer severe injuries in a collision, the law allows you to seek compensation from liable parties. First, however, you must determine the cause of the crash and who you can hold responsible.
Liability determinations are often challenging in truck crashes, but a truck accident attorney can handle this process for you. Below are only some examples of causes your truck accident lawyer in Augusta might identify in your case.
Driver fatigue is a significant issue in the trucking industry, often leading to accidents with serious consequences. Driver fatigue refers to exhaustion due to prolonged driving and causes a considerable reduction in physical and mental capability.
Fatigue can stem from a lack of adequate sleep, long work hours, strenuous work or driving tasks, or a combination of these factors.
The impacts of fatigue on driving ability include:
- Reduced Reaction Time: Fatigue slows down a driver’s reaction time. This delay can be deadly in situations requiring quick responses, such as braking suddenly or maneuvering to avoid hazards.
- Impaired Decision-Making: Tired drivers may make poor decisions, like misjudging the speed of other vehicles or not recognizing dangerous situations quickly enough.
- Decreased Attention and Alertness: Fatigue can lead to a lack of focus. Drivers may miss essential signs, signals, or changes in traffic patterns.
- Microsleeps: Microsleeps are brief, involuntary episodes of unconsciousness. A driver might experience these without even realizing it, leading to moments where they are effectively driving blind.
Trucking Regulations to Combat Fatigue
Specific regulations are in place to mitigate the risk of driver fatigue, which include:
Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations
HOS rules limit truck drivers’ hours within a set period. For instance, property-carrying drivers can drive 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty.
Mandatory Rest Breaks
Regulations often stipulate mandatory rest periods after a certain number of hours of driving. Drivers must take a 30-minute break when driving for eight hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least eight hours in the sleeper berth and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods, provided both are at least two hours.
Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty after seven/eight consecutive days. A driver may restart a seven/eight successive day shift after taking 34 or more hours off duty.
When encountering adverse driving conditions, drivers can extend the maximum driving time and on-duty limit by two hours.
Consequences of Violating Trucking Regulations
Fatigued driving increases the likelihood of accidents, potentially leading to severe injuries or fatalities.
Additionally, drivers and their employers can face fines and legal actions for violating HOS rules. HOS rules violations can result in fines ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, legal actions such as civil penalties or criminal charges, out-of-service declarations lasting from ten hours to 60 days, and license termination for up to one year for drivers and their employers.
Carriers with high rates of HOS violations can also receive poor safety ratings, affecting their business.
Equipment failure in large trucks is a safety issue on the roads. Regular maintenance and adherence to regulations help prevent these failures.
Truck Maintenance Regulations
- Regular Inspections: Regulations require regular and thorough inspections of trucks. This maintenance includes daily pre-trip inspections by drivers and detailed annual inspections by certified inspectors.
- Maintenance Records: Trucking companies must keep detailed records of all maintenance and repairs done on each vehicle. These records are subject to review during audits or after truck accidents.
- Specific Component Checks: Regulations specify checks for critical components like brakes, tires, lights, and steering systems.
Brake failures can result from worn-out pads, leaky air pressure systems in air brakes, or overheated brakes. A malfunctioning brake system can prevent a truck from stopping quickly, leading to rear-end collisions or runaway truck incidents.
Blowouts often occur due to worn tread, improper inflation, or overloaded trucks. A blowout can cause a driver to lose control, leading to rollovers or collisions. Debris from blown tires can also create hazards for other vehicles.
Steering System Failure
Failures in the steering system can be due to mechanical wear, loss of hydraulic fluid, or component breakage. Loss of steering control makes it difficult or impossible to navigate the truck, potentially leading to collisions with other vehicles or obstacles.
Lighting and Visibility Issues
Malfunctioning lights or obstructed signals can result from electrical issues or lack of maintenance. Poor visibility increases the risk of accidents, especially in low-light conditions, as other drivers may not see the truck or understand its intentions.
Failure in the coupling devices between the truck and trailer can be due to mechanical faults or improper attachment. A detached trailer can become a significant hazard, potentially leading to multi-vehicle pileups.
Consequences of Overloaded Cargo
Heavier trucks require more distance to stop. Overloading increases the risk of being unable to stop in time to avoid an accident, especially in emergencies.
Excess weight strains the truck’s components, including the brakes, tires, and suspension system. This hazard can lead to equipment failure, contributing to accidents.
An overloaded truck, especially with poorly distributed weight, is more prone to rollovers. This risk increases during turns or when making sudden maneuvers.
Shifts During Transit
If cargo is not secured correctly, it can shift while the truck is in motion, which can cause sudden imbalances and make it difficult to control.
Falling Debris and Road Hazards
Improperly secured cargo can fall off the truck, creating hazards for other vehicles and leading to multi-vehicle accidents, especially on high-speed roads like highways.
Poor Weather Conditions
Poor weather conditions significantly impact trucking safety, making it one of the most challenging aspects for truck drivers. Rain, snow, ice, and fog impair visibility and drastically affect road conditions, ultimately influencing a truck’s maneuverability and braking efficiency.
Rain, for instance, can create slick and slippery road surfaces, reducing the tires’ grip on the pavement. This reduction in traction can lead to longer stopping distances and increased risks of skidding or hydroplaning, where the truck loses contact with the road and slides uncontrollably.
Heavy rain can also severely limit visibility, making it difficult for truck drivers to see other vehicles, road signs, and potential hazards.
Snow and ice present even more severe challenges. These conditions can lead to highly hazardous roads, where the risk of losing control and sliding increases exponentially.
Ice, especially black ice, which is nearly invisible on the road, can catch drivers off guard. In snowy conditions, the effort to maintain control of a large, heavy truck can be immense, requiring skill and concentration from the driver.
Fog presents a different type of hazard by significantly reducing visibility. In heavy fog, truck drivers may be unable to see far ahead, making it difficult to anticipate and react to changes in traffic flow or road conditions. The inability to see other vehicles, pedestrians, or obstacles from a safe distance increases the risk of accidents.
Truck drivers often receive training to adjust their driving techniques in poor weather to mitigate these risks. These safety measures include reducing speed, maintaining a greater following distance from other vehicles, and using lights appropriately to improve visibility. However, poor weather conditions can threaten trucking safety even with the best precautions.
In situations where accidents occur due to adverse weather, a lawyer with experience in trucking accidents can provide guidance and help establish how poor weather conditions played a part in your trucking accident.
Driving a truck is a task that demands a unique set of skills and knowledge. Proper training equips drivers with the necessary tools to handle challenges. However, inadequate training leaves drivers ill-prepared, significantly increasing the likelihood of errors and accidents.
Truck driver training typically involves both classroom instruction and hands-on experience. In the classroom, drivers learn about traffic laws, safety regulations, and how to operate a large vehicle. They also receive education on cargo handling, keeping a logbook, and emergency responses.
On the practical side, training includes actual driving experience under supervision, where drivers learn how to maneuver large trucks, handle different road and traffic conditions, and practice safety procedures.
Despite these requirements, there are instances where the training provided is insufficient. Inadequate training may result from rushed programs, lack of comprehensive coverage of critical skills, or insufficient hands-on driving experience.
When drivers do not receive proper training, several risks and errors can arise:
- Poor Vehicle Control: Without proper training, drivers may lack the skills to effectively control a large truck, especially in challenging situations like heavy traffic, narrow roads, or adverse weather conditions. This inexperience can lead to a higher risk of accidents.
- Inability to Handle Emergency Situations: Emergencies require quick and correct responses. Inadequately trained drivers might not know how to react in unexpected situations, such as a tire blowout or sudden traffic halt, which can lead to panic-driven decisions.
- Non-Compliance with Safety Regulations: Drivers who do not receive proper training might inadvertently violate safety regulations, like improper cargo loading or exceeding driving hours, leading to dangerous scenarios.
- Poor Decision-Making: Driving a truck involves constant decision-making. Lack of training can result in poor judgment calls, like unsafe lane changes or misjudging the distance needed for stopping.
- Increased Stress and Fatigue: Unprepared drivers may find handling a truck more stressful, leading to quicker fatigue, a significant risk factor for accidents.
The consequences of inadequate training aren’t just limited to the risk of accidents. They can also lead to legal and financial repercussions for the driver and the employing company. After an accident caused by an inadequately trained truck driver, seek legal advice to learn more about potential violations of trucking regulations and liability.
Distracted Driving in Trucking
Distracted driving is a serious safety issue for truck drivers, just as it is for all road users. The nature of long-haul trucking, with extended hours on the road, can sometimes lead to drivers participating in activities that divert their attention, such as using mobile phones, eating, adjusting in-cab controls, or even attending to something outside the vehicle. These distractions can have deadly consequences.
When a truck driver has diverted attention, even for a few seconds, their ability to react to road conditions and hazards diminishes. The size and weight of trucks mean they require more time and distance to stop compared to smaller vehicles.
Therefore, a momentary lapse in attention can prevent a driver from reacting in time to avoid a dangerous situation. The risks are even more significant in congested traffic conditions, construction zones, or areas with pedestrian activity.
Additionally, distracted driving can lead to unsafe driving behaviors, such as drifting between lanes, failing to observe traffic signs, and not maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles.
The impact of a trucking accident can be severe, given the size and mass of these vehicles, often leading to significant property damage, serious injuries, or fatalities.
Speeding is a factor in many vehicle accidents, including those involving trucks. Driving at high speeds affects a truck’s handling and significantly increases the distance required to stop safely.
Given the larger mass and momentum of trucks, any collision at high speed can result in catastrophic damage and severe injuries.
Truck drivers who speed compromise their safety and the safety of others on the road. Speeding reduces the time available to react to sudden changes in traffic flow, unexpected road hazards, or road conditions. It also makes it more challenging to maneuver the truck safely, particularly in emergencies.
Speeding trucks exert more force in a collision, and the damage to smaller vehicles can be substantial. In addition to the safety risks, speeding can lead to legal consequences for truck drivers, including fines, points on their driving record, or even license suspension, especially when it leads to an accident.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you have injuries from a truck accident, reaching out to a truck accident attorney can provide you with the guidance and support needed during a challenging time. Seek a free case evaluation with a law firm near you today.