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The Top Causes of Trucking Accidents

Truck crashed into guard rail

Car crash fatalities have seen a downward trend for the past three years. Car drivers are becoming more aware of the risks of the road and the dangers of distracted driving. However, when it comes to trucking accidents, fatal crashes have only increased.

Currently, each truck driver has a 1-in-8 chance of being involved in a serious crash each year. To better understand this shifting trend, we need to look at the top four causes of trucking accidents.

Negligent Maintenance

According to causation studies by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), negligent maintenance is a factor in about 40% of truck crashes. This includes a variety of factors, such as failed brakes, burst tires, unsecured cargo, electrical problems, and everything in between.

Brakes, for example, are the top cause of maintenance-related crashes. The average semi-truck needs new brake rotors about every 70,000 miles. The average trucker will travel 200,000 miles per year, meaning they typically need to have their brakes replaced three times each year. If they or their company doesn’t keep up on maintenance, they could be at serious risk next time they’re taking a high-grade hill or maneuvering through small-town streets.


Speeding is a factor in almost 25% of trucking crashes. While speeding crashes tend to be deadlier, the fatality rate for speeding trucks is frightening. The simple reason for this is that the damage done in a crash is proportional to both the vehicle’s speed and its weight.

A fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh around 80,000lbs. When something of that size hits a 5,000lb car at 75mph, the outcome is catastrophic. These types of crashes are especially common in a runaway truck situation where the brakes fail on an incline and the truck keeps gaining speed with no way to slow down, endangering everyone in their path until they can find a place to pull over.

Poor Conditions

The NHTSA found that inclement weather and poorly maintained roads played a part in 20% of truck crashes. That’s not surprising considering that poor management and the pay-per-mile pay structure encourages truckers to push through dangerous conditions in the interest of keeping a tight time table.

Ice, rain, and high winds pose a serious threat to large trucks. Even semi-trucks are susceptible to hydroplaning and can jackknife across multiple lanes. High winds, particularly those in the mid-west, can even knock a truck on its side.

Driver Fatigue

As we discussed previously, about 13% of truck crashes are the direct result of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Truckers often claim managers encouraged them to drive beyond their hours of service or even their physical limits.

The trucking lobby has only encouraged this behavior. In July 2020, the FMCSA revamped the hours of service regulations to allow drivers to stay behind the wheel even longer to account for poor road conditions and then did so again in early October.

Snowball Effect

There are contributing elements in truck crashes, but these factors are often interconnected. If a trucker has to wait for a storm to pass, they fall behind and are encouraged to drive longer and faster. Combined, these elements (which are small risks by themselves) contribute to a snowball effect in which one mistake behind the wheel significantly increases the risk of more mistakes, and eventually a crash.

These causes greatly emphasize the need for stronger training for truck drivers and better management for fleet controllers. When both truckers and their managers understand the dangers of the road, they have the power to prevent these crashes and save lives.

If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or even wrongful death in a truck crash, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Geneva truck accident attorney from Turner Law Group to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (800) 653-0198.