The Most Common Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents

SOURCE: Dolman Law Group

Semi-Truck Accident Major Causes

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 415,000 reported crashes involved commercial vehicles in the United States in 2015. Those accidents resulted in a total of 3,852 fatalities, a 22 percent increase from similar crashes in 2009.

Surprisingly, 60 percent of crashes involving commercial vehicles occurred on rural roads, while only 25 percent of them occurred on rural or urban interstate highways. In addition, 35 percent of all fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles occurred during the 12-hour period from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Causes of Commercial Vehicle Crashes

As drivers, commercial truckers are generally considered above-average, but federal data indicates that their errors, mistakes, and negligence contribute to more than half of all truck crashes. In this regard, the most commonly cited crash-related factors in the FMCSA’s 2005 Report to Congress on the

Large Truck Crash Causation Study follow. (Note: Some crashes involved more than one factor.)

• Vehicle: brake problems – 29 percent

• Driver: Travelling too fast for existing conditions – 23 percent

• Driver: Unfamiliar with roadway – 22 percent

• Environment: Roadway problems – 20 percent

• Driver: Over-the-counter drug use – 17 percent

• Driver: Inadequate surveillance – 14 percent

• Driver: Fatigue – 13 percent

• Driver: Felt pressure from carrier – 10 percent

• Driver: Illegal maneuver – 9 percent

• Driver: Inattention – 9 percent

• Driver: External distraction – 8 percent

• Vehicle: Tire problems – 6 percent

• Driver: Following too close – 5 percent

• Driver: Jackknifed – 5 percent

• Vehicle: Cargo shift – 4 percent

• Driver: Illness – 3 percent

• Driver: Internal distraction – 2 percent

• Driver: Illegal drugs – 2 percent

• Driver: Alcohol – 1 percent

In many cases, the FMCSA identified “brake problems” as an “associated problem” rather than as the “main problem” that caused the crash. Examples included crashes in which the driver drove too fast for existing conditions and cases in which the driver lacked familiarity with the roadway.

Driving Conditions and Commercial Vehicle Accident Risk

Considering all of the reasons that the FMCSA cited for crashes involving commercial vehicles, drivers are much more likely to cause accidents than the vehicles they drive or the conditions in which they drive. Thus, while manufacturers can build additional safety features into commercial vehicles and governments can construct and maintain better roadways, the single most important factor in reducing the number of crashes involving commercial vehicles is better driver training.

Since the FMCSA undertook the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, data concerning crashes involving non-commercial vehicles suggests that driver distraction has grown into a more significant factor in accidents. A recent study by Progressive Insurance, for example, indicates the public believes that texting and looking at cell phones are the primary causes of traffic accidents. And although 62 percent of 18- to 34-year-old drivers believe that they can safely text and drive, 64 percent of that same group believe that texting or looking at a phone while driving is the most common cause of accidents.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Rules

Since the 2005 study, driver distraction may form an increasing problem for commercial truck drivers. To address this issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration promulgated two new rules in 2010 for anyone driving a Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV):

Title 49 (Code of Federal Regulations), Section 392.82 – “Using a Hand Held Mobile Telephone” mandates:

(a) (1) No driver shall use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.

(2) No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.

(b) Definitions. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle on a highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle when the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and has halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

(c) Emergency exception. Using a hand-held mobile telephone is permissible by drivers of a CMV when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Title 49 (CFR), Section 392.80 – “Prohibition Against Texting” states:

(a) Prohibition. No driver shall engage in texting while driving. (b) Motor carriers> No motor carrier shall allow or require its rivers

(b) Motor carriers. No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to engage in texting while driving.

(c) Definition. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle, with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle with or without the motor running when the driver moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

(d) Emergency exception. Texting while driving is permissible for drivers of a commercial motor vehicle when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Unfortunately, despite these clear prohibitions, commercial truck drivers continue to both use hand-held mobile phones and text while driving.

Several Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies underscore the dangers of distracted commercial vehicle drivers. Those studies have found:

• On average, commercial vehicle drivers who text take their eyes off the road for almost five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, a two-ton vehicle will travel 100 yards with a driver who is not looking at the road.

• Commercial vehicle drivers who text are 23 times more likely to contribute to traffic collisions than those who do not text.

• Using a cell phone for any purpose—but especially for texting—distracts almost every area of the brain that drivers need to concentrate for driving and avoiding accidents.

Desenvolvido por: EBGE - Editora Brasileira de Guias Especiais | (81) 3097.7060 | sac@ebge.com.br