The rate of large truck accidents continues to rise in Los Angeles and across the country. 107,000 large trucks were involved in crashes resulting in an injury in 2020 and the number of trucks involved in fatal crashes has increased by 5% since 2016. In fact, the National Safety Council reports that in 2020, large trucks accounted for:
- 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes
- 4% of all registered vehicles
- 10% of total vehicle miles traveled
That brings the total to 4,965 people who died in large truck crashes the same year. This means a crash between a semi-truck and another vehicle causing injuries or fatalities happens every 15 minutes. The most damning statistic, however, is a massive 71% of deaths in these accidents are occupants of other vehicles.
While everyone knows that large truck accidents are dangerous, many don’t know the answers to common questions about being in a large truck, big rig, or tractor-trailer accident. The following FAQs should help answer any initial questions you may have, while you can contact the experienced truck accident attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation on your case for further help.
What are some of the main factors that contribute to large commercial truck accidents?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA, the top 10 factors are:
- Brake problems
- An interruption in traffic flow, including congestion or a prior crash on the road ahead
- The effects of prescription medications
- Traveling too fast in relation to the road’s condition
- Being unfamiliar with the road
- Encountering problems with the roadway
- Being required to stop – by a traffic control device or a crosswalk – prior to the crash
- Taking over-the-counter medications
- Implementing inadequate surveillance of the road and traffic
- Driver fatigue is almost always the main reason
Unfortunately, there are many, but accidents are usually caused by inattention to traffic and improper maneuvering of the truck. Because rules and regulations are different for truck drivers, this can be anything from speeding to driving with too much cargo. This results in truck drivers not following the rules of the road or not following the rules that pertain to commercial drivers and commercial driver’s licenses. Tiredness due to not enough sleep as a result of being on the road for too long as well as improper training are some other main factors in truck accidents.
What are some of the most common truck accident situations?
- Truck rollover
- Underride collisions
Different types of commercial truck accidents can be found here.
Driver fatigue, while not always the cause of a large truck accident, usually plays a big part. Tiredness or fatigue in a driver is much more of a factor for trucking accidents than normal due to long-haul drivers driving for long periods of time as a result of being incentivized to meet time and fulfillment quotas. Oftentimes, this results in drivers not resting enough or not sleeping as much as is actually mandated now by federal or state law.
It’s basic physics. The sheer weight of a large truck means there is more force when put into a collision situation. The smaller the mass of the other vehicle, means there’s less mass to absorb the large truck’s force and results in more mass being transferred into the other vehicle in a process called passenger compartment intrusion. The more force there is, the more devastating the injuries are going to be.
Since large truck accidents involve a vehicle heavier than 10,000 pounds, it is reasonable to assume that most times a large truck will outweigh the other involved vehicle in an accident. PCI occurs when the energy of a large truck crash exceeds the strength of the vehicle’s frame, causing the victim to take the entire force of the impact. Extremely common in a truck vs. auto accident, an accident that results in PCI usually causes injuries that are almost always fatal.
Does California have any unique laws pertaining to large truck accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found California ranks in the top 10 states with the highest average of fatal large truck accidents. For this reason, California has stricter or unique truck safety laws. Some of these include:
- Truck Driver Logs: Truck drivers are required to keep electronic logs of their trucking patterns per FMCSA rules. They must keep track of where and when they stop, how often they’re taking rest breaks, and log the results of vehicle inspections and maintenance along their routes.
- Inspection Requirements: Federal and California trucking laws require drivers to regularly inspect their vehicles for damaged or worn parts to avoid serious safety issues. The California Commercial Driver Handbook expects drivers to inspect their vehicles before, during, and after each trip. Inspections of equipment like brakes, steering systems, lights, and mirrors, are usually the first check. Any issues during a particular trip should be logged and fixed before the next haul. A copy of this report is kept for a calendar year. Drivers must also make sure all cargo has been properly secured within the first 50 miles of their trip, and do a subsequent check every 150 miles or every three hours.
- Hours-of-Service Laws for Truck Drivers in California: Truck drivers in California are required to follow two different sets of regulations or “Hours-of-Service Laws.” Drivers must follow federal FMCSA rules and State of California regulations.
In California, drivers are not eligible to drive after being on duty for 80 hours in any given 8-day consecutive period. They must stop driving for at least 10 hours after 16 hours of work (driving or not) and cannot drive more than 12 hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
Under FMCSA rules, a driver can work up to 14 consecutive hours as long as they’ve been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. During that 14-hour span, however, drivers can only be behind the wheel for up to 11 hours. They must also take a break of at least 30 minutes if it’s been 8 or more hours since their last break of similar length. While weekly limits state that drivers can only work for up to 60 or 70 hours in any 7-day or 8-day workweek.
- Size and Weight Limits for Trucks: While it depends on if a truck is a combination setup and how its axles are laid out, a few general statewide regulations apply:
- The general length limit for a single commercial vehicle is 40 feet, though articulated buses and trolley coaches can go up to 60 feet.
- A truck and trailer combination vehicle cannot have a total length greater than 65 feet, with certain exceptions.
- The gross weight limit on any one axle of a commercial vehicle is 20,000 pounds or 20,500 pounds for buses.
Don’t wait for help
Should you have unique questions related to being in an accident with a large truck, trailer, or big rig in California that wasn’t covered here, it is always best to consult with an experienced attorney that can guide you in the best next steps to take. Because any number of things can go wrong in a large truck accident or in trying to obtain compensation for injuries caused, reach out to the experienced tractor-trailer collision attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP.