Driving the largest vehicles on the road, at the highest speeds, for the longest distances, carrying some of the most hazardous transportable materials—that’s what many truck drivers do every day for a living.
Therefore, it’s essential that truck drivers and their employers refrain from the dangerous practices that cause truck accidents. Any risky, careless, negligent, or wrongful act on the part of a driver or trucking company can cause death later down the road.
So what are the most dangerous practices that cause truck accidents on the highways of New Mexico and across the country?
The Most Common Dangerous Practices That Cause Trucking Accidents
Thousands of people die in tractor-trailer accidents every year, and thousands more suffer serious and life-altering injuries. The problematic behaviors listed below are some of the most common causes of truck accidents. We’ll look closer at these dangerous trucking practices that cause crashes:
- Truck driver fatigue
- Distracted driving
- Poor truck maintenance practices
- Improper cargo loading
- Substance abuse
- Negligent hiring practices
Truck Driver Fatigue
The CDC compares fatigued driving to drunk driving, as both of these dangerous practices can cause severe impairments. When operating a large commercial vehicle, drivers must be at their most alert. But due to grueling schedules, stressful working cultures, and long, monotonous hours on the highway, many truckers drive fatigued on a regular basis—even though fatigued driving is against the law for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators.
A driver is three times more likely to be in a crash if they are fatigued, according to the National Safety Council. Driving fatigued causes vehicle operators to suffer impairments like:
- Slowed reaction times
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Blurred vision
- Impaired judgment
- Misjudging distances
- Difficulty focusing
- Missing turns, signs, and exit ramps
- Drifting out of lanes
- Running red lights and stop signs
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency that regulates the trucking industry, warns CMV operators of the risks of distracted driving. Research showed that in roughly 80% of truck accidents and near-crashes, the driver was distracted within the three seconds leading up to the collision.
Distractions can come from both within and outside of the vehicle. Some of the most common distractions that can cause truck accidents include:
- Cell phone use, including texting, calling, reading emails, social media, videos, and video-calling
- Using dispatching devices
- Following GPS or a map
- Reading, writing, or taking down notes
- Eating, drinking, smoking, or taking medication
- Adjusting a radio or music device
- Reading billboards along the highway
- Looking outside at buildings, scenery, other vehicles, an accident site, or any other visual distraction
Poor Truck Maintenance Practices
Sloppy, careless fleet maintenance and laxity on pre- and post-trip inspections are a major cause of CMV collisions. Dangerous practices that go on at the trucking company can result in injuries and fatalities that occur long after the initial act of negligence.
Poor truck maintenance practices can lead to mechanical failures that occur suddenly while the driver is on a long haul, such as:
- Tire blowout
- Brake failure
- Transmission issues
- Broken headlights
- Faulty turn signals
- Steering system failure
- Suspension problems
- Running out of fuel, oil, brake fluid, or other necessary fluids
Improper Cargo Loading
Accidents due to improper loading are far from uncommon in the ground-based transport industry. The FMCSA has strict cargo-securement laws that must be followed by truck companies, loading companies, and vehicle operators. When these regulations are violated, serious consequences like loss of vehicle control, loss of load, jackknifing, a rollover, or tire or transmission failure can occur.
Some of the most common loading failures that cause truck accidents are:
- Overloading (exceeding federal and state weight restrictions)
- Uneven cargo distribution
- Using worn-out or inadequate tie-downs
- Improperly-secured hitches, gates, or latches
- Failure to inspect cargo securement before and at regular intervals during a trip
Research on drug and alcohol use among commercial truck drivers has uncovered some alarming statistics. In a recent study, more than half of truck drivers self-reported that they drank alcohol and operated a CMV, and one in three drivers admitted to using amphetamines behind the wheel. Marijuana usage is also becoming increasingly common among long-haul truckers, whether used legally with a prescription or illegally for recreational purposes.
Any illicit or legal substance that alters brain chemistry, even prescription medications, can increase a driver’s risk of causing a truck accident. Although FMCSA laws are explicit about the use and possession of drugs and alcohol, testing requirements, and penalties for violations, too many drivers still choose to get behind the wheel intoxicated.
Negligent Hiring Practices
Drivers who are unqualified should never be allowed to operate 80,000-pound vehicles. There is a high degree of skill and insight needed to safely drive a large commercial truck. But trucking companies that are eager to fill drivers’ seats may neglect to do their due diligence when hiring new employees. This dangerous practice causes truck accidents by sending unskilled, reckless, irresponsible, or otherwise unqualified drivers out onto the roads and highways of our cities.
Negligent hiring practices may be seen as:
- Ignoring or failing to conduct background checks
- Disregarding a potential employee’s accident history or criminal record
- Not ensuring that drivers have valid commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) or the endorsements needed to operate a specific vehicle or carry certain types of cargo
- Not taking steps to address or identify an employee’s drug or alcohol problem
- Failing to enforce requirements for physical examinations and fitness aptitude tests
- Allowing medically unfit drivers to operate company vehicles
- Not giving drivers proper training opportunities
- Failing to continually monitor current employees for skills aptitude, health fitness, and sobriety
Serious Injuries Result From Dangerous Trucking Practices
Any of the dangerous practices described above can cause truck accidents that injure or kill passenger vehicle occupants. Some of the most common injuries suffered in truck accidents are:
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head trauma and brain injuries
- Broken ribs
- Fractures and other broken bones
- Facial disfigurement
- Dental injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal injuries
- Lacerations and abrasions
What To Do if Your Truck Accident Was Caused by a Dangerous Practice
According to the most recent crash data report from the New Mexico Department of Transportation, a large truck crash occurs every three hours in New Mexico.
If you or someone you love was hurt because a truck driver or trucking company engaged in dangerous practices, you have the right to hold the at-fault party legally accountable for their negligence.
Don’t wait to learn about your legal rights and options after suffering truck crash injuries. An experienced truck accident attorney from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm can meet with you at your convenience for a free case evaluation. We’ll review your case to see what dangerous practices caused your accident and then help you take action to recover compensation for your losses.
Simply call our Albuquerque office to schedule your no-cost case consultation today.
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