Was My San Antonio Trucking Accident Caused by Negligence?
Truck drivers and companies are subject to additional oversight and regulations other drivers are not. When a trucking accident is caused by negligence, both the truck driver and the company that employs them may be held liable for any injuries are damages.
That begs the question. When is a truck accident considered to be the result of negligence?
There are dozens of circumstances under which a truck driver or trucking company may be considered negligent. Examples of negligence in trucking accidents include driver distraction, speeding, driver fatigue, improper vehicle maintenance, improper driver training, falsifying driver records, and failure to follow commercial trucking regulations.
In this article, we will look at the most common types of negligence reported seen by our San Antonio trucking accident lawyers and how each may apply to your truck accident case.
When Is a Truck Accident Caused by Negligence?
Due to the danger large trucks and 18-wheelers can pose to other drivers, multiple state and federal agencies have been formed to regulate truck drivers and trucking companies. The goal of these agencies is to regulate the trucking industry and make the road safer for everyone.
In addition to following regular traffic laws, truck drivers and their employers must follow additional rules placing limits on what the company and driver can and cannot do. These include regulations limiting the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel, how heavy a load a truck can carry, and numerous other items.
Agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) also require truck drivers and companies to keep accurate logs and records showing that all rules and regulations are being followed.
If a truck driver or company is found to be in violation of any of the above items – whether that be regular traffic laws, commercial vehicle regulations, or log-keeping guidelines – and an accident occurs, they may be considered negligent and liable for resulting damages.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents in San Antonio
Despite the extra rules and oversight, truck accidents are a regular occurrence in San Antonio. Most of these crashes are the result of some form of negligence, either by the truck driver, other motorists, or the trucking company.
Amon the most common causes of trucking accident we see in San Antonio are:
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence
- Driver fatigue
- Unlicensed or poorly trained drivers
- Trucks carrying improper loads
- Poor vehicle maintenance
We will cover each of these in more detail below.
Accidents Caused by Distracted Truck Drivers
Driver distraction has always been a major concern in the trucking industry. However, over the past two decades, potential distractions have become more and more prevalent. From texting to phone calls to apps, emails, and games, there are now more distractions than ever to take a truck driver’s eyes and attention off the road.
It is important to remember that distractions are not limited to technology alone. Common types of driver distraction include:
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Using a vape pen
- Adjusting controls
- Using cellphones
- Using GPS
- Using CB radios
- Reaching for a device or item
- Talking to passengers
- Checking maps, notes, directions, or logs
According to a 2010 report by the FMCSA, roughly 20% of all trucking accidents were caused by distracted truck drivers. However, it is likely this number is underreported and may have increased over the past 12 years.
Reckless Truck Drivers
Reckless driving covers a wide variety of behaviors, but it is typically described as driving with irreverence for or indifference to the safety or property of others.
This can include:
- Running red lights
- Running stop signs
- Passing on blind curves
- Making unsafe turns
- Making unsafe lane changes
- Driving aggressively
- Consciously disregarding traffic signs
Reckless driving is always dangerous – but when a truck driver operating a 40-ton 18-wheeler chooses to driver recklessly, catastrophe is never far away.
Trucking Accidents Caused by Drunk Truck Drivers
When it comes to drugs and alcohol, truck drivers are subject to much more stringent regulations than non-commercial drivers. For example, federal law sets the maximum legal BAC for truck drivers at .04. This is half the legal limit for non-commercial drivers in most states.
However, a truck driver does not need to be above the BAC limit to be considered negligent after a crash. There are multiple instances in which a driver can be in violation of federal drug and alcohol regulations, even when they are below the limit.
For example, the FMCSA states that a truck driver cannot operate a commercial vehicle within four hours of consuming alcohol, regardless of their BAC. Moreover, commercial drivers can be subjected to random alcohol testing as well as testing after any accident where there is reasonable suspicion of DUI.
Further, if a truck driver is found to be drunk or in violation of FMCSA drug and alcohol regulations, the company that employs that driver may be considered negligent as well.
Truck Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue is another major issue for the trucking industry. A study by the FMCSA determined that 2.6 out of every 100 truck drivers on the road are suffering from fatigue. Considering there are some 13 million-plus commercial large trucks and buses registered in the U.S., you can understand how big the problem of truck driver fatigue is.
In fact, driver fatigue among commercial vehicle operators is estimated to result in 750 deaths and 20,000 injuries every year.
To try and combat truck driver fatigue, the FMCSA has passed strict rules limiting the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel. Currently, truck drivers are limited to 60-70 hours of driver per week and cannot drive more than 11 consecutive hours.
Beyond that, drivers are limited to 14 consecutive “on duty” hours. This includes all driving hours as well as work hours spent on non-driving activities like log entry, vehicle maintenance, loading, and unloading.
Unfortunately, this is still not enough to eliminate truck driver fatigue. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), truck drivers who spend more than 8 consecutive hours driving are twice as likely to have a crash due to driver fatigue.
Long hours behind the wheel are not the only cause of driver fatigue, either. Other causes include sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep cycles, and changes in “on-duty” shifts.
Crashes Caused by Unlicensed and Poorly Trained Truck Drivers
Truck drivers are required to obtain special licensing and training before they can legally drive a large truck or 18-wheeler. Unfortunately, despite these requirements, numerous accidents are caused by unqualified truck drivers every year.
The trucking industry is a tough one to work in and, depending on the employer, drivers may not be willing to stay around for too long. The American Trucking Association has reported the 12-month turnover rate for some trucking companies to be 100%. This means no truckers stayed with the company for more than a year.
In response, some companies are tempted to hire unlicensed or unqualified drivers to operate vehicles sitting in their fleet. Further, they may put the driver on the road with limited or no training.
When under-trained or unqualified truck drivers hit the road, they may:
- Fail to keep the same level of diligence practiced by experienced truck drivers
- Lack the knowledge to respond to adverse weather conditions
- Lack the knowledge to respond to road hazards
- Fail to properly secure their loads
- Lack the knowledge to conduct emergency stops
- Fail to check blind spots
- Fail to keep a safe following distance
- Drive too many hours in a day
- Fail to recognize driver fatigue
- Complete improper or illegal entries in their driver logs
- Fail to complete required state inspections of their vehicle
Transporting Oversized Truck Loads
If you’ve driven on a Texas highway, you’ve certainly seen an 18-wheeler hauling a “wide load.” These generally involve a truck transporting small structures, wind turbine blades, and equipment for our oil and gas industry. Oftentimes, these trucks are also accompanied by a convoy of small vehicles to help them navigate traffic.
Extra precautions are taken with these kinds of trucks because they are more difficult for the truck driver to manage and pose an increased risk to other motorists. The dangers and difficulties do not lie with just the size of the haul itself, but rather the conditions the large load creates for the truck and trailer.
If these oversized loads are not properly handled, violations may occur – including:
- Loads that exceed state or federal restrictions
- Axle overloading
- Improperly secured loads
- Loads that exceed height and width restrictions
- Failure to properly attach warning devices (i.e. flags and “wide load” banners)
Poorly Maintained Trucks
Large trucks are complex machines and need to be running properly in order to be safe on the road. This means regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs. When a trucking company tries to cut corners on fleet maintenance, they put everyone on the road at risk.
Common maintenance issues we’ve seen in trucking accidents caused by negligence:
- Worn or defective tires
- Poorly maintained brake systems
- Broken lights
- Worn or defective trailer hitches and safety chains
- Improperly maintained steering systems
- Worn and damaged suspension
- Worn power trains
- Poorly maintained exhaust systems
What If I Was in a Trucking Accident Cause by Negligence?
If you were in a trucking accident and believe negligence by the truck driver of the trucking company was a factor, call Thomas J. Henry Law immediately.
Anytime you are involved in a crash with a large truck or commercial vehicle, it is best to speak with an attorney about your options. This is due to the additional laws that regulate the commercial vehicles and the trucking industry. The everyday driver will not likely be able to identify red flags, like driver fatigue, driver inattention, or improper maintenance. Our San Antonio truck accident lawyers can.
We have helped thousands of truck accident victims recover fair compensation for their accidents and injuries. We can do the same for you.
Remember, the trucking company has lawyers ready to challenge any claim you make against them. You deserve to have someone in your corner who is ready to fight for you.
Call now for your FREE case review. We are available to help 24/7, nights and weekends.