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What Causes Big Truck Accidents?

Commercial trucks are the heaviest vehicles you’ll see on the highway. As a result, accidents that involve a tractor-trailer has significant potential involve serious injury or death. Drivers are given extensive training to prevent collision. However, people are known to make mistakes, and unfortunately, regulation of the trucking industry is not what it could be.

So, what are the top five causes of semi-truck accidents? See the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s statistics below:

Trucker Prescription or OTC Drug Use

With government regulations of the trucking industry stepping in, truckers are no longer stereotyped as criminal drug users—illegal drug use is only involved in about 2% of big-rig crashes.  Still, prescription drug use is the number one cause of semi-truck accidents today. In 26% of all trucking accidents, prescription drug use is cited as a cause. Additionally, 18% of all trucking accidents involve over-the-counter medications. When combined, drug use accounts for a whopping 44% of all trucking industry accidents.

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck, your St. Louis truck accident attorney can determine whether or not the truck driver was using any prescription or over-the-counter medications. While it is legal for anyone (including truckers) to drive while properly using medication that has been prescribed by a physician, side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, or aggression that occur from certain medications can make a significant impact on someone’s ability to control a vehicle.


Speeding plays a role in nearly one quarter of all commercial trucking crashes (23%), making speed the number 2 cause of semi-truck accidents. An 80,000-pound truck can exert massive force upon impact, and that force is made even more deadly with each mile of increasing speed.

Unfamiliar Roadways

Driving on an unfamiliar roadway is stressful for anyone. When you factor in the need for for an average 12-13 foot big rig to alter routes to avoid short overpasses, a poorly planned route becomes a major source for disorientation and distraction. Instead of focusing on the road ahead of them, drivers may be looking into the distance, or off to the side, to find an alternate route. Worse yet, they may direct their attention to a map or GPS system. For this reason, unfamiliar roadways comes in as the number 3 cause of semi-truck accidents—accounting for 22% of all commercial trucking crashes.

While it is inevitable for every trucker to drive on an unfamiliar roadway, it is crucial to plan trips accordingly, and be prepared.

Inadequate Surveillance/Trucker Blind Spots

Tractor-trailer blind spots differ from passenger car blind spots due to the sheer size of a typical semi-truck. While drivers are trained to check these blind spots carefully, inadequate surveillance accounts for 14% of semi-truck accidents. Generally speaking, if you can’t see the driver’s face, he may not see your entire car. Be sure to keep your distance when driving behind, or in front of a big-rig, and always pass semi-trucks on the left: while the blind spot will still be there, drivers are more expectant of vehicles passing from that side.

Big Truck Driver Fatigue

The trucking industry has been under a lot of scrutiny regarding driver fatigue. This increased exponentially after Tracy Morgan was severely injured in the big truck accident that killed James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. Therefore, it was surprising to discover that driver fatigue accounts for only 13% of commercial trucking accidents.  While it accounts for a significant number of accidents, driver fatigue ranks number 5 on the Top 5 Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents.

It’s worth noting that there is a bit of discrepancy in the statistics. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined that 13% of Commercial Truck accidents are the result of driver fatigue, the NHTSA estimates that fatigue plays a role in as many as 40 percent of all semi-truck crashes.

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