Let’s start with something really basic; there are no “accidents”, there are crashes (collisions, wrecks, etc.). The word “accident” has a connotation of being fault-free. For example, a toddler may have an “accident” in his/her pants.
Crashes occur due to violations of safety rules. These safety rules, if enforced, protect us all from harm, including injury or even death. Failure to follow the safety rules constitutes “negligence”, which is the standard that we have to prove in Texas to hold a wrongdoer accountable for his actions.
When we are talking about commercial motor vehicles (“CMV’s”), the safety rules are often spelled out in the federal regulations that govern interstate carriers, the state regulations that cover intrastate carriers, and even in the hiring and training manuals used by trucking and bus companies to train their drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (“FMCSA”) regulates all registered commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) that operate interstate or that carry hazardous materials (HM).
The types of vehicles regulated by the FMCSA include:
- Single unit trucks – also known as “straight trucks”
- Combination trucks – also known as “tractor-trailers”
- Buses – defined as a vehicle with seats for at least 9 people, including the driver
What Are The Most Common Causes Of These Accidents?
The FMCSA commissioned a study in 2007 “to examine the reasons for serious crashes involving large trucks (truck with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds)”.
The study assigned 3 major types of “critical events” to crashes involving large trucks:
- Running out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road (32% of the large trucks in the sample were assigned this critical event;
- Vehicle loss of control due to traveling too fast for conditions, cargo shift, vehicle systems failure, poor road conditions, or other reasons (29 5);
- Colliding with the rear of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane (22 %).
Next, the study tracked the data and assigned “critical reasons” for each of the crashes
Driver critical reasons were coded in four categories:
- Non-Performance: The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason.
- Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.
- Decision: For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.
- Performance: For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.
Additionally, the study developed a list of “Associated Factors”. That were involved in causing the crashes studied. The top 10 Associated Factors, in descending order, for large trucks were:
- Brake problems
- Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
- Prescription drug use
- Traveling too fast for conditions
- Unfamiliarity with roadway
- Roadway problems
- Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
- Over-the-counter drug use
- Inadequate surveillance
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