The state of Texas is the location of more fatal truck accidents than any other state in the country. In 2020, there were 643 deaths caused by truck accidents across the state.
One of the reasons truck accidents cause so many fatalities is the weight and size of these vehicles compared to others on the road. An average commercial truck can weigh 80,000 pounds, which is 20 times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. Even traveling at just 10 miles per hour, large trucks can cause devastating injuries and fatalities.
Here, you can learn more about the most common causes of Texas truck accidents and the state and federal laws in place to help prevent them.
How Does Texas Define a “Truck”
Trucks in Texas include any vehicle used for transporting property or items. In some situations, the truck’s characteristics, like what is being transported or the weight, determine what laws apply.
When most people talk about truck accidents, they are discussing those that involve large commercial trucks, like the following:
- Delivery trucks
- Box trucks
- Big rigs
- Refrigerated trucks
- Tow trucks
- Dump trucks
- Tractor Trailers
- Gas and oil trucks
Now that you better understand what a “truck” is, learn more about the common causes of accidents.
Most Common Causes of Texas Truck Accidents
Texas truck accidents can happen in an instant. Some of the most common causes include the following:
Truck Driver Error
Driver error is the most common cause of truck accidents across the country. Mistakes by drivers that lead to accidents include the following:
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless driving
- Running stop signs and red lights
- Distracted driving
- Following too closely
- Improper braking techniques
- Vehicle defects
- Unsafe passing
- Unsafe lane changes
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Truck companies are responsible for the mistakes and errors of drivers. This is called vicarious liability.
According to federal law, this applies even when the driver is an independent contractor and not an employee of the truck company. Companies typically have more insurance coverage than individual drivers, which means the victim has a better chance of recovering full compensation for their injuries and losses.
Unreasonable Work Demands
While this is not all trucking companies, some give drivers unreasonable schedules or financial incentives to get them to ignore hours of service regulations. This increases the likelihood of a truck accident.
Pressure from carriers leads to truck drivers engaging in dangerous actions they would otherwise avoid.
Driver fatigue is a serious issue in the trucking industry. Many drivers are alone on overnight shifts, which is dangerous alone. However, this, combined with health problems like sleep apnea and irregular sleeping schedules, increase the possibility of driver fatigue among truckers compared to other drivers.
Fatigued truck drivers have difficulty paying attention to the road and controlling their vehicles safely. This can cause accidents with devastating outcomes.
Improper Vehicle Maintenance
If a truck is not maintained properly, it can cause breakdowns, such as brake failure and tire blowouts. Equipment malfunctions can also result in losing control of the vehicle and accidents.
The trucking company must inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles. Drivers must inspect their vehicles before getting on the road each day.
Poor Road Conditions
Poor road infrastructure, obstacles in the road, and limited visibility make it challenging for truck drivers to operate their vehicles safely. If drivers do not reduce their speed when road conditions require this, they may not have sufficient time to avoid an accident.
Alcohol is not a leading cause of truck accidents; it is still a problem worth mentioning. If convicted of drinking and driving, commercial drivers will lose their CDL (commercial driver’s license).
While this is the case, some drivers still drink. This is often caused by isolation on the road and boredom. However, drivers impaired by alcohol create dangerous driving conditions for everyone.
If commercial truck drivers are hired or begin driving without proper training, it can lead to dangerous road conditions. In this situation, the company that hires them is often liable for damages they cause.
Lack of Experience
For the past 15 years, there has been a significant shortage of truck drivers. Because of this, some carriers are hiring and relying on inexperienced drivers to meet the demand.
Truck drivers are not permitted to operate commercial vehicles without the proper licensing. Unfortunately, just having a CDL is not the same as years of experience handling these large vehicles in real-world driving situations.
Many inexperienced drivers are unaware of the hazards in many situations and may commit driving mistakes that lead to serious accidents.
Sometimes, components of commercial trucks, like brakes, are defective and lead to accidents. The manufacturer may be liable if a critical truck part is defective and fails.
In situations where component failure contributes to truck accidents, the injured victims may be able to file a claim against the negligent manufacturer.
Using over-the-counter and prescription medications seems innocent and are common among truck drivers. Unfortunately, many OTC medications can lead to problems related to focus and paying attention to the road.
The side effects of OTC and illegal drugs can vary, which makes drugged truck drivers dangerous and unpredictable.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Large trucks are responsible for transporting tons of cargo each day. However, the load must be properly balanced and secured to do this safely.
If those in charge of loading the cargo overload the trailers or fail to secure it properly, it may shift and lead to an accident.
Understanding the Laws Related to Truck Drivers and Truck Companies
Truckers and truck companies must adhere to state and federal laws. Some of the laws that must be followed apply to the following:
- Driver qualifications
- Weigh stations
- Truck operation
- Trucking terminal audits
- Vehicle maintenance and repairs
- Complaint investigations
- Minimum insurance coverage
- Compliance reviews
Along with federal laws, commercial drivers and companies must follow Texas state laws. These can be found in the Texas Transportation Code, Title 7.
One of the most important federal regulations that truck drivers must meet is the hours-of-service limitations. Some important points of these regulations include the following:
For Property Carrying Vehicles
Drivers can have 14 hours on duty after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Additionally, they can have a maximum of 11 hours of driving during the 14 hours of duty. There is also a maximum of 60 hours of duty for any seven consecutive days for trucks operated daily. There is a maximum of 70 hours on duty for any eight consecutive days for trucks not operated daily.
For Passenger Carrying Vehicles
Drivers can have a maximum of 15 hours on duty after eight consecutive hours off duty. They are allowed a maximum of 10 driving hours after eight consecutive hours off-duty. There is also a maximum of 60 hours of duty for any seven consecutive days for trucks operated daily. There is a maximum of 70 hours on duty for any eight consecutive days for trucks not operated daily.
Determining Liability in a Texas Truck Accident
If you are involved in an accident with a truck, it may be possible to recover compensation for your injuries. To do this, you must show that another party was at-fault for the accident.
Usually, the at-fault party is the truck driver; however, this is not always the case.
Some of the parties that may be considered at fault in a Texas truck accident include the following:
- The truck driver. If the driver’s negligence caused your accident, they are responsible.
- The trucking company. If state or federal law was violated due to truck company pressure or if the company used negligent hiring, they may be held liable for accidents.
- The truck or parts manufacturer. Defective parts and trucks can cause accidents. If this is the case, the manufacturer of the truck or part can be held liable.
- The cargo company. If the cargo caused the accident, the company responsible for loading could be held liable for your accident.
In some truck accident cases, more than one party will be responsible for the accident.
Let Our Truck Accident Attorneys Help with Your Claim
We understand how devastating the outcome of a Texas truck accident can be. At The Burkett Law Firm, our legal team is ready to help you determine liability in your accident case and ensure that the party (or parties) are held responsible.
We will fight aggressively for your rights to compensation. The first step is to contact our Corpus Christi office to schedule a free consultation. We are here to help you with your truck accident claim.
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