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Truck Accidents While Turning

truck

Although these collisions happen on the same roads and highways as the much more common accidents involving only passenger vehicles, truck accidents are truly a much different type of event.  The ultimate cause of truck accidents will often come down to the same type of fundamental problems that cause passenger vehicle crashes -- negligence, inattention, driver fatigue, or intoxication -- but the chain of decisions and events leading up to the moment of impact are often much, much different for a truck accident. As different as a nimble, 2-ton passenger vehicle may be from a lumbering, fully-loaded, 40-ton tractor-trailer semi. 

Danger of Truck Accidents on the Roadway 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration -- part of the U.S. Department of Transportation -- publishes an annual report that systematically analyzes year-by-year data for traffic crashes involving large trucks and buses.  The latest year for which a report has been published (2019 accident data) shows that: 

  • The number of fatal traffic incidents involving large trucks increased by 2% over the prior year – from 4,909 to 5,005; 
  • The rate of traffic fatalities involving large trucks increased by an even greater rate of 4% -- from 1.61 to 1.67 fatal incidents per million miles traveled by commercial trucks; 
  • The number of big rigs involved in traffic incidents with injuries increased by 6% over the prior year to 119,000 – approximately one truck accident resulting in injuries every 4.4 minutes nationwide. 
Accidents Involving Truck Driver Error

The primary cause for traffic crashes of any sort is driver error -- far more common than mechanical problems, defective vehicles, roadway defects, and all other causes combined.  This danger is only heightened with large trucks, which are much more challenging vehicles to drive safely than smaller passenger cars and light trucks due to their size, operating dynamics, and simple physics. 

A useful set of comparisons published by the Utah Department of Transportation notes that: 

  • A fully loaded tractor-trailer moving at 65 mph requires nearly twice the stopping distance of a passenger car moving at the same speed. 
  • Trucks have a much higher center of gravity -- especially when loaded -- making them prone to tipping over when turning, even at relatively slow speeds, requiring low-speed turns that take time to safely perform. 
  • Commercial vehicles, especially full tractor-trailer rigs with more than one trailer (known as "tandem" or "double" rigs), have much, much wider turning radiuses than passenger vehicles. 

While these simple physical facts point out the relative difficulty of safely driving large trucks as compared to typical passenger cars and light trucks, the trucking industry itself has further acknowledged a shrinking pool of experienced truck drivers being available to operate these huge, complex vehicles.  A 2019 report from the American Trucking Associations -- a trucking industry group -- documented an increasing shortage of experienced drivers since the early 2000s.  The report estimated a shortage of approximately 60,000 drivers as of 2018 that was projected -- under current trends -- to increase to as much as 180,000 by 2028.   

Further, this shortage was in drivers of all kinds -- the shortage in experienced drivers was considerably worse.  This report cited an earlier study by the same association from 2015 in which fully 88% of trucking companies reported they were receiving an adequate quantity of job applicants, but that far too many applicants were unqualified -- lacking experience -- for the job. 

And, of course, this study was from 2019 -- the Covid-19 pandemic has since then only increased the rate of employee turnover and lack of experienced truck drivers for hire. 

Discovering Lack of Driver Training and Experience Through Litigation 

When a personal injury attorney is representing a claimant who has been seriously injured in a truck accident -- or the family of a victim in a fatal incident -- a primary consideration is to fully examine and investigate the driver's training and experience up to the time of the truck accident and how these factors may have contributed to the driver's thought processes and decisions that led to the collision occurring.  Litigation tools such as written interrogatories, oral depositions, and requests for production of documents are key to to discovering and developing the necessary evidence to do so.  This will help establish liability both on part of the driver for whatever negligence may have been involved with their operating the vehicle, as well as additional forms of liability on the part of the driver's employer for potentially having employed an inexperienced driver, having failed to properly train them, etc. 

Collisions involving big rigs making turns are a good example of this.  Consider a truck making a left turn -- this may be: 

  • A turn at an intersection, from one road to another; 
  • A turn from a roadway -- either from a traffic lane or a center turn lane -- into the driveway or entrance of a property adjoining the road; or 
  • A U-turn on a wide roadway to reverse the truck's direction of travel. 

If the crash involved an oncoming vehicle hitting the turning truck's right side, questions to the driver are likely to ask whether they allowed sufficient time to safely make their turn, whether they took adequate time to look for oncoming traffic, whether they checked for any roadway conditions or visual obstructions that may have made it more difficult for them to complete their turn in time or more difficult for oncoming traffic to see the truck, and so forth.  Follow up questions would likely probe their knowledge of how to properly execute each of these actions and whether their employer had properly trained them to do so or whether their employer had considered their past experience adequate in these areas. 

View this "trucker's eye view" video showing the challenges of turning a large truck and the planning processes a driver must go through: 

Commerical Truck Accident Lawyers in Sacramento 

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Truck Accident Lawyer.  Truck accidents are much more likely than passenger car accidents to result in serious injuries or fatalities. These incidents are typically much more complicated and expensive to thoroughly investigate and successfully carry through litigation. If you or a family member has suffered serious injury in a truck accident, please give us a call at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice.  You can also reach us by using our online contact form 

We are proud to be members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, as well as National Association of Distinguished Counsel. 

You can read our client reviews on Avvo, Google, and Yelp and our past cases on our Verdicts and Settlements page. 

Photo by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay 

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