7 Leading Causes of Serious and Fatal Truck Accidents in Pennsylvania

September 22, 2023

For truck accident victims and their families, understanding the cause of the accident is important for several reasons. But, one of the most important reasons is establishing their right to financial compensation. While victims and their families will be entitled to financial compensation in many cases, filing a successful claim requires evidence of why the accident happened and who (or what company) is responsible.

Truck accidents can have numerous causes. Tractor trailers and other large commercial trucks are complex vehicles—and there is a lot that can go wrong. Issues with the road, reckless car and SUV drivers, and various other issues can cause (or contribute to causing) serious and fatal truck accidents as well.

Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents in Pennsylvania

But, some causes are more common than others. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), some of the leading causes of serious and fatal truck accidents include:

1. Truck Driver Fatigue

Driving a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck requires constant focus and careful attention to the task at hand. When truck drivers become fatigued, their faculties become impaired, and this increases their risk of causing an accident significantly.

Under federal trucking regulations, there are limits on how many hours truck drivers can spend behind the wheel. Unfortunately, truckers and trucking companies don’t always follow the law. The longer truckers drive, the more likely they are to cause accidents due to fatigue—or, even worse, falling asleep behind the wheel.

2. Truck Driver Distractions

Truck driver distractions are a significant concern as well. When driving up to 14 hours at a time, truck drivers can get bored, and their minds can start to wander. In many cases, this leads to picking up their phones. Talking on the phone, texting, using social media and watching videos are all common distractions, and they all take truck drivers’ eyes and minds off of the road.

Communicating with dispatch, following GPS directions and other job-related distractions can increase truck drivers’ risk of causing an accident as well. At highway speeds on I-76, I-78, I-81 and other major roadways across Pennsylvania, truck drivers can easily travel the length of a football field (or more) while tending to tasks in the cabin.

3. Truck Driver Alcohol and Drug Use

Alcohol and drug use are very real concerns as well. While the dangers of driving under the influence are well-known, far too many people still choose to drive while intoxicated or impaired. Many people believe that their tolerance level is much higher than it actually is, and the effects of alcohol consumption begin well below the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Along with alcohol, the use of street, over-the-counter and prescription drugs can also cause significant driving impairments. Driving under the influence of any controlled substance is dangerous, and drivers and passengers who fall victim to truck drivers’ alcohol or drug use deserve justice for the consequences of these truck drivers’ mistakes.

4. Truck Driving Errors

Speaking of truck drivers’ mistakes, many other types of driving errors are also among the leading causes of serious and fatal truck accidents. Safely driving a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck requires skill and expertise. However, even highly experienced truck drivers can (and do) make mistakes—and these mistakes have tragic consequences in many cases.

Some of the most common truck driving errors involved in serious and fatal collisions include:

  • Speeding (or driving too fast for the conditions)
  • Tailgating
  • Running red lights and stop signs
  • Merging or changing lanes dangerously
  • Turning too sharply

Like all drivers, truck drivers have a legal duty to operate their vehicles safely while obeying all of the rules of the road. When truck drivers neglect this duty, they (and their employers) deserve to be held fully accountable.

5. Truck Brake Failures

Along with driver-related factors, the FMCSA also identifies three truck-related factors as being among the most common “critical reasons” for serious and fatal truck accidents. The first of these truck-related factors is brake failure.

While brake failure can be dangerous with any vehicle, it is especially dangerous with a large commercial truck. Tractor trailers can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds—which is a lot of weight to bring to a stop under control. When a truck’s brakes fail, the driver can be helpless to avoid a collision, and the forces involved can put other motorists at risk for life-altering or life-threatening injuries.

6. Truck Tire and Wheel Failures

The FMCSA also identifies truck tire and wheel failures as being among the leading “critical reasons” for truck accidents. This includes tire blowouts and retread failures, as well as a variety of other types of issues that can also lead to sudden and unexpected losses of control. Depending on why a truck tire or wheel failure happens, the manufacturer, the company that owns and operates the truck, and various other commercial parties could all potentially be liable in the event of a crash.

7. Cargo-Related Issues

Cargo-related issues are also common causes of truck accidents according to the FMCSA. If a truck’s cargo is not properly secured, it can shift during transit, and this can lead to accidents in various ways. If the cargo shifts forward or backward, it can impact the driver’s ability to brake safely. If it shifts side-to-side, this can potentially cause a jackknife or rollover. Overloading, losing cargo on the roadway and other cargo-related issues can also put drivers and passengers at risk on the road.

Contact the Truck Accident Lawyers at Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C.

At Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C., we help truck accident victims and their families recover just compensation after serious and fatal crashes in Pennsylvania. With offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, Doylestown, Easton and Stroudsburg, we handle truck accidents statewide. To discuss your legal rights with an experienced truck accident lawyer in confidence, please call 888-777-7098 or request a free consultation online today.