Common Causes And Liability In Trucking Accidents

April 21, 2024

By Promoting Justice

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCAS) is in charge of regulating the trucking industry. According to the Administration’s data for 2021, as many as 5,904 trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. That number represents an 18-percent increase from the number of trucking accidents that were reported in 2020. When neglect can be assigned to the truck driver or company the driver represents, there may be a remedy available for the victims. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Florida, consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney at Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer by calling (802) 457-4848 to schedule a consultation.

What Is Considered a Commercial Truck?

Many of the products found on store shelves made their way there on the back of a truck. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there were 13.86 million single-unit trucks registered in the country 2021. That represents 5 percent of all the registered motor vehicles on the road.

These trucks are classified by their Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This standard determines what is considered to be the safe operation of a truck based on its weight, driver, fuel, and cargo. Determining the GVWR classification is essential when discussing the merits of trucking accidents that can lead to liability lawsuits. GVWR ratings break down commercial trucks into the following classifications: 

  • Heavy Duty Commercial Trucks—26,001–33,000 lbs or more
  • Medium Duty Commercial Trucks—10,001–26,000 lbs
  • Light Duty Commercial Trucks—up to 10,000 lbs

What Are the Most Common Types of Truck Accident Cases?

Vehicle accidents can occur within a fraction of a second when mistakes are made. The sheer weight of trucks adds to the severity of the accident. When other drivers, their passengers, pedestrians, or others are injured or suffer damages due to truck accidents, it is important to note the specifics of the accident to build a liability case. The most common types of truck accident cases are as follows:

Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. Commercial truck drivers operate under pressure to make their deliveries on time. Often, that pressure leads to truckers exceeding the legally permitted driving time. When that happens, the driver is at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the FMCSA created specific federal regulations that deal with truckers’ service hours. Truckers and trucking companies must comply with those regulations, which establish the maximum number of hours any driver is permitted to be “on-duty” within a 7-8 day period, as well as specifying the minimum duration of rest breaks and frequency throughout the duty cycle. When those regulations are not followed, a truck driver’s attention and reaction times can be compromised.


As with all motor vehicles, speeding is another major cause of commercial truck accidents. Posted speed limits are for all vehicles on the road. In other words, truck drivers are not exempt from following the speed limits. When truck drivers exceed posted speed limits, they may find it difficult to react to unexpected situations on the road, such as debris on the road or cars merging. The stopping distances related to the vehicle’s speed increase based on truck and cargo weight. As relates to trucking accidents, speeding is among the most common driver-related causes of fatal collisions.

Improperly Loaded Cargo

Truck drivers might not always be the parties responsible for who loads the cargo they must haul, but they are responsible for safely transporting that cargo once it is on the truck. Improperly loaded cargo can trigger a cargo shift during transit. Unbalanced weight or distribution problems can lead to accidents, including those caused by cargo spilling out of or off the truck onto the road, which creates hazardous conditions for other drivers.

If another company was responsible for loading the vehicle that caused the accident, the loading company could be held liable in some circumstances. That is an element of a trucking accident that an attorney from Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer may be able to help determine early in the investigation of the case.

Equipment Failure

Responsibility for maintaining a commercial truck may depend partly on whether the truck is part of a commercial trucking fleet or the property of an independently contracted truck driver. In general, however, truck drivers are responsible for performing regular maintenance checks on the vehicles they operate, and freight companies are responsible for ensuring that any potential problems are handled promptly, with appropriate repairs and maintenance work. Drivers should consistently inspect the tires, brakes, and other mechanical elements. Inspections should be completed and documented before any long-distance haul.

Poor Weather Conditions

Truckers cannot control the weather any more than any other driver on the road. However, they can control whether they choose to drive in poor weather conditions. When changes in the weather generate rain, snow, fog, or ice, roads may be unsafe. The risk of truck accidents increases accordingly. Willfully ignoring poor weather conditions can be a factor in a liability lawsuit.

Distracted Driving

Another major cause of highway accidents is distracted driving. Given the size of their vehicles, truck drivers need to be even more focused on the road and the cars around them than drivers of passenger vehicles. Distracted driving is not just about texting while driving. A driver may become distracted while eating, drinking, or conversing on a CB radio, decreasing reaction time and increasing the risk of accidents.

Inexperienced Drivers

Because of the volume of freight traveling across the country on any given day, there is always a high demand for truckers. However, drivers should not be rushed through training and put behind the wheel of several tons of steel before they are ready. As with teen drivers, inexperienced truck drivers may be at a higher risk of causing accidents. That is because inexperienced drivers often lack the necessary skills to quickly recognize and respond to unexpected road conditions.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence is a concern for any motorist. When commercial truck drivers are under the influence of impairing substances, their judgment and reaction time are compromised. This can lead to devastating accidents.

The Aftermath of Trucking Accidents

In the aftermath of a trucking accident, those involved in the accident should call the police and seek medical attention for any injuries. They may also want to document the scene. In addition to taking photos or videos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries, taking down witness testimonies is important. All this evidence can aid in building a liability case.

Victims of trucking accidents may be able to seek economic damages that would pay for medical bills, lost wages, and reimbursement for property damage. Trucking accident victims might also be entitled to compensation for additional damages like pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help Today

Those at fault in trucking accidents may be held accountable when the injured party files a liability case.Depending on the facts surrounding the accident, the victims who experienced injuries or damaged property may be able to receive compensation. If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, consider contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer from Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer. Call (802) 457-4848 to schedule the consultation today.