Serious large truck accidents are rarely caused by one factor. Typically, they involve multiple reasons and contributory factors. It is important to distill the reasons behind these costly and, too often, fatal accidents to prevent them and help enable injured parties to recover compensation for physical injuries, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) was conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to take a closer look at the reasons for serious crashes involving trucks over 10,000 pounds.

Ten high-priority issues relating to large truck safety and policy were selected for the focus of the study based on the relevance of the issues, current interest in and knowledge of the issues, feasibility of potential interventions, issues over which FMCSA has jurisdiction, and the political priority of issues.

Based on these considerations, analysis of the following issues was prioritized:  problem identification, driver fatigue and hours of service, vehicle maintenance and inspections, relative roles of cars and large trucks, driver working environment, role of environmental factors, truck driver performance, vehicle design and load, truck driver licensing and monitoring, and truck driver training and experience.

Through this analysis and collection of data, the study ultimately set out to investigate crash risk in large trucks over 10,000 pounds. To accomplish this, the LTCCS collected data on “critical reasons” and “associated factors” behind serious large truck crashes.

The study utilizes a risk-increasing definition of “cause” when assessing the accidents. The LTCCS notes, for the purposes of the study, that “cause” can either be defined as a necessary factor—a “but for” factor—or a risk-increasing factor—one that makes the crash more probable.

Reasoning that the factors influencing large truck crashes are multi-faceted, the LTCCS finds that the methodology of collecting multiple associated factors and examining them through a risk-increasing lens is effective because, in this model, fault is irrelevant and the lack of a single cause in each crash is recognized. This approach enables the implementation of changes to reduce the risk of large truck crashes when individual associated factors in the data are considered.

Critical Reasons

The study revealed four driver-related factors as the top critical reasons for serious large trucks crashes including driver non-performance, driver recognition, driver decision, and driver performance. Together, these driver-related critical reasons were responsible for 87% of all crashes examined by the study. Secondary critical reasons for crashes were vehicle and environmental factors, representing 10% and 3% of crashes, respectively.

Driver Decision

Among the driver-related critical reasons, the most common was due to driver decision, causing an estimated 38% of serious crashes. In this study, driver decision referred to situations in which the driver was speeding, following too closely behind other vehicles, did not engage their brakes with enough distance, or misjudged the distance between his or her truck and another vehicle, structure, or object.

Driver Recognition

The second most common driver-related critical reason for serious large truck crashes revealed by the study was due to driver recognition, defined to include distracted driving for any reason, failure to adequately or accurately observe the situation or surroundings, and inattentiveness. Driver recognition accounted for 28% of the accidents examined in the LTCCS.

Driver Non-Performance

A smaller portion—12%—of the crashes examined in the study were identified as having driver performance related issues as the critical reason for the large truck accident. Driver non-performance includes mostly physical problems that may debilitate the driver, such as a seizure, heart attack, loss of consciousness, loss of sight, or any other physical condition that impairs a driver’s ability to perform or function.

Associated Factors

In addition to these critical reasons, the study examined associated factors, which were not the immediate reason for the crash, but contributed to its occurrence. The top 10 associated factors identified by the LTCCS were brake problems, traffic flow interruptions, prescription drug use, traveling too fast for conditions, unfamiliarity with roadway, roadway problems, required to stop before crash, over-the-counter drug use, inadequate surveillance, and fatigue.

Interestingly, the study identified driver fatigue and alcohol as associated factors in only 13% and 1%, respectively, of the large truck accidents examined. The data indicated that passenger vehicle drivers involved in a crash were more likely than truck drivers to be subject to adverse physical conditions like fatigue and illness, along with alcohol and illegal drug use as an associated factor in a crash.

The data also revealed that large trucks may be more likely to follow too closely and be distracted by something outside the vehicle.

Critical Events

The critical reasons described above, along with these associated factors, were responsible for causing serious large truck accidents in three main scenarios or “critical events.” The most common type of accident or critical event involved a large truck running into another lane or off the road. This type of accident was followed closely by 29% of trucks that lost control of the vehicle due to poor road conditions, mechanical issues, driver error, and other factors. The last major type of critical event was a large truck rear ending another vehicle in their lane. These accidents represented 22% of all serious large truck accidents surveyed.

Why should this information matter to injured accident victims?

While the authors of the LTCCS conducted the study with the aim of identifying risk-increasing factors to proactively encourage steps to reduce large truck crashes, the data also provide insight into the most common critical reasons and associated factors of serious truck accidents that is useful to injured parties after they have been involved in an accident.

Texas law applies a “modified comparative fault” rule, which allows accident victims who contribute to the accident through their own negligence to be able to recover some compensation from the other party, as long as that party was more responsible for causing the accident.

The modified comparative fault system also applies a 51% bar, which prevents an injured party from recovering compensation due to an accident if they were 51% or more at fault for causing the accident.

Under this system, identifying negligent conduct on the part of a large truck driver after an accident is critical in proving your claim for damages against them. Understanding the common critical reasons and associated factors behind most large truck accidents can help you and your attorney to identify the particular causes of the accident you were involved in.

What should I do if I’ve been injured in an accident involving a large truck?

Collisions involving large trucks can be extremely dangerous. Of course, the first thing you should do following a large truck accident is call 911 and seek medical attention, if necessary. If you do not need to be taken away by an ambulance, take time to document as much information about the accident and accident scene as possible.

Take photos of each vehicle involved, particularly the damage to your vehicle, as well as the roadway where the accident occurred. Obtain contact information, driver’s license number, and registration and insurance information from the truck driver and any other drivers who were involved. If there was a witness to the accident, ask them to provide a statement about what they saw and get their contact information.

Document any and all symptoms you experience from injuries immediately following the truck accident and in the days and weeks following the accident. It can sometimes take time for symptoms to develop from injuries that were caused or exacerbated by an accident.

If you suffered injuries or substantial property damage after a large truck accident in Texas, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Lowenberg Law Firm at (832) 241-6000 or send us a message for a free consultation using the link above. We will review the evidence in your case and discuss your options and rights following a large truck accident. Contact us today.