Top causes of truck accidents

What Are the Top Causes of Truck Accidents?

Trucks are necessary vehicles in the United States. Truck transport is one of the most common ways to get items from one place to another in the country, and around 70% of all the products used in the country are transported by truck at one time or another.

The number of trucks on the road is just going to multiply, and by 2030, truck crashes could be the fifth largest cause of death in the country, based on professional estimates. That is a scary thought for truck and passenger vehicle drivers alike. 

Why are truck crashes so dangerous?

Truck crashes can be some of the most serious of all. Trucks are often thousands of pounds, if not tens of thousands of pounds, heavier than passenger vehicles. When they collide, the likelihood is that those inside a smaller vehicle will be badly hurt or killed. Crushing injuries are particularly common in truck collisions.

While truck drivers do need to have a special Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’re going to be safe or be able to avoid causing a crash. There are several common reasons why they crash, many of which are completely preventable. 

What are the top causes of truck accidents?

While there are many influencing factors, some of the top causes of truck crashes include:

  • Tire defects/Mechanical errors
  • Drowsy driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that while there are hundreds of reasons why large trucks are crashed, their top 10 associated factors are:

  • Brake problems
  • Traffic congestion/flow problems
  • Road damage/problems
  • Unfamiliarity with the roadways
  • Speeding
  • Prescription drug use
  • Failing to stop for a traffic control device
  • Fatigue
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Distractions

Mechanical errors impact many vehicles, but trucks in particular

Among the top causes are mechanical errors. Problems with the wheels, tires and brakes most often cause crashes. For example, the truck driver’s tire may come off or shred, throwing debris into the path of other drivers or destabilizing their own vehicle. Braking may also be an issue.

Due to the weight of a truck, the brakes must be in good condition. If they fail, the truck could go from needing double the stopping distance of a typical passenger vehicle to triple or be unable to stop at all. 

Drowsy driving is avoidable but happens often

Drowsy driving also affects truck drivers. These truck drivers are expected to meet tight deadlines and to drive at all hours, so it makes sense that their sleep schedules may be a little unusual. However, not getting enough rest can actually make a drowsy truck driver as dangerous as someone who has been drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel. 

Truck drivers are more susceptible to drowsy driving. They have long hours on the roads, the pressure to complete their tasks quickly and tight deadlines to meet. Even if they get enough sleep, they may struggle to stay awake out of boredom or fatigue after hours behind the wheel. 

Fortunately, the hours of service regulations do limit how long commercial drivers can be behind the wheel without breaks. For example, a truck driver who is carrying cargo can drive for up to 11 hours. Drivers who transport passengers may only drive for 10 hours. The caveat with both is that they can only drive these long hours if they’ve been off work for at least 10 hours and 8 hours, respectively. Cargo drivers also have to take 30-minute breaks at least once every eight hours. 

Distractions also play a role in many collisions

Truck drivers face many distractions, both in and outside their vehicles. From getting distracted by a collision as they pass by to setting GPS coordinates, there are many ways to take your mind off what you’re supposed to be doing: Driving.

Some common distractions for truck drivers include texting, using a dispatching device, dialing a handheld phone and inputting GPS coordinates.


One of the last major causes of truck crashes is speeding. Speed limits in some states are around 10 mph lower for truck drivers compared to passenger drivers for a reason. The faster a large truck is going when it collides with others, the more likely it is that they or others will be badly injured. 

Speeding is unacceptable for these licensed drivers, but it happens often. In fact, in just a single year, the FMCSA reported over 15,510 truck drivers being cited for traveling 15 mph or more over the speed limit. 

These are just some of the top causes of truck crashes. These crashes are preventable in many cases, just by maintaining the vehicle properly and following the rules of the road. 

Author: Brandon Park