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Unexpected Causes of Trucking Crashes

Unexpected Causes of Trucking Crashes
Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Previously, we discussed some of the more common causes of trucking accidents, including driver inexperience, trucker DUIs, and other factors. But not all truck accident causes are as predictable as speeding or poor merging technique. We examine some other, unexpected causes of trucking crashes.

Runaway Trucks

A semi-truck going down a steep hill is a tricky situation, even for an experienced driver. Before going over a hill, a trucker needs to lower their speed to what they will use to take it downhill and then shift into low gear to prevent the truck from gaining speed. If the truck is not at a safe speed before going over the hill, they are much more likely to lose control of the vehicle.

If the road is too steep and the load too heavy, the brakes may lack the force needed to bring the truck to a safe speed. In these circumstances, the vehicle stops responding and becomes a runaway truck.

In a best-case scenario, the trucker is able to find a runaway truck ramp, a third lane specifically engineered to bring trucks to a stop as quickly as possible. However, the runaway truck ramp is not always an option. While these crashes are rarer than they used to be, a significant number lead to multiple catastrophic injuries or even death.

Fires

Though rare, about 1-in-25 trucking crashes are the direct result of a fire. Most often, these start in the wheel well. Trucks are huge and heavy, and it takes a lot of force and friction to slow them down. That, in turn, creates a lot of heat. If a truck is not lubricated properly or if the brakes aren’t replaced as often as they should be, the extreme heat can cause tires to smoke and eventually catch fire, causing a tire blowout or forcing the truck off the road.

Fires are exceptionally dangerous for trucks carrying flammable materials, particularly tankers. If the fire is not put out promptly, it can grow and cause the cargo to combust, potentially injuring anyone close to the vehicle.

Powerful Winds

Even on a clear day, strong gusts of wind can wreak havoc on a semi-truck and nudge the driver out of their lane.

The greater a vehicle’s size, the more surface area the wind pushes on. The long-flat design of a tractor-trailer effectively makes it act like a sail. That means if the trailer is empty or the weight is improperly distributed, strong winds can lift the trailer or knock the truck onto its side.

Truck drivers in these situations should seek cover near an overpass or large structure. Failing that, they need to turn the truck so it faces the wind. Pushing forward regardless of the conditions is a recipe for disaster.

Tire Blowouts

If you’ve ever seen a scrap of truck tire on the highway, you’re not alone. Tire blowouts are responsible fortens of thousands of crashes per year.

More often than not, a burst tire represents a two-pronged threat. First, the trucker typically loses control of the vehicle. In a best-case scenario, they’ll move onto the shoulder and safely come to a stop. In other situations, a truck may drift across multiple lanes or even cross the median and slide into oncoming traffic.

The second problem is the tire itself. Truck tires are large, often weighing around 100lbs. During a tire blowout, scraps of the tire may fly toward anyone behind the truck, often at traffic speed. The result is similar to a head-on collision and may cause catastrophic injuries or worse.


If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or even wrongful death in a trucking crash, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Walnut Creek personal injury attorney from Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (925) 275-5592 or send us an email.

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