Despite some recent gains in traffic safety, it’s still dangerous to put a commercial large vehicle on the road. In 2012, there were 30,800 fatal automobile crashes on the nations’ highways. About 12 percent of them (3,702) involved at least one large truck or bus. In addition, there were another 5,584,000 non-fatal crashes. About 6.6 percent of them (367,000) involved a large truck or bus, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Administration.

This means that accidents involve a large truck or bus almost twice as likely to result in a fatality as accidents that do not involve a large truck or bus. The combination of speed and sheer mass of these large vehicles makes for a deadly combination.

For the purposes of reporting, the Department of Transportation defines a ‘large truck’ as one with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. The Motor Carrier Management System also defines them to include any vehicle, regardless of weight, carrying HAZMAT requiring placarding. A bus is any vehicle designed to transport 9 people or more, including the driver.

Liability Can Be Substantial

Judgments or settlements will likely be greater if victims are young or if your company is found negligent. In one case, a Fulton County, Georgia jury awarded $54,420,000 for a tractor-trailer accident that killed a 50-year-old woman. In this case, the court found that the driver had hours of service violations and a poor driving record.

Even if you’re doing everything right, accidents still happen. You can expect a minimum of $2 million in liability on the line whenever one of your trucks is involved in an accident with injury. Judgments or settlements will likely be greater if victims are young or if your company is found to be negligent.

Most Common Causes of Large Truck and Bus Accidents

According to the Department of Transportation, the number one cause of truck collisions with other vehicles was problems with brakes – over one accident in four could be attributed to faulty or poorly maintained brake systems on the truck itself. In contrast, only 2 percent of accidents involving cars and large trucks or busses could be attributed to faulty brakes on the car.

The number two cause of trucking and bus accidents was an interruption in traffic flow, which accounts for about 25 percent of all accidents involving a truck and a car. In about 15 percent of these cases, authorities attributed the cause to excessive speed for roadway conditions. About 19 percent involve lack of familiarity with the road.

Driver-Specific Factors

About one in ten truck driver involved in these accidents reported to authorities that work pressure was a contributing factor. Truck-driver fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in about 7 percent of cases – though fatigue was identified in about 15 percent of car drivers involved in these accidents.

Other Leading Causes of Truck Accidents

According to the Department of Transportation, here are the rest of the top ten leading contributors to large truck accidents:

  • Overweight
  • Illegal maneuvers
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Excessive speed
  • Inattention
  • Tailgating
  • Misjudgments of other vehicles’ speed
  • External distraction

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