While not the most common type of accident between trucks and passenger vehicles, rear-end collisions can cause innocent victims to suffer debilitating injuries—even death. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truckers caused 82 fatalities, 6,000 injuries, and 17,000 cases of property damages in rear-end collisions in 2013. These accidents often occur on rural roads or highways where the trucks and passenger vehicles are going at faster speeds, resulting in much more deadly accidents that can turn into multi-vehicle collisions.
Why Are Rear-End Collisions More Dangerous When Caused by a Truck?
The different natures of trucks and smaller passenger vehicles contribute to making truck rear-end collisions more catastrophic that ones where only passenger vehicles are involved. Some of the reasons for this include:
- Weight. Tractor-trailer trucks can weigh 80,000 pounds or more when they are loaded with cargo. In comparison, a passenger vehicle weighs on average 3,000 pounds. The force of the impact when a heavier truck collides with a smaller vehicle—especially when on a highway—is much greater due to the trucks size and weight.
- Braking. Big-rig trucks take much longer to stop than passenger vehicles. Truckers can find it impossible to avoid a rear-end collision in situations where they need to brake quickly to slow down—either due to their own actions or traffic conditions.
- Multi–vehicle crashes. Due to the size and weight of trucks, they are much more likely to push the vehicle they rear-end into another vehicle.
Common Ways Truckers and Trucking Companies Cause Rear-End Collisions
Truck drivers—like all motorists—are required to remain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them. If they rear-end another vehicle, they will often be considered at fault in causing the accident as the vehicle in the rear is most often determined to be at fault in these crashes. Common reasons these accidents occur include:
- Faulty brakes. Poorly maintained and faulty brakes are a huge problem that truck drivers and trucking companies do not take seriously enough. Despite federal regulations requiring them to be maintained and repaired before a truck is taken on the road, truck companies often allow and encourage truckers to drive these trucks without making needed repairs. Even more tragic, trucking companies will sometimes disengage part of the braking system or adjust the brakes to reduce their wear and tear—sacrificing safety over profits.
- Inadequate lighting. Rear-end collisions caused by truck drivers are common at night on poorly lit roads. When a trucker is not attentive in this situation, he can fail to see the vehicle ahead of him, with devastating consequences for the other motorist and his passengers.
- Impaired driving. When a trucker is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, his reaction times, concentration, reasoning, and general driving skills are reduced, increasing the risk that he will rear-end another vehicle.
- Drowsy driving. Truckers are allowed to drive for long hours without a break, making it much more likely that they are fatigued when driving. With the pressure to deliver the load quickly, truckers often drive in violation of federal hours-of-service rules that dictate how long they can drive without a break, leading them to become even drowsier or fall asleep at the wheel. This unsafe practice is often encouraged by trucking companies.
- Distracted driving. Truckers who talk on their cell phones, text, eat and drink, or use their GPS or instrument controls while driving can easily miss when the driver in front of them slows down or brakes suddenly—resulting in the truck colliding with the smaller vehicle.
- Speeding through a light. When truckers speed through a light at an intersection, their minds are not on the vehicle in front of them. In addition, they have no ability to stop or slow down quickly when necessary due to the nature of their vehicle and its braking system.
- Defective truck lights. Truckers who are driving at night or in poor weather conditions with faulty or nonworking lights are unable to see the vehicle in front of them. Sadly, this is a common cause of rear-end collisions.
Is the Trucker Ever Liable When a Passenger Vehicle Rear-Ends a Truck?
Motorists driving passenger vehicles also cause rear-end wrecks with trucks. While generally the vehicle in the rear will be found liable for the accident, this is not always the case in crashes involving trucks. Reasons a trucker and trucking company could be found liable, or at least partially responsible, for a crash include:
- Driver negligence
- Truck lighting violations
- Braking problems
- Hours-of-service violations
- Failure to enforce bans on cell phone use and texting while driving
- Rear-end guardrail violations which result in the rear-ending vehicle being involved in a deadly underride accident
If you or a family member were involved in a rear-end collision caused by a trucker, fill out our online form or call us at 404-418-8244 to schedule a free consultation.