Researchers from the University of North Carolina, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have concluded that many serious truck accidents are caused by fatigue and vehicle defects. The researchers studied nearly 200 truck accidents that took place in North Carolina between 2010 and 2012, and they then compared the trucks involved with similar commercial vehicles that had not crashed.
According to the research, almost 75 percent of the trucks that crashed were found to have a mechanical defect of some kind. Those with problems serious enough to warrant an out-of-service order were involved in accidents about four times as often as trucks with no such issues. Commercial vehicle inspectors issue out-of-service violations and order trucks off the road when they discover a defect or hazard that would likely cause a breakdown or crash.
The researchers also studied the effects of fatigue on commercial truck accidents rates, and they found that drivers who have spent more than five hours behind the wheel without a break tend to crash twice as often. However, the risks increase as fatigue gets more severe. Drivers who remain on duty 12 or more hours after their last extended period of sleep were 86 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than rested drivers according to the study.
The authorities generally investigate truck accidents thoroughly when lives have been lost or injuries are catastrophic, and experienced personal injury attorneys may use the information contained in police reports and FMCSA investigations to establish liability in lawsuits brought against reckless truck drivers or negligent trucking companies. Truck operators may face litigation when accidents are caused by dangerous mechanical defects, lax supervision or inadequate training.