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5 Most Common Causes of Semi-Truck Wrecks & How to Avoid Them

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Without a load attached, a semi-truck weighs around 35,000 lbs—roughly 8½ times the average weight of your automobile or SUV. With a load attached, however, that number jumps to 80,000 lbs or 19½ times more than your vehicle. 

At even low speeds, that’s 40 tons of steel and gasoline barreling down the highway with only one human in charge of speeding up, slowing down, and watching out for drivers. At higher speeds, catastrophic injury and fatalities aren’t only likely—they’re expected.

Semi-Truck Wrecks Numbers & Causes - A Low Cost Lawyer Guide

At Low Cost Lawyer, we’re no strangers to semi-truck wrecks. As Birmingham’s trusted truck accident lawyers for over 30 years, we’ve represented, won, and negotiated on behalf of injured drivers far and wide.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a truck wreck, call us today at 855-595-8889 or contact us online. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about truck accident causes and statistics.

How Many Truck Accidents Happen Each Year?

As recently as 2021, truck accidents and big truck wrecks accounted for 5,700 fatal crashes throughout the United States. An additional 117,300 semi-trucks were involved in crashes that resulted in serious injury. At that rate, semi-trucks were responsible for 337 wrecks per day in 2021—an increase over previous years.

With so many lethal and serious semi-truck accidents each year, it’s only natural to wonder what causes them. To better understand how these lethal collisions occur, we’ve compiled the most common causes below.

Top 5 Most Common Causes of Semi-Truck Wrecks

Negligence, trucker error, and mechanical failure are among the most common foreseeable causes of truck wrecks. But as drivers, we can take careful steps to avoid danger around semi-trucks on our highways, especially during inclement weather or on poorly maintained roads. 

Trucker Error & Company Error

Truck drivers are human beings and susceptible to distractions, fatigue, and lapses in judgment or attention. That said, when piloting an 80,000 lbs machine, truckers can’t afford to lose their concentration.

Trucker error comes in many forms, up to and including:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigued driving
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Failure to check blind spots
  • Driver confusion
  • Reckless driving (overtaking, undertaking)
  • Other

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver error is the most common cause of truck accidents—cold comfort for those who have been catastrophically injured or killed on our highways.

The driver or their employer may also be at fault when cargo is packed improperly, causing an imbalance within the load. Company practices may magnify these issues, especially when drivers feel like they have too little time, too great an incentive to “push through” fatigue, or too many external demands to remain safe and responsible on our highways.

Lack of Maintenance & Poor Training

Even the best and most attentive truckers need well-maintained equipment to do their jobs safely. Just because they’re behind the wheel doesn’t mean they’re in charge of tightening lug nuts, checking brake fluid, or inspecting the vehicle’s engine. 

Truck owners are required by law to maintain their vehicles, but some trucking companies neglect vehicle maintenance to save the time and expense it takes.

In some instances, faulty brakes or malfunctioning equipment can make stopping quickly nearly impossible. Old or worn tires can blow at any moment—with or without a passenger vehicle right alongside them. 

Finally, trucking companies are responsible for training their drivers to deal with numerous, high-risk situations. When training or equipment fail, the trucking company and driver could be more or less at fault.

Poor Road Conditions

Across American highways, major infrastructure projects are underway. Unexpected barriers, narrow detours, and other pinch points that funnel traffic through tight spaces at high speeds can certainly contribute to tractor trailer accidents.

Additionally, not every mile of our highway system receives the attention it deserves. Asphalt has a lifespan between 20 and 30 years. Near the end of that span, roadways can crumble, crack, warp, slide, or fall into disrepair—especially where traffic is heavy and frequent. 

In even the best of circumstances, piloting an 80,000 lb vehicle is difficult. Semi-trucks are not known for being nimble. Sudden and unexpected roadworks can cause serious problems for truckers and drivers alike.


During heavy rain, slashing winds, or dense snowfall, visibility comes at a premium. Semi-trucks struggle with braking power on dry, hot roads, but in slippery conditions, those problems are multiplied many times over. 

During bad weather, semi-trucks struggle to stop quickly. Like trains, there’s simply too much momentum behind large cargo vehicles for their braking systems to compensate. In many of the most devastating traffic pileups in US history, poor weather and semi-trucks played a devastating role. 

Passenger Vehicle Error

On the rarer end of the spectrum, the drivers of passenger vehicles have contributed to or caused semi-truck accidents. Reckless driving, aggressive overtaking or undertaking, and a simple lack of awareness can put the average driver in harm’s way.

Drivers should be aware of semi-truck no-zones—areas around the truck and trailer where the driver has zero visibility. Many trucks have diagrams on the trailer’s doors explaining where these zones are. 

As you encounter semi-trucks and tractor trailers on our roadways, be sure to stay aware of the following, high-risk situations:

  • Stay aware of truck indicators and give them a wide berth to turn
  • Allow semi-trucks to change lanes and merge
  • Be extra safe when overtaking trucks and never undertake them
  • Don’t drive between large trucks when you can avoid it
  • Don’t change lanes abruptly in front of a semi-truck
  • Anticipate the air turbulence behind large vehicles

For your own sake and safety, it’s best to respect semi-trucks on our highways, in our intersections, and everywhere else where you might encounter them.

Are You Ready to Take the Fight to Big Trucking Companies?

When semi-truck accidents happen, resulting injuries are usually of a catastrophic nature. It’s certainly not uncommon for life-changing injuries and even fatalities to occur. When you’re disabled, unable to work, or left without a spouse due to truck driver negligence or trucking company negligence, you need justice. That’s where Low Cost Lawyer comes in.

As soon as you’re able, call an experienced truck wreck attorney. We know how to secure valuable truck data before it’s overwritten, including average speed, speed at impact, hard braking events, and even tire pressure. Dashcams and surveillance videos from nearby businesses can also strengthen your case. 

After 30 years of negotiating with and taking the fight to large trucking companies, the dedicated trucking accident lawyers at Low Cost Lawyer know how to pursue justice on your terms. With our 30% contingency fee (10% less than most semi-truck accident law firms) our clients receive more to recover with.

Call Low Cost Lawyer today at 855-595-8889 or contact us online.

Birmingham’s Leading Truck Accident Law Firm - Low Cost Lawyer!

After 30 years of practicing personal injury law, the experienced truck accident lawyers at Low Cost Lawyer know what it takes to make a strong case on your or your family’s behalf. When trucker error, company error, poor truck maintenance, or malfunctioning equipment are to blame, we can help you get the funds you need to cover medical bills, pay rent, or even pay for funeral expenses. Let a Low Cost Lawyer seek justice for you at an industry-low, 30% fee. To discuss your case with a big truck wreck lawyer, call 855-595-8889 or contact us online.

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