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Many of the reports we hear about big-rig accidents could easily lead someone to believe that most crashes are caused by careless drivers. But that simply isn’t the case. In fact, the Department of Transportation reports that in 60% of all truck crashes, there was no driver error. Additionally, large trucks are involved in fewer accidents than any other type of vehicle. Still, as professional drivers, it’s reasonable to consider that you or someone you know may be involved in an accident at some point.

We’ve researched the facts and documented the most common causes for accidents involving big rigs. We’ve also included tips on how to avoid and handle these situations.

Poor weather conditions

Weather-related accidents occur in many different conditions, including rain, snow, fog, sleet, and high winds. Of those conditions, accidents in the rain are most common.

As a driver, you should use care and caution when driving in the rain. Decrease your speed, and leave yourself more space while driving. Also, make sure your truck is properly serviced to handle poor weather.

Distracted driving

It is important to note that these accidents might not be due to the truck driver being distracted. Drivers of other vehicles who are distracted and cause an accident can just as easily be at fault. Defensive driving habits can help you prepare for a situation like that.

Common types of distracted driving include:

  • Adjusting mirrors or the radio
  • Using cellphones or other gadgets
  • Eating or drinking
  • Reaching for items elsewhere in the cab
  • Looking at a GPS or road maps
  • Taking your eyes off the road for any other reason

To avoid distracted driving, stay focused on the road, remain calm, and do not allow your emotions to take over.

Equipment failure

Always perform a pre-trip inspection and make sure your rig is properly maintained to keep you and other drivers safe. These common areas of concern can sometimes result in an accident:

  • Brake failures
  • Tire blowouts
  • Loose wheels or lug nuts
  • Steering issues
  • Unsecured hoods
  • Trailer attachments coming undone
  • Faulty cargo tie-downs
  • Suspension part failure

Unsafe driving practices

Any mistake someone makes while driving can turn deadly in a matter of seconds. Stay safe and alert by avoiding these unsafe driving practices:

  • Driver fatigue
  • Aggressive driving
  • Speeding
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Failure to merge properly
  • Not maintaining proper following distances
  • Riding in a blind spot

To avoid these types of crashes you should get plenty of rest, follow all traffic laws and regulations, practice defensive driving, and never drink alcohol or use drugs while or before driving.

Cargo problems

How a truck is loaded matters. Shifting or unsecured cargo and overloaded trailers are common causes of accidents. Heavy braking or sharp turning combined with an unbalanced load can easily cause a truck to lose control, jackknife, or rollover.

Debris falling from a trailer is another common cause of accidents or damage. Check that all your loads are properly distributed on the truck, so no single axle is overloaded. Make sure all cargo is properly secured, and never overload your truck or trailer.

Even if you’ve found yourself in one of these situations, you can still make the right changes to your driving habits. By following these tips, you’ll give yourself the best chance at keeping you and other motorists safe.