Commercial Vehicle Accident Causes and Prevention


Motor vehicles accidents are the leading cause of work-related fatalities. Despite the endless safety strategies and recent gains in traffic safety, it’s still a risk when putting a large commercial vehicle on the road. In 2013, there were 30,057 fatal automobile crashes on the nations' highways, 12.7% of them (3,806) involved at least one large truck or bus. In addition, there were an estimate of 5,657,000 non-fatal crashes and 6.8% of them (385,000) involved a large truck or bus, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Administration. For the purposes of reporting, the Department of Transportation (DOT) 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.

Common Causes of Accidents and Driver-Specific Factors

According to the DOT, the leading cause of truck collisions with other vehicles was problems with brakes. Over 1 in every 4 accidents could be attributed to faulty or poorly maintained brake systems on the truck. In comparison, only 2% of accidents involving cars and large trucks or busses could be attributed to faulty brakes on the car.

The second leading cause of trucking and bus accidents was an interruption in traffic flow, which accounts for about 25% of all accidents involving a truck and a car. In these cases, authorities attribute approximately 19% involve the lack of facility with the roads about 15% of these to excessive speed for the roadway.

Work pressure contributes to about 1 in every 10 truck driving accidents reported to authorities. Truck driver fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in about 7% of those cases. However, fatigue was identified in about 15% of car drivers involved in these accidents.

Other Leading Causes of Truck Accidents

According to the DOT other leading contributors to large truck accidents are:

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

Liability Can Be Substantial

Even if you're doing everything right, accidents still happen. You can expect up to $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 if your company is found to be negligent, employee’s time out of work (if injured) and loss time for having to deal with court dates in the case of a judgment against your company. There are many aspects to exposure control: pre-loss measures, post-loss procedures, and vehicle maintenance. For more information on fleet safety or to discuss how to manage your total cost of risk contact your agent.