Springfield: 417-322-2222
Joplin: 417-624-4258

Factors in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Home » Blog » Factors in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Do you sometimes feel a little anxious maneuvering around gigantic semi-trucks on the highway? Your fears aren’t unfounded. Tractor-trailer collisions are among the most dangerous types of accidents that happen in Missouri. Compared to other types of collisions, they’re much more likely to cause catastrophic injuries or deaths due to the huge size and weight disparities between large trucks and passenger vehicles. And while most professional drivers are very safe and conscientious, top-down pressures from management often result in unreasonable deadlines, leading to speeding or excessive hours on the highway. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,136 people were killed in large truck collisions in 2018. Of those who were killed, 67 percent were passenger vehicle occupants, and only 16 percent were truck occupants. Understanding the common factors that contribute to tractor-trailer accidents is important so that both truck drivers and motorists can strive to prevent them.

Factors Contributing to Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Large Truck Crash Causation Study was designed to identify the most common causes of tractor-trailer accidents. The researchers looked at a representative sample of 963 accidents out of 120,000 that occurred from 2001 to 2003. The sample crashes resulted in 1,694 injuries and 249 deaths. Through their study, the FMCSA and the NHTSA were able to identify several factors that were commonly involved in large truck collisions. They identified and coded hundreds of issues and found that the following factors were among the most common.

Brake Failures

Trucking companies must maintain their trucks to keep them in safe operating condition. This includes the duty to conduct regular inspections and repairs and to keep all parts of the truck in good working order. When companies fail to properly maintain their trucks’ brakes, for example, the brakes may fail and lead to serious accidents when the drivers are unable to stop.

Interruption of the Traffic Flow

When the traffic flow is interrupted because of a previous crash or congested traffic, truck accidents can happen. If a driver is inattentive and fails to notice that traffic has slowed, he or she may not have sufficient distance to stop the vehicle before colliding into traffic. This can also happen when the driver is distracted by a cell phone, another electronic device, passing billboards, or anything else that directs attention away from the road.

Road Unfamiliarity

Unfamiliarity with the roads was another common problem that factored into the large truck crashes in the study, especially among new drivers. Truck drivers sometimes take rural highways to arrive at their destinations faster. When they are unfamiliar with these roads, they might not anticipate curves, hills, and other features that can cause them to have accidents. This is especially problematic when drivers are on the road at night, when visibility is poor.

Use of Prescription Drugs

Some prescription drugs interfere with the ability of drivers to safely operate their vehicles. Truck drivers have a responsibility to not take drugs that impair their driving ability when they operate their trucks. The FMCSA has stringent regulations in place that prohibit the use of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Despite these regulations and state laws, some drivers still drive after they have taken prescription drugs that slow their reaction times.

Driving Too Fast for the Conditions

Another leading factor of semi-truck crashes was driving too fast for the conditions. Trucks are difficult to control because of their large sizes and heavy weights. When drivers drive too fast in inclement weather, they can lose control and cause collisions.

Failing to Stop in Time for Traffic Control Devices

Many truck accidents happen when drivers fail to stop in time when they approach traffic control devices such as stoplights or stop signs. Motorists who enter the intersection with the right of way might then be struck by the tractor-trailers and seriously injured or killed.


Simply understanding the leading factors of tractor-trailer accidents may help motorists and truck drivers avoid collisions.

Were you or someone you love seriously injured in a collision with a tractor-trailer? Get in touch with the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave. We can evaluate your claim and explain its legal merits. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 417-322-2222 or sending us a message online.

Files under: Personal Injury