An estimated 15.5 million trucks travel U.S. roads, approximately two million of which are tractor-trailers. Under South Carolina law and federal regulations, these 18-wheelers may be as long as 53 feet and may weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, making these vehicles much longer and heavier than passenger cars and light trucks.
A tractor-trailer’s mass may increase the chances of an accident because it is harder to stop and maneuver, and can make the results of an accident much worse than if a lighter vehicle had been involved. All drivers can appreciate the danger of tractor-trailers. Their size, weight and limited maneuverability create a risk on the road. Often they carry flammable liquids, toxic materials and massive freight. No wonder that in more than 95 percent of fatal car/truck crashes in South Carolina, it is someone in the car who is killed.
If you or someone you know has been in a collision involving a truck in South Carolina, you are entitled to a free consultation with a truck accident attorney. Call Joye Law Firm at 877-936-9707 or fill out our online contact form. We have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Columbia, and we represent people who have been hurt in truck accidents anywhere in South Carolina.
Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents in South Carolina
Tractor-trailer accidents can result when drivers of large commercial vehicles fail to live up to their obligations. Truck drivers are required to have a professional commercial driver’s license and are expected to check their load balance carefully, comply with all federal and state safety regulations and drive in a safe way to avoid injuring other motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians.
Unfortunately, some truck drivers make careless mistakes. These mistakes can cost motorists their lives in a collision with a tractor-trailer.
Some of the top causes of tractor-trailer crashes include:
- Driver fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that driver fatigue is a factor in as many as 6,000 truck accidents each year. New hours-of-service rules went into effect in 2013, mandating a break within the first eight hours of driving for long-haul drivers and reducing the average weekly hours from 82 to 70 hours per week. While these changes may help reduce accidents, it is still up to truck drivers to make the safe choice and stop driving when they are too tired.
- Speeding. Truckers who exceed the speed limit are more likely to lose control of their vehicles, roll their vehicle or be unable to stop in time to avoid hitting another vehicle. Speed-related accidents include not only crashes where a driver breaks the posted limit, but also wrecks where a tractor-trailer driver goes too fast for road, weather or traffic conditions.
- Distracted driving. Drivers who are on a cell phone, sending a text message, watching a video or using in-vehicle controls are as much as 4 to 23 times more likely to cause an accident. Any activity that causes a driver to look away from the road may significantly increase the chances of a devastating tractor-trailer accident.
- Unbalanced loads. When a tractor-trailer is improperly loaded or a driver fails to balance the load, this can increase the risk of an accident. Rollover accidents are especially common with improperly loaded trucks or when improperly secured freight shifts in transit.
- Jackknife accidents. Jackknife accidents happen when the trailer slides out to the side of the tractor, potentially causing serious injury to motorists in the path of the jackknifing vehicle.
- Under-ride accidents. Under-ride accidents are among the most dangerous of all tractor-trailer crashes and occur when a car slides underneath the trailer. South Carolina Code Section 56-5-4070 imposes a mandate on most large trucks, including tractor-trailers, to use under-ride guards to prevent these deadly types of accidents.
- Mechanical failure or vehicle defects. Tractor-trailers must be maintained according to guidelines set forth by the FMCSA. Trucks have many parts, such as air brakes, that are prone to failure without proper maintenance.
- Blind spots. Tractor-trailers have large blind spots, and truck drivers need to account for them. Truck drivers must check carefully for other motorists before turning or changing lanes.
- Poor driver training. There is a shortage of professional truck drivers in the United States, and this is causing some companies to employ drivers who lack sufficient experience to safely operate large tractor-trailers.