Brake Problems Biggest Cause of Truck Accidents

big rig on road in the rain

Study Finds Driver Fatigue Not Biggest Cause

Truck drivers are known to spend notoriously long hours on the road. And most people think that driver fatigue is the most common cause of truck accidents. But according to a national study by the FMCSA, the primary cause of most large truck accidents is brake problems. Fatigue was actually found to be number 7. A forensic expert reports in this air brake safety analysis that

“…brake failures usually are not failures at all but performance problems stemming from deficient maintenance.”

Trucking companies have a legal obligation to maintain the brakes on their trucks. But problems arise when they don’t properly maintain their brakes. Often repairs are made only on brakes that appear faulty and not all the brakes. This can cause brake imbalance, which leads to instability during braking, brake fade, and brake fires. Brake imbalance can cause hazards like jackknifing and trailer swing-outs – two hazards you don’t want to be a part of! The other top causes of large truck accidents include:


Driving too fast for conditions is a serious problem for all drivers, but especially for trucks carrying a heavy load which can shift in transit. Speed should also be adjusted for weather conditions, work zones, and entering curves or on- and off-ramps.

Unfamiliar Roadways

When a truck driver has failed to plan his route, he may resort to reading a map while driving, or allow himself to become distracted with a GPS or smartphone device. Another dangerous possibility is that when he is unfamiliar with the roadway, he will suddenly change direction, failing to notice other cars or signal properly.

Road Conditions

There are many roadway problems that compromise driving safety, such as:

  • slippery pavement
  • pavement edge drop-off
  • inadequate sight distance at curves
  • lack of signage or unclear signage
  • construction zone operations
  • potholes or debris
  • extra-hazardous grade railroad crossings

Over-the-Counter Drug Use

Over-the-counter drugs can present serious side effects that can be deadly when combined with operating a vehicle. Many OTC medications for allergies, coughs, colds and flu can cause extreme drowsiness. Some drivers use drugs or caffeine in an attempt to stay alert that leads to severe exhaustion when the effects wear off. Whatever the cause, large truck crashes happen every day. If you’ve been injured in an accident that was unavoidable, the driver or trucking company may be liable for damages. At that point it may make sense to contact a lawyer who’s experienced in truck accident liability.

Top 5 Causes of Large Truck Crashes Infographic

To provide a quick reference guide, we’ve created this infographic of the top 5 causes of truck crashes.

truck accident infographic

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