You are likely to encounter dozens of trucks on your daily commute, whether along neighborhood streets or congested highways and interstates. Trucks are an essential part of transport and shipping, but they can also create dangers for others on the road.
What Qualifies as a Truck?
The term truck can mean very different things, depending on whom you ask. Knowing what distinguishes a truck from a passenger vehicle can help you understand the dangers these vehicles can present on the road.
Passenger vehicles focus primarily on the transportation of people with a limited capacity to store and transport other items. Trucks, however, mainly allow for the transportation of property with a limited ability to transport people. In many cases, the driver is the only individual on a truck, particularly on long-distance trips.
Commerce and Trucks on the Road
Trucks are unique in their purpose because they mainly transport property or other materials in a commercial capacity. Commerce is the driving force behind the trucking industry and the reason behind many trucks being present along America’s roadways.
The truck industry in the U.S. is a major source of money for the economy. Truck drivers are often in high demand, and there is no shortage of work and hauls for trucks to carry across cities, states, and the country.
The American Trucking Association predicts that nearly every good that U.S. consumers purchase at some point travels by truck to reach their final destination. Commercial truck driving accounts for most of the trucks on interstates and highways.
Different Types of Trucks for Transport
Many types of trucks travel on the streets alongside passenger vehicles and other roadway travelers. Each type of truck serves different purposes and has varying capacities and functions to transport goods, materials, and equipment. Each truck’s unique hauling, carrying, or towing capabilities are also part of the unique hazards that each can create for others on the road.
Common types of trucks found on U.S. roadways include:
- Pickup trucks – Consumers and businesses most commonly use these vehicles for light transport and personal use. Pickup trucks are a popular choice as personal vehicles or, in some cases, company vehicles for certain industries.
- 18 wheelers or semis – These massive vehicles can carry large and heavy loads. Long-distance commercial transport and shipping commonly use these trucks.
- Flatbed trucks – Unlike a truck with a container, flatbed trucks can carry machinery, equipment, materials, or goods directly on their bed. The truck’s bed is a long flat surface used to strap down loads and objects for transport.
- Box trucks – These types of trucks are the most commonly used for service businesses that require the transportation of cargo or goods from location to location. Local delivery services use box trucks in cities and neighborhoods to bring goods to consumers’ homes.
- Container trucks – Shipping containers ease transfer from boat, air, train, or truck. Companies use containers to transport large amounts of materials and goods without loading and unloading at each stop. Container trucks are often semis or tractor-trailers, which carry these containers from one destination to the next.
- Towing trucks – When you think of a towing truck, you may be thinking about a tow truck hauling a vehicle after an accident or for repairs. While this is a common type of tow truck, much larger towing trucks travel along highways and interstates and pull anything from large equipment to buses to other tractor-trailer vehicles.
- Work vans – Various industries commonly use vans to transport materials and equipment for businesses that offer services to the public. Vans can be used for goods, cargo, and other materials, usually locally.
- Construction trucks – Dump trucks, cranes, cement trucks, and other specialized trucks used at construction sites must travel from location to location. This travel inevitably puts them on the road with other vehicles and travelers.
- Tanker trucks – Tanker trucks transport liquids, gases, and other substances in tanks. Tankers often carry hazardous substances in heavy tanks that can pose serious risks if the public were exposed while on the roadways.
- Public service trucks – Emergency vehicles, garbage trucks, utility trucks, and various large vehicles used to provide public services on the road can vary in size, weight, and capability. While many of these trucks are not hauling goods for commerce, they are still industrial vehicles that can create hazardous conditions for those around them.
The Dangers that Trucks Can Pose on the Roadways
Large trucks can create dangers for others traveling near them in passenger vehicles. These vehicles’ sheer size and weight can cause significant injuries and fatalities to other vehicle occupants when an accident occurs. Trucks also increase the likelihood of accidents on the road. Various elements in the truck’s design lead to instability on the road and difficulty in handling, which can cause a collision with nearby vehicles if something goes wrong.
Hazardous truck elements that can lead to an accident include:
- High center of gravity
- Uneven weight distribution
- The gap between the road and the truck
- Delayed breaking times
- Insufficient underride safeguards
How Many People are Victims of Truck Accidents Each Year?
The most significant number of injuries and deaths in truck accidents is to occupants of surrounding vehicles. While truck drivers are at risk of injury and fatality from a truck accident, most victims are in passenger vehicles, motorcycles, or bystanders crossing or near the road. Estimates indicate that over 160,000 people suffer injuries from truck accidents each year. In addition, these accidents result in approximately 5,000 fatalities.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
Many different factors may contribute to a collision and ultimately result in more severe injuries to the crash victims. The root of most truck accidents is driver error and negligence. In most cases, it is the mistakes and actions of a truck driver that lead to damage to others on the road.
Common causes of truck accidents due to negligence include:
- Reckless driving
- Truck driver fatigue
- Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Improperly loaded cargo
- Distracted truck drivers
- Failure to maintain or repair the truck and equipment as necessary
- Defective truck parts or equipment
Does the Type of Truck in an Accident Influence the Severity of Victim’s Injuries?
All trucks pose similar risks to those traveling near or behind them on the roadways. However, some trucks create additional risks of injuries and death if a crash occurs. In some cases, it doesn’t take a collision between a truck and a passenger vehicle to injure a victim.
Trucks carrying dangerous objects, materials, or substances can have a widespread effect on those nearby.
After a rollover crash, jackknife, or single-vehicle truck crash, the contents of a truck can spill onto the road. If the contents are hazardous liquids, chemicals, or gases, they can cause a secondary danger for those in the crash and traveling in the vicinity.
A common accident involves a tanker truck hauling flammable and combustible materials. Truck fires and explosions can follow in the moments after a crash of this type. In some cases, it is difficult for those near a truck to avoid danger when this occurs. This added hazard can result in secondary accidents, flying debris, and an increased risk of injury or death to those near the incident site.
What Are Some of the Most Common Injuries Following a Truck Crash?
The severity of a truck accident can result in a near-infinite number of victims’ injuries. Although some victims succumb to the severity of the injuries, many more survive but face lifelong difficulties from their injuries. The physical and psychological harm that arises from a truck accident can debilitate a victim immediately after the crash and in the long term.
Victims’ lives may never be the same after a truck accident. Their injuries may take many months or years to recover fully, and some may never fully recover. Developing a permanent disability is common after a truck accident, which requires expensive medical treatment throughout recovery and sometimes beyond.
Common truck accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Broken bones
- Crush injuries
What Should You Do If You Are in a Truck Accident?
If you find yourself involved in a truck accident, it can be a terrifying experience. Truck crash scenes can be widespread, interfering with multiple traffic lanes and involving multiple vehicles. Knowing what to do if you are involved in a truck accident can help you protect yourself. Taking steps to gather information and evidence will help you pursue compensation for your losses later.
Get Help Fast
If you are alert and aware after a truck crash, you must take a moment to check yourself for injuries. If you are in pain and have signs of trauma, stay put until help arrives unless you are in imminent danger of further harm or a life-threatening situation.
If you can do so yourself, call 911 to ask for EMS services and keep them informed of your injuries and status at the scene. Once medical help arrives, you will receive emergency treatment to stabilize you and transport you to the nearest ER or trauma center. The medical professionals who care for you will document all your injuries and treatment, which is essential evidence to collect.
Request the Police
When asking for emergency medical services, you must also ensure that police are on their way. Law enforcement plays a vital role in a truck accident scene to keep the public safe, control traffic flow, and avoid further accidents. The police will also gather pertinent information from all those in the crash and conduct a preliminary investigation, which you may need when seeking compensation from the insurance company or the at-fault party.
Call a Truck Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Make contacting a truck accident attorney high on your list of priorities following a crash. Once you are safe and your injuries treated, you should immediately call a truck accident attorney for a free case evaluation. A truck accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and your options to seek compensation for your damages after a truck accident.