Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents and How to Avoid Them


The deaths a year ago of four people, including a 4-year-old girl, on a Toronto highway tragically called attention to one of the leading causes of highway accidents involving commercial trucks: Driver inattention. According to news reports, it appeared as though a truck operator failed to adjust the speed of the vehicle as traffic ahead was slowing down. Sadly, there are steps commercial drivers and trucking companies can take to reduce the number of accidents involving commercial vehicles.

Causes of commercial truck accidents

Statistics compiled by the government point to the conduct of drivers as contributing to most commercial truck accidents. The contributing factors include:

  • Inattention and distraction
  • Fatigue
  • Speeding
  • Failure to yield
  • Unsafe passing and lane changes
  • Aggressive driving

Fatigue was identified as a factor in 30 percent of the accidents involving trucks. Truck driver fatigue can cause errors in judgment, danger perception and ability to respond to changes in road and traffic conditions.

Factors related to improper vehicle maintenance

Accidents can also be caused by improper maintenance and safety inspections of the vehicles. For example, brake failure, faulty or nonfunctioning lights and steering failures can be detected and repaired through regularly scheduled maintenance. Load shifting, another factor contributing to accidents, can be prevented through inspections performed by drivers prior to beginning their trips and periodically throughout the day to detect potential problems.

Ontario requires annual inspections of commercial trucks. Included among the items inspected are the following:

  • Lamps, electrical system and instruments
  • Brakes
  • Power train
  • Steering
  • Suspension system
  • Tires and wheels
  • Body
  • Hitches and couplers

Inspections follow guidelines established by the National Safety Code which have been adopted for the province. Vehicles failing an inspection must be repaired and re-inspected.

Equipment to limit the maximum speed at which a vehicle can operate is now required on trucks meeting all of the following criteria:

  • Vehicle was built after December 31, 1994
  • It has an electronic control module installed
  • Gross weight rating of 11,794 kg or more

Vehicles meeting these criteria must have electronic speed limiters to keep them from going faster than 105 km per hour.

Reducing truck driver fatigue as a collision factor

Government regulations limit the number of hours drivers may spend each day operating their vehicles. The purpose is to deter them from driving to the point at which fatigue becomes a hazard to safe operation of the vehicle. Although there are devices available to detect signs of fatigue and warn the driver, individuals can avoid fatigue-related accidents by knowing the signs that indicate when they should pull off the road and rest, including:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drifting out of lane
  • Frequent blinking
  • Sore, tired eyes

A driver should pull off the road and not continue to drive if any of these signs of fatigue are noticed.

New technology in the form of automatic emergency braking systems and accident avoidance systems are available in passenger vehicles. These systems, which are also available for commercial trucks, alert drivers of obstacles or slowing traffic in order to give them time to brake. If the driver does not respond, the systems apply the brakes automatically.

Collision avoidance systems actually steer the vehicle around hazards before a crash can occur. As of now, neither system is mandatory for trucks in Canada, but they are available as options for truck owners.

A lawyer can help victims of commercial truck accidents

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond are there to help if you or a loved one is injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle. They have experience obtaining compensation for accident victims by handling claims against the responsible parties. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout Ontario.