Commercial trucking accidents are a serious issue in Alberta. As we wrote about in a previous blog, two fatal accidents involving trucks recently occurred on the same 40-kilometre stretch of Yoho National Park within a three-week period.
Due to their size and weight, motor vehicle accidents involving commercial trucks can cause serious and catastrophic injuries or death. Truck drivers or companies that fail to keep their vehicles (or drivers) up to standard can face significant liability for accidents.
Reasons for the high rate of trucking accidents in Canada
Commercial trucking accidents are a serious problem in Canada. Between 2016 and 2020, 1,881 fatal collisions involving commercial vehicles (including trucks) occurred across the country.
There are many possible explanations for the increasing rate of trucking accidents in Canada, but some of the most likely causes include the following:
- The increased number of trucks on Canadian highways caused by the growing population and booming economy (particularly in Alberta);
- Aging truck fleets that are being used for longer hauls and more miles before retirement, increasing the risk of mechanical issues;
- The extreme pressure placed on truck drivers to drive longer hours and meet tighter deadlines. This raises the risk of driver error, speeding, and cutting corners;
- The shortage of qualified truck drivers in Alberta and across Canada leading to less experienced truck drivers on the road.
Factors contributing to trucking accidents
Many factors can contribute to commercial trucking accidents in Alberta, including driver error, mechanical issues, and adverse weather conditions.
Driver error, fatigue & impairment
Driver error is the leading cause of trucking accidents in Calgary, both on the part of truckers and other drivers on the road. For example, a driver may mishandle traffic or road conditions if unfamiliar with the highway. Impairment is also a major factor, as drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to cause an accident.
Commercial truck drivers often work long hours without adequate rest breaks. Tight deadlines can place drivers at risk of fatigued driving and falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigue can also make drivers more likely to make mistakes and impair reaction time.
Careless or reckless driving
Careless driving is another common cause of trucking accidents. Any driver who does not pay attention to traffic or the road conditions, or does not follow highway traffic laws, is at risk of causing an accident. Distracted driving (for example, driving while texting or talking on the phone) is a hazardous practice that puts drivers and other travellers in danger.
Reckless driving is similarly risky. As mentioned above, truck drivers may speed in response to the pressure they face to meet increasingly tight delivery deadlines. The risk of a fatal collision increases exponentially when drivers speed. Reckless driving practices such as following too closely, drifting between lanes, or passing unsafely can all lead to a serious accident.
It is important to remember that many trucking accidents are caused by the error or carelessness of other drivers. Many head-on collisions with trucks on Alberta highways occur when other drivers cross into oncoming traffic while trying to pass another vehicle.
Commercial trucks (such as semi-trailers or tractor trailers) gain considerable wear and tear as they are driven for multiple long-hauls through brutal weather and road conditions. As a result, trucks can face dangerous mechanical failures, including faulty brakes, tire blowouts, and engine trouble.
Trucks can also create a serious hazard by incorrectly parking on the side of the road while attending to mechanical issues. Unmaintained lighting standards and reflective markings can make a truck or its trailer difficult to be seen, placing the truck at risk of being hit by passing vehicles.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation (part of Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act) requires commercial vehicles to comply with certain standards and stay in good working order through regular maintenance. Commercial carriers are legally required to have an effective maintenance and inspection program. Additionally, trucks with a licensed mass of more than 11,794 kg must complete trip inspection reports and carry a schedule as set out under National Safety Code Standard 13 (NSC-13).
Overweight, poorly secured, or unsecured cargo
Commercial trucks often carry heavy loads of cargo or materials. Failure to properly secure the load can cause it to fall off the truck and hit other vehicles or create a barrier if left on the road. Catastrophic injuries or fatalities can quickly happen if other vehicles come across discarded loads or hazardous materials left behind by a truck. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation requires all trucks with a licensed mass of more than 4,500 kg to secure cargo in accordance with National Safety Code Standard 10 (NSC-10).
Weather conditions can also play a role in trucking accidents. High winds, difficult terrain, narrow highways, icy roads, high winds, and heavy rain or snowfall all pose different risks to commercial vehicle drivers. Truck drivers can cause collisions if they lose control when driving in dangerous weather.
Cuming & Gillespie LLP Advocates for Individuals Injured in Commercial Trucking Accidents
At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, our goal is to help you move forward with your life after being injured in a motor vehicle or commercial trucking accident. Our experienced team of personal injury lawyers takes a collaborative approach and coordinates with medical professionals to ensure that no part of your claim slips through the cracks. In the past decade, we have recovered over $175 million in damages for injured clients.
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Calgary, Cuming & Gillespie LLP proudly serves clients in Calgary, Edmonton, and throughout Alberta. To schedule a consultation on your personal injury matter, please contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 (toll-free at 1-800-682-2480).