Research conducted by the Virginia-based American Trucking Associations reveals that commercial vehicle accidents are usually caused by mistakes made by passenger vehicle drivers. After studying more than 8,000 fatal truck accident reports, the trade group discovered that car, pickup truck and SUV drivers were found to be at fault 81% of the time. Passenger vehicle occupants also made up the overwhelming majority of the deaths.

Motorists can reduce these risks by driving defensively around commercial vehicles and bearing in mind that semi-tractor trailers weighing as much as 80,000 pounds do not stop as quickly or maneuver as deftly as cars. When truck drivers are blamed for accidents, fatigue or distraction are often responsible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours-of-service rules to prevent drowsy driving crashes, but some road safety advocates believe that these rules encourage truck drivers to exceed speed limits in order to complete their journeys before rest becomes mandatory.

Serious motor vehicle accidents are usually investigated thoroughly, and tractor-trailers that have crashed may be inspected carefully for signs of poor maintenance or equipment failure. Investigators could also check the type of cargo being hauled and whether it was loaded correctly. Cargo that is not properly tied down can shift unexpectedly in emergency situations and cause large trucks to jackknife dangerously.

Fleet operators are expected to take all reasonable steps to protect road users from harm, and they may be held responsible in civil court when they fail to meet this duty of care. Experienced personal injury attorneys may initiate truck accident lawsuits against commercial vehicle operators when their clients are injured in crashes caused by inadequately trained truck drivers or poorly maintained tractor-trailers. Logistics companies might also face litigation when truck drivers placed other road users in danger because they were put under pressure to meet deadlines.