Drive along any stretch of highway in any state and you will see commercial vehicles sharing the roadways with us and our loved ones. When tragedy strikes and these vehicles collide with others, the results are devastating. These are complex cases with numerous state and federal laws that come into play. If you have been a victim of an accident with a commercial vehicle, you need an experienced lawyer on your side.
Types of Commercial Vehicles
- 18 Wheelers
- Tractor Trailers
- Box Trucks
- Tow Trucks
- Dump Trucks
- Trash Trucks
According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 2.6 truck drivers out of every 100 on the road are suffering from fatigue. Fatigued, sleep-deprived commercial vehicle operators cause, on average, 750 deaths and 20,000 injuries per year. In a 1995 study, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that fatigue was a factor in 75% of the crashes involving large commercial trucks.
Recent rules, initiated by the FMCSA, allow for truck drivers to drive 60-70 hours per week, with a maximum of 11 consecutive hours of drive time. Under these same regulations, truck drivers have a limit of 14 consecutive “on duty” hours. “On duty” hours include all driving and non-driving activities, such as log entry, vehicle maintenance, loading and unloading. These regulations are known as the 11/14 rule.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has concluded that truck drivers operating a vehicle for more than 8 consecutive hours are twice as likely to have a crash due to driver fatigue. In the study, the IIHS found that truck driver fatigue is caused by long hours, sleep deprivation, and disruption of normal sleep cycles.
All truckers are supposed to keep log books that itemize their on-duty and off-duty hours of service. This evidence is crucial in a trucking case if driver fatigue played a role in the collision.
Overloading and improperly-secured loads are two of the leading causes of truck accidents. An overloaded or improperly-secured truck may be in violation of both state and federal laws. Unfortunately, the fines imposed on such violators are often simple nuisances that fail to deter future violations.
Examples of violations for overweight and improperly-secured loads include:
Loads exceeding state or federal weight restrictions
Loads exceeding width restrictions
Loads exceeding height restrictions
Failing to attach warning devices (flags) to over-sized loads
Tractor Trailers (18-wheelers) are limited, in most instances, to a total weight of 80,000 pounds for the truck and its freight. Dump trucks should not exceed 64,00-70,000 pounds, depending on the size of the vehicle’s wheels. Unfortunately, as many as 30% of the commercial trucks on our roads are overloaded or overweight. This translates to an increase in more trucking accidents because overloaded trucks require much more time to come to a complete stop.
Overloading and improperly-secured loads can affect the driver’s ability to properly control the truck by increasing the stopping distance, increasing in the risk of rollover and decreasing the driver’s ability to perform emergency maneuvers.
Driver Distraction – Texting, Cellphones, Eating, Smoking, etc.
With the increase in use of smart phones and tablets, we have seen an increase in accidents due to distracted drivers. Truck drivers, unfortunately, are just as distracted as other motorists.
A 2010 report issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveals that 20% of all trucking accidents are caused by distracted truck drivers.
Types of distractions included:
Inattention/lost in thought
Cell phone use
Reaching for a device within the vehicle (cell phone)
Eating or drinking
Adjusting audio/climate control
If you have been injured by a truck driver, you must hire an attorney who knows how to pursue the issues surrounding distracted driving. Often times, truck drivers will deny being distracted, but cell phone and texting records, witness interviews, in cab video surveillance, and black box data downloads may prove otherwise.
Equipment Problems Involving the Truck and Trailer
We drive every day surrounded by commercial vehicles on the road. We rely on the owners and operators of these large vehicles to keep their trucks and trailers safe through proper maintenance. Many of these trucks are transporting dangerous cargo or hazardous materials. Unfortunately, many truck drivers do not properly maintain their vehicle.
Studies within the trucking industry have recently concluded that equipment and maintenance-related issues were the cause for many tractor/trailer accidents.
Trailer hitch/safety chains
Drug and Alcohol Use
In 1993, the National Transportation Safety Board, in collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, performed comprehensive drug screens on blood specimens from 168 truck and bus drivers from 8 states who were fatally injured while operating an 18-wheeler, commercial truck/trailer, or commercial bus. One or more drugs were found in a staggering 67% of the drivers tested, with 33% testing positive for alcohol or psychoactive drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and ephedrine.
In a recent roadside inspection project conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), 1% of all truck drivers stopped at the roadside inspections were illegally under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This equates to 100,000 truck drivers nationally who are abusing alcohol and drugs while driving large commercial vehicles. Unfortunately, many within the industry think the number may be double — 200,000 — due to the fact that roadside inspections are announced months in advance and the exact locations for the inspections are disclosed to the trucking industry.
Unfortunately, many instances of substance abuse go undetected within the trucking industry due to industry-wide cheating on drug tests. Magazine publications for truckers advertise products that allow drivers to hide their substance abuse problems by skewing the results of drug tests.
Between April 30, 2012 and May 11, 2012, the drug and alcohol strike force of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) performed a 2-week sweep, searching for commercial truck and bus drivers who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As a result of their efforts, 287 truck and bus drivers were removed from the road and banned from operating commercial vehicles and 128 companies face enforcement actions due to drug and alcohol violations. Unfortunately, this sweep only took place in Washington D.C. over a 12-day period. Imagine what the numbers would be if this sweep would have occurred on a national level.
Why should I hire Ramsey Law Group for My Trucking Accident?
These are not just ordinary car wrecks. These are complex, expensive cases that require the knowledge, skill and experience to achieve success. Our firm has handled many commercial vehicle accident cases throughout Texas and in other states. If you have been injured by a Tractor Trailer, 18-wheeler, or other Commercial Vehicle, call the Trucking Accident and Injury Lawyers at Ramsey Law Group for help.