Trucks Pose a Great Danger on our Highways
Large commercial trucks are given many names. They may be known as 18-wheelers or as tractor-trailers. Sometimes they are called semi-trucks or just “big rigs.” What does not vary, year after year, is the mayhem they cause on our nation’s highways. Every 16 minutes, a person in the United States is killed or injured in an accident involving a truck.
Over the past decade, the number of crashes involving large trucks has increased by 10%. Each year there are about a half million wrecks in America involving these metal behemoths. And government figures underscore that large trucks are involved in more fatal collisions than passenger automobiles. The average truck operator drives 125,000 miles each year, at the minimum.
Large Trucks are Advantaged Roadway Vehicles
This dismal profile is not likely to improve much in the future. The trucking industry generates nearly a trillion dollars worth of business each year, and that is expected to increase. And the lobbyists for the trucking firms in the United States are always importuning Congress for special favors. Regulations get rewritten, and often to the benefit of an industry which strongly subsidizes the campaigns of senators and congressional representatives.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has attempted to make our roads safer by implementing new procedures to combat the long hours truck drivers are on the road. The FMCSA has made inroads as to cutting back the number of wrecks due to exhausted drivers. But these rules are always under attack. And there are still many people killed each year because of a rig being operated recklessly from an overworked trucker. The US National Transportation Safety Board states that driver exhaustion remains a major highway hazard.
Interstate transport drivers have had to follow the federal guidelines set forth in 2004. But many drivers still operate big trucks outside the scope of these rules. Drivers may haul 11 hours in a work shift. They are not allowed to drive 14 hours after their prior shift. They must have at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty rest in order to begin a new shift.
Further, the practical fact is that trucks are so much bigger and heavier than cars and smaller trucks. This is why about 80% of those inside a regular car get injured or killed when the other vehicle is a tractor-trailer. It’s simply not a fair fight. And the speed of the truck can be pivotal: an 18-wheeler travelling at 70 miles per hour has double the energy of a truck going 50 mph.
Causes of Trucking Disasters
We have handled the cases of those injured and also killed by collisions with large trucks. Despite the dangers of driving in darkness, well over half of the serious wrecks involving trucks take place in the daylight hours. Some collisions involve truckers pushing themselves hard in order to get home for the weekend or for a holiday. Sometimes they drive too long because they have had traffic or weather delays.
Nationally, some of the main causes of trucks hurting and killing drivers and passengers of cars include trucker fatigue and drowsiness, negligent lane changing, unstable loads, and defective tires. Nearly 70% of trucking collisions take place in rural areas.
Complexities of Pursuing Compensatory Damages
If a driver is criminally prosecuted, the civil case of the victim is usually made easier and sounder. The US Transportation Department requires interstate operators to maintain detailed logs of their times and miles. This offers key evidence when bringing a claim. Invariably, we pursue matters against the driver, the insurance company, and the company for whom the driver is employed. Many companies are self-insured and many companies hire independent contractor drivers. But the funds must be sought in order to provide compensation for the victim and their family.
We were successful in winning a closely-watched case, before the Supreme Court of Ohio, involving a truck and car collision. Stanton v. Nationwide allowed for greater sources of insurance revenue to be attached. This opened the door wide for significant compensation for victims, in providing for their physical and emotional suffering.
Because the trucking industry is heavily regulated by the federal and state governments, claims involving trucks must embrace the many complexities of special codes and rules. Whether the mechanism of the crash involved a truck rolling over, jackknifing, or an unqualified driver – layers of government requirements always become key to the investigation.