Truckers' logs, driver fatigue, failure to pull over in unsafe conditions.
Misuse of cell phones and radios. Medical unsuitability. Intoxication
and illegal drugs. All these are prominent parts of truck wreck investigations
where big rigs hurt people.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
and industry standards define duties often breached by trucking companies,
"rent-a-driver" firms, and big rig operators.
Death and dramatic impairments by crash, fire, and horrible wreckage give
rise to the need for us. To make a difference, the story needs to be well
told, which requires it be well researched. It's what we do.
Big Rig Wrecks & Tractor Trailer Collisions
Trucks move America's cargoes. The American Trucking Association (ATA)
says over nine (9) billon tons of freight moved around the U.S. in trucks
in 2004. Trucking revenues totaled more than $615 billion last year Revenues
may double by 2015.
Trucking is good for the economy, but it is bad for drivers in cars, vans
and SUVs who share the road with Big Rigs. Someone is killed or seriously
injured every 16 minutes in U.S. accidents involving 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers
or semi-trucks. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of deaths in truck collisions
are passengers in smaller vehicles.
Semi-trailer trucks accounted for 17 fatal accidents and 244 injury accidents
in 2013. Similarly, other heavy trucks contributed to 7 fatal accidents
and 286 injury accidents. When large commercial trucks get involved in
accidents, the outcome is often devastating.
Why do large truck accidents occur?
Vehicles with gross vehicle weights over 10,000 pounds are "large
truck" governed by specific federal safety laws. The drivers of these
big rigs must hold commercial licenses and undergo limited drug and alcohol
testing. Accidents involving semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and large trucks
require careful investigation. Issues for consideration include:
Driver Service. Driver fatigue and drowsiness give rise to reckless behavior like lane
drift, drifting off the road. Tired truckers caused the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to instituted new hours of service
regulations in 2003. Even after these rules, analysts think driver fatigue
is a probable factor causing 20-40% of truck wrecks.
Intoxicated Drivers. A recent study of body fluids from 168 fatally injured drivers disclosed
that one or more drugs were detected in 67% of fatally injured drivers.
A third of these drivers' blood had detectable blood concentrations
of psychoactive drugs or alcohol.
Driver error. Big-rig driver errors cause collisions that often group into these categories:
"Underrides" refer to passenger vehicles that slide under another vehicle, with the
majority of these incidences happening between large trucks and passenger cars.
"No-zones" or blind spots exist in the front, back and sides of a big rig truck. Recognizing these
"no-zones", the trucking industry has advised that for safety's
sake the driver of a passenger car should not be in front, back or in
two lanes beside a large truck. Wide turns into passenger cars are risks
due to blind spots.
"Squeeze plays" also occur when trucks make wide right turns. A passenger vehicle caught
between a large truck and the curb finds itself in a "squeeze"
and huge danger.
"Off-track" events happen when a truck turns at high speed into an adjacent lane.
"Following too closely" and leaving stopping distance cause devastating collisions.
Substandard inspection. The FMCSA, reports trucks are included in 2 million roadside inspections
per year. These vital inspections often lead to discovery of unsafe Big
Rigs. In fact, 23.2% of inspected vehicles had serious violations.
Longer Combination Vehicles (LCVs) are tractor-trailer combinations with two or more trailers. They can weigh
more than 80,000 pounds. These trucks have more and more jack-knife (the
rig jackknifes when the drive axel brakes lock up); roll-over, sway, and
loss of control events than other Big Rigs. Huge vehicle length, height
and weight makes these trucks perform and handle differently than others.
LCVs are especially dangerous because they sway, move in the wind, and
are prone to leave their lane.
Hazardous Materials (hazmat). Hazardous materials move in more than 800,000 shipments every day. Hazardous
materials (hazmat) in trucks are usually flammable liquids, such as gasoline
and explosive materials like anhydrous ammonia. Each year about 200 hazmat
trucks are involved in fatal and 5,000 nonfatal, crashes.
Protecting the Victims
Trucking companies are insured by carriers with special skills and focus
on prompt response to major truck collisions. Insurers often deploy investigators
in the middle of the night, fly to crash scenes, and do all they can to
preserve good evidence for the trucker and de-emphasize harmful evidence
against their trucker customers.
The insurers also study families, injured parties and their vulnerabilities.
They try to pick the ideal time of greatest vulnerability to confront
an accident victim and force the victim to make critically important decisions
when decision making skills are at low ebb. Insured parties and their
families need skilled legal help as quickly as possible after a collision occurs.
Improving the Likelihood for Justice
These ideas will help motorists to improve the chances potential collision
victims will survive collisions and avoid them when sharing the road with
large commercial trucks:
Be, and Stay Visible. Stay out of the truck's blind spots. Be sure
the driver can see you in both of
the truck's side mirrors.
- Maintain a safe distance to ensure enough space and time to brake.
- Drive defensively and alertly. Expect the unexpected.
- Indicate turns or passing movements with signals, and avoid sudden moves
such as swerving to pass.
- Drive with lights on and be sure windshield wipers work.
- Keep windows and windshields clean
- Do not talk on a cell phone without a headset, or contrary to law, while driving.
- Do not drive when emotionally upset or unstable.
- Do not express emotions through the vehicle.
- Respect the differences in size between your vehicle and others.
- Remember, no amount of rage or rushing is worth the risks of recklessness.
- Wear your seatbelt and make your passengers do so.
- Be aware of highway shoulders and objects on or near them at all times.
- Don't cut in from of trucks. [Special commentary about this follows.]
Don't Cut In Front of Trucks.
Trucks leave extra room behind the vehicles they follow because it can
take them twice as long to stop. If you move into that space and have
to brake suddenly, you cut the truck's available stopping distance
in half placing you and your passengers in danger. Anticipate the flow
of traffic before pulling in front of trucks.
More than 60 percent of fatal truck crashes involve impacts with the front
of the truck. Trucks are not equipped with the same type of energy-absorbing
bumpers as cars. When a car is hit from behind by a truck the results
are too often deadly.
If a Collision Occurs
- Make all decisions in reasonable priority. Do not panic.
- Make quality medical decisions first priority.
- Fulfill legal reporting requirements timely. Get professional help to do so.
- Give no information to persons with no need to know what is going on with you.
- Give no statements except to law enforcement, your lawyer, and medical people.
- Make a prompt, intelligent search for a quality lawyer, and engage counsel.
- Hold of inquiries from the trucking company's insurer until all these
steps are done.
Our law firm not only advocates for accident victims and families of those
killed in tractor trailer crashes, but also for effective remedies and
action that will accomplish change. If you have been injured in a truck
contact an Omaha personal injury lawyer at Domina Law Group pc llo today.