Truck Safety

truck-safety-expert-law-firm

The truck accident attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman are all too familiar with the devastation associated with a truck crash. Our lawyers have testified before state and federal governmental safety committees concerning truck safety, other modes of transportation safety, and various consumer safety issues. The firm has decades of experience handling major truck accident cases across the nation.

In an effort to reduce the amount of truck crashes we see every year, the firm is trying to shine a light on the trucking industry. It is our hope that by building a database of detailed truck crash information, we can raise awareness and influence public policy on important decisions concerning truck safety, such as keeping heavier trucks off our nation’s highways, implementation of collision avoidance systems, and barring truckers from being behind the wheel for more hours per day than is safe.

Truck drivers must appreciate the size and weight of their trucks and not take risks that can cause serious injuries and death to other highway drivers. By their nature, commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) require more knowledge, training, skill, and care to operate safely than do passenger vehicles, in part because they are heavier, difficult to slow and stop, hard to maneuver, and require a special driver’s license and qualifications. These factors also apply to the trucking companies (motor carriers) employing the drivers. They set the tone for either truck driver safety or an operation which cuts corners, ignores unsafe drivers, and looks the other way to avoid violations.

Post-crash truck safety inspection

Truck crash lawyer Ilyas Akbari measures part of the tractor-trailer involved in one of his cases, during a post-crash inspection.

Truck Safety Improvement Advocates

Justice does not always end merely with the successful resolution of the lawsuit, and our firm continued to work for improvements in truck safety in an attempt to prevent similar harm to others. Over the years our attorneys have spearheaded, and participated in, campaigns that have led to safety improvements, several involving commercial transportation.

In an effort to improve truck safety, one of our attorneys testified at a special State Senate Transportation Committee Hearing whose purpose was to probe events leading up to the fatal accident which killed our clients’ son. A California state senator invited our firm to testify at a hearing investigating the Caltrans Transportation Permits Office, which issues about 180,000 permits a year for oversized loads. Caltrans granted a permit to a trucking company carrying a load 15 feet high on a freeway with an overpass only 14 feet, 10 inches high. When the truck traveled under the overpass its large tank was ripped from the truck by the overpass and crushed the car traveling behind the truck, killing our clients’ son.

To learn more about Baum Hedlund’s safety advocacy, visit our advocacy campaigns.

Truck safety accident reconstruction experts

Truck Accident Trial Lawyer Ronald Goldman works alongside accident reconstruction experts on a truck accident case.

Truck Safety Facts

On average, 4,000 people are killed in truck crashes annually and 100,000 more are injured. The annual cost of truck crashes exceeds $19 billion. In the past 10 years, more than 48,000 people have needlessly died and over 1 million have been injured in truck crashes. In fatal 2-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 98% of the deaths are occupants of the passenger vehicles. Adding even more weight to a big truck dramatically increases the risk of death and serious injury.

In the 2006 Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”), the following were among the top factors in large truck crashes:

  • Speeding / traveling too fast for conditions
  • Unfamiliarity with roadway or vehicle
  • Truck driver fatigue
  • Work-related pressure
  • Inattention
  • Aggressive driving behavior (tailgating, weaving, other)
  • Brake failure
  • Cargo shift
  • Alcohol or drug use

Truck Safety And Information Resources

The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) Non-profit truck safety organizations such as The Truck Safety Coalition and Public Citizen, keep a very close watch on state and federal regulations affecting the trucking industry. These truck safety groups are very proactive in supporting good law, promoting truck safety, and fighting bad laws which make our roads and highways more dangerous.

Some of our truck accident clients choose to get involved with the Truck Safety Coalition’s Survivors Network.

The Truck Safety Coalition is dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes. This volunteer network is made up of dedicated truck safety advocates. They come from different backgrounds and interests, but all share three common goals:

  1. Provide immediate, compassionate support to survivors and families of victims of truck crashes through our First Response program.
  1. Educate the general public, the media, and state and federal officials on truck safety issues.
  1. Effectively fundraise in order to support the overall mission of reducing truck crash fatalities and injuries.

CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) was formed in 1990 to help mitigate the devastating problem of truck crashes. CRASH is a nationwide, grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to improving overall truck safety in the U.S. and eliminating the unnecessary deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes every year. They represent the millions of Americans who travel the nation’s highways every day, including truck drivers, motorists, crash survivors and families of truck crash victims. CRASH works at all levels of government to initiate and promote truck safety legislation around the issues of truck size and weight, truck driver fatigue, and vehicle maintenance. Their goal is to make safety as important as productivity in all U.S. trucking operations.

P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) was formed when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 80,000 pound rig, killing four innocent teenagers. There were no criminal charges (not even a traffic ticket) brought against this truck driver or the trucking company for their deaths. Thus, P.A.T.T. was formed in May of 1994. They have grown from a Maine grassroots group to a nationally recognized organization. They have been successful in bringing the fatigue issue to the forefront at national events though out the United States. Although misunderstood by some, P.A.T.T. is not anti-trucker. In fact, many truck drivers are applauding them for addressing issues that they themselves cannot for fear of losing their jobs.

Stop Bigger Trucks is sponsored by the Truck Safety Coalition. Sign the petition to keep bigger, longer, heavier, deadlier trucks off the roads.

Stop Bigger Trucks is sponsored by the Truck Safety Coalition.

Current Truck Safety Issues

Serious Action Must Be Taken Against Truck Driver Fatigue

In the most comprehensive over-the-road study ever conducted of commercial driver alertness, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that:

  • Driver alertness and performance more consistently related to the time of day than to time-on-task, with drowsiness episodes eight times more likely between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • During their daily main sleep period, drivers slept for about five hours–two hours less than their “ideal” requirement.
  • Drivers were inaccurately assessing their own levels of alertness.
  • There were significant individual differences among drivers in levels of alertness and performance.

The study recognized the need for more CMV / truck driver public rest areas, pointing to a significant shortage of rest area parking for commercial vehicles and drivers. There have been some efforts to expand spaces at truck stops to meet this need. Partly in response to the study, about half of the country now permits CMV truck weigh stations not in use to remain open as rest areas.

Trailer configuration also was found to affect driver stress/fatigue as measured by lane keeping, driver subjective workload, and physiological state. Task demands were far greater with triple/A-dollies than with single trailers.

The study also investigated technological approaches to counteracting fatigue that will improve driver alertness and lower crash risk. Topics included improving sleep, monitoring operator alertness, alternative approaches to HOS (Hours of Service) regulation, and new methods and technologies in fatigue management.

A group also examined the prevalence of driver fatigue as a principal factor in local/short haul (LSH) versus over-the-road truck crashes. Not surprisingly, trip distance was found to have the greatest effect on the percentage of fatigue-related fatal crashes.

Speeding is a Blatant Disregard for the Safety of Others

Trucking accidents can be caused by weather conditions, poorly designed roads, or other factors outside of the driver’s control. However, when a catastrophic or fatal accident is caused by a speeding truck driver, there is added outrage due to the very preventable nature of these accidents.

Where a truck driver is already carrying a hazardous amount of weight and traveling at highway speeds, speeding is a blatant disregard for the safety of other drivers and their passengers on the road. Unfortunately, as companies demand on-time delivery without factoring in unforeseen delays, the pressure for truckers to speed continues to mount.

Distracted Drivers are a Threat to Truck Safety

Accidents happen. There is a difference, however, between accidents that were unavoidable and accidents that were the result of pure negligence. Through our years of experience in truck accident litigation, we have recognized an increasing trend: Too many innocent people are suffering catastrophic injuries or losing their lives because of the negligence of distracted truck drivers.

In investigating truck accidents across the country, we have learned that the truck industry’s emphasis on timing and profits has shifted to the truck drivers—forcing them to “multitask,” drive recklessly and put lives at risk. To meet their ever tightening deadlines, many truckers drive for longer periods of time than regulations allow, take medication to stay awake, and attempt to perform their daily tasks, like eating or talking and texting on the phone, while driving.

These driver distractions can lead truckers to engage in habits like speeding, tailgating, making unsafe lane changes, driving in the wrong lane and otherwise driving recklessly.

Truckers Allowed to Drive Longer Hours

Believe it or not, U.S. legislators in 2005 approved a new law called the Trucker Hours-of-Service Rule, which we feel creates a more dangerous environment as it increases the amount of hours a trucker can drive without a break and the overall hours they can drive weekly.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

  • Drivers may drive up to 11 hours in the 14-hour on-duty window after they come on duty following 10 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • The 14-hour on-duty window may not be extended with off-duty time for meal and fuel stops, etc.
  • The prohibition on driving after being on duty 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, remains the same, but drivers can “restart” the 7/8 day period anytime a driver has 34 consecutive hours off duty.
  • CMV drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

Missing from the new rule is a much needed requirement to monitor actual truck driving hours by electronic onboard recorders which would allow for effective enforcement of the rule.

Other Truck Safety Advocates

The National Safety Council (NSC), chartered by an act of Congress, is a non-governmental, not-for-profit, public service organization devoted solely to educating and influencing society to adopt safety, health, and environmental policies, practices, and procedures that prevent and mitigate human suffering and economic losses arising from preventable causes.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts. Public Citizen’s Auto Safety Group works to improve highway safety by lobbying Congress to pass critical legislation, monitors the Department of Transportation to be sure it carries out the will of Congress, conducts public awareness campaigns on critical issues, and participates in lawsuits to force government action when necessary.

Government Agencies

The Department of Transportation (DOT) was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966. The DOT’s purpose is to “serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a major agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The FHWA is charged with the broad responsibility of ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be the safest and most technologically up-to-date.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Their primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), under the U.S. Department of Transportation was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970, as the successor to the National Highway Safety Bureau, to carry out safety programs under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and the Highway Safety Act of 1966. The Vehicle Safety Act has subsequently been recodified under Title 49 of the U. S. Code in Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety. NHTSA also carries out consumer programs established by the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, which has been recodified in various Chapters under Title 49.