An estimated 15.5 million trucks transport over 70% of American goods on our roads annually. This led to nearly 5,000 deaths and 108,000 serious injuries throughout the U.S. in 2020. Frequently, our clients who have been injured in a trucking accident have suffered serious and permanent injuries. Due to the trucking industry’s complex regulatory scheme, and the unique factors which lead to trucking accidents, hiring the right truck accident lawyer to protect your claim and preserve key evidence from the onset is crucial.
What causes trucking accidents?
The Department of Transportation has found that the overwhelming majority of tractor-trailer or semi-truck crashes were caused by either prescription drug use or speeding. The following were the most common causes of semi-truck accidents:
- 26% caused by prescription drug use
- 23% caused by the driver traveling too fast for conditions
- 17% caused by over-the-counter drug use
- 13% caused by fatigue
- 3% caused by illegal drug use
- 8% caused by abuse of alcohol
- 18% caused by other factors.
The attorneys at the law firm of Dross Berman will investigate whether any of the common causes of a trucking accident were a factor in your case.
Due to the size and weight of tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, or 18-wheelers, the law requires that trucking companies take extra precautions to ensure their drivers are safe. Often, trucks are carrying heavy or dangerous cargo which can imperil motorists. Even though truck drivers ought to make safety a top priority, every year thousands of trucking accidents occur for the following reasons:
Truck Driver Speeding
When a truck driver exceeds the speed limit, they put others on the road at risk because they are not driving with the flow of traffic. Trucks can weigh nearly 20 times more than the average passenger vehicle or motor vehicle which creates an opportunity for serious accidents to occur. Commercial truck drivers often speed because they are on strict timelines to deliver their cargo – some even receive bonuses for arriving at their destinations ahead of time.
Truck Driver Tiredness and Fatigue
Federal regulations limit the number of hours a commercial truck driver can log driving per week. Specifically, there is a maximum 11-hour driving limit allowed for truckers carrying cargo after a consecutive 10 hours off duty. This is to prevent driver fatigue and give truck drivers a chance to get the sleep or rest they need. A truck driver’s scheduled route often includes hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, and this can affect even the most experienced drivers.
Truck drivers spend long hours on the road, often in remote locations, which can lead to driver distraction. Even at times when there is less traffic on the road, truck drivers need to focus their full attention on the road. One of the most common causes of distracted driving is operating a cell phone while at the wheel (see below). Talking, texting or even entering directions into a GPS system, even “for a second”, are all enough for a driver to take their eyes off the road long enough to put themselves and others in danger.
Texting Truck Drivers
The attorneys are Dross Berman LLC have seen first-hand the heartache that a texting truck driver can cause a family. Texting while driving is banned nationwide for drivers of commercial trucks. Despite the law, this doesn’t keep some drivers from continuing to text while driving during their shifts. Texting while driving increases the chances of an accident significantly. The increase of risk is also heightened when texting is used in combination with a fatigued driver or when a driver is navigating an unfamiliar road.
Unsafe Driving Practices
Truck drivers log thousands of miles every week. Long stretches of time on the road can become monotonous and may cause some drivers to lose concentration or make mistakes with operating their trucks. In addition to speeding, unsafe driving practices can include:
- Following another vehicle too closely
- Road rage
- Failure to check for blind spots
- Frequent lane changes
Failure to use turn signals
Poor or Improper Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies are responsible for the proper maintenance and upkeep of their vehicles. All maintenance checks must be documented and a truck company can be held responsible for a trucking accident if faulty equipment is the cause of a crash. Equipment malfunctions can range from tire blowouts to faulty brakes to many other failures.
Sometimes, equipment failure is caused by the weather or external elements such as poorly constructed roads. Despite these external conditions, truck drivers are required to adjust their driving accordingly to remain safe.
Inadequate or improper training
Driving a commercial vehicle is a big responsibility. Federal law requires specialized training and licensing for any commercial vehicle. If a driver has not had the proper training in how to handle a commercial truck, defensive driving, and other safety elements, then the driver will pose a hazard on the road.
Unfamiliarity with roads or inexperience driving
Any person traveling an unknown road can face driving challenges. This is especially true for truck drivers, sometimes driving 80,000-pound vehicles for the first time. If the truck driver doesn’t realize how narrow, curvy, or rough a certain road was, the results can be disastrous.
Driving a commercial truck is far different than navigating traffic in a passenger car. The amount of cargo these trucks carry has a huge impact on the driver’s ability to brake, switch lanes, and accelerate/decelerate. Federal law has struck regulations that determine how much weight a commercial truck can carry because, if overloaded, it can be detrimental to the trucker’s driving and the vehicle itself. Tires can experience blowouts or the truck could jackknife due to too much weight. Improperly secured cargo is also dangerous and can lead to injury and possibly fatal accidents.
A good trucking accident attorney will require the trucking company to preserve evidence immediately following a crash.
The first couple of days after a trucking accident begin a crucial information-gathering period. As a matter of policy, the attorneys at Dross Berman LLC will always require a trucking company to preserve the following pieces of evidence so the crash can be properly investigated:
- The truck involved in the collision.
- Bills of Lading for any shipments transported by the driver the day of the collision.
- Any oversized permits or other applicable permits or licenses covering the truck, or the load on the truck on the date of the collision.
- The driver’s daily logs for the day of the collision, and for the six-month period preceding the collision, together with all material required by 49 C.F.R.396.8 and 395.15 for the driver involved in the collision.
- All existing driver/vehicle inspection reports required under 49 C.F.R.396.11 for the vehicles involved in the collision.
- All existing daily inspection reports for the truck involved in this collision.
- All existing maintenance, inspection and repair records or work orders on the truck involved in the collision.
- All annual inspection reports for the truck involved in the collision covering the date of the collision.
- The driver’s complete driver’s qualification file, as required by 49 C.F.R.391-51, including, but not limited to:
- Application for employment;
- CDL License;
- Driver’s Certification of Prior Traffic Violations;
- Driver’s Certification of Prior Collisions;
- Driver’s employment history;
- Inquiry into driver’s employment history;
- Pre-employment MVR;
- Annual MVR for last two years;
- Annual review of driver history;
- Certification of road test;
- Medical examiner’s certificates for last two years;
- Drug testing records;
- HAZMAT or other training documents.
- Photographs, videos, computer-generated media, or other recordings of the interior and exterior of the vehicles involved in the collision, the collision scene, the occurrence, or relating to any equipment or things originally located at or near the site of the occurrence;
- The driver’s post-collision alcohol and drug testing results;
- Any lease contracts or agreements covering the driver or the truck involved in the collision;
- Any telephone records of the driver involved in the collision for the day of the collision.
- Any data and/or printout from on-board recording devices, including, but not limited to, the ECM (electronic control module), or any on-board computer, tachograph, trip monitor, trip recorder, trip master or other recording or tracking device for the day of the collision and the six-month period preceding the collision for the equipment involved in the collision;
- Any post-collision maintenance, inspection, or repair records or invoiced in regard to the truck involved in the collision;
- Any weight tickets, fuel receipts, hotel bills, or other records of expenses, regardless of type, regarding the driver or the truck involved in the collision for the day of the collision and the thirty (30) day period preceding the collision;
- Any trip reports, dispatch records, trip envelopes regarding the driver or the truck involved in the collision for the day of the collision and the thirty (30) day period preceding the collision;
- Any e-mails, electronic messages, letters, memos, or other documents concerning the collision;
- The collision register maintained by the motor carrier as required by federal law for the one (1) year period preceding the collision;
- Any drivers’ manuals, guidelines, rules or regulations given to drivers such as the one involved in the collision;
- Any reports, memos, notes, logs or other documents evidencing complaints about the driver in the collision;
- Any DOT reports, memos, notes or correspondence concerning the driver or the tractor or trailer involved in the collision;
- Any downloadable computer data from the tractor’s computer system to include but not be limited to Electronic Control Modules, Event Data Recorders, Eaton VORAD collision warning system, and other similar systems;
- The pre-trip inspection report completed by the driver for the trip involved in the collision;
- All OmniTRAC, Qualcomm, NVPc, QTRACS, OmniExpress, TruckMail, TrailerTRACS, SensorTRACS, JTRACS, and other similar systems data for the six (6) months prior to the collision for the driver and truck
- All settlement sheets and expense sheets for the truck driver pertaining to trips taken for the day of the collision and thirty (30) days prior to the collision;
- Accounting records, cargo transportation bills, and subsequent payments or other records indicating billings for transportation or subsequent payment for the transportation of cargo, with both the front and back of canceled checks for cargo transported by the driver and/or truck involved in the collision for thirty (30) days prior to the date of the collision, as well as the day of the collision;
- Any other items associated in any way with the wreck, documents, database, or other pieces of evidence concerning or reflecting upon the driver, the collision, or the truck;
- The entire personnel file of the driver involved in the collision;
- Any and all communications via CB radio, mobile or satellite communication systems, e-mail, cellular phone, pager, or other cab communication device to include the bills for the devices for the seven (7) days before, the day of, and the two (2) days after the collision;
- Any and all computer, electronic, or e-mail messages of any type created in the seven (7) days prior to the collision and the first forty-eight (48) hours immediately after the collision, by and between the defendant and any agents or third parties, as well as any computer message, which relate to the particular incident.
- All documents required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 395.8, specifically those items identified in the Department of Transportation’s interpretation of the regulation.
Trucking accident claims often involve serious or fatal injuries and can become very complex. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a trucking accident, Dross Berman invites you to call us at 240-403-7200 for a complimentary case evaluation or a free consultation.