Truck drivers, whether they are self-employed or under the employment of a logistics company, are required to abide by a number of federal trucking regulations. Among them, rules about the number of hours drivers are allowed to be on duty, safe driving requirements, and maintenance and repair requirements to assure the vehicle is safe. These regulations are in place to protect the drivers as well as the public from unsafe practices that could result in accident, injury or death.
Drivers’ Hours of Service
There are very strict guidelines as to the number of hours per day and per week that truck drivers are allowed to be on duty. The amount of time that is spent driving, loading, unloading, inspecting and repairing the vehicle, as well as time spent doing paperwork and other activities, all count towards the number of hours on duty. The reason for this is actually quite simple; drivers who are not well rested are more likely to make mistakes that can lead to accidents.
Safe Driving Requirements
It is against federal trucking regulations for drivers to operate their trucks if they are sick, tired, or if while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, whether illegal or prescribed, if they interfere with their performance. Truck drivers, like all other drivers, have to abide by the traffic laws and drive cautiously in hazardous conditions. In addition, they are required to come to a full stop before reaching a railroad track. Most of these requirements are common sense, as in the case of driving while using drugs or alcohol. However, common sense does not always prevail.
Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
Every commercial motor vehicle on the roadways across the country must be adequately maintained so it is safe for both the driver of the truck and the other motorists. Every part of the truck is covered under the federal trucking regulations, from the headlights to the brakes to the tires, frame and bumpers. It is the responsibility of the trucking company and its drivers to assure that the truck complies with the requirements. Companies and drivers that allow trucks that are not properly maintained or repaired are putting themselves and others at grave risk.
Regulations are not Foolproof
Despite the myriad of regulations pertaining to trucking companies and their drivers, accidents do happen. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals some startling statistics in their latest Traffic Safety Facts report revised in May 2014. According to the report, 330,000 large trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds were involved in traffic accidents in 2012. In those accidents, more than 3,900 people were killed and 104,000 people were injured. What’s even more startling is that 73 percent of the fatalities and injuries were people in vehicles other than the truck.
The truck drivers and companies that employ them are responsible for their safety and that of others on the roadways as well. Compliance with the regulations mentioned above, is mandatory. However, human error, both in judgment and action, can and often does create dangerous situations that put people at risk. If you or someone you know was injured in a accident involving a truck, contact a qualified truck accident attorney at DDB Law. We have the experience required to review all the intricacies of trucking regulations in order to determine fault or negligence.
Ascertaining just who bears the responsibility for a given truck accident is often a complicated matter. Industry know-how is important, if not essential. The common causes of truck accidents may involve the driver, the truck itself and/or its load.
Actions After an Accident
After most accidents involving commercial trucks, the actions of the driver are closely examined. Law enforcement will investigate whether the driver was impaired, fatigued, distracted or driving too fast for conditions. The driver’s logbook may be examined to determine whether the hours driven were in accordance with trucking regulations.
Authorities will also look for evidence of equipment failure such as brakes, tires, suspension and other parts failures that may have caused or contributed to accidents. If an equipment failure is found, it is often critical to determine whether improper maintenance or defective parts were to blame.
Evidence of Negligence
The presence of any of these factors may constitute evidence of negligence. Even when negligent conduct can be reasonably linked to a truck accident, work still remains. The injured party and his or her legal representative must name an appropriate defendant for any civil litigation that may seek compensation.
A host of potentially responsible parties must be considered:
- Truck owner
- Trailer owner
- Lessees of the truck and/or trailer
- The party that loaded the trailer
- Vehicle manufacturer
- Parts manufacturer
- Maintenance provider
Finger pointing is not uncommon in the aftermath of truck accidents. A trucking firm might point to defective brakes as the cause, while the brake manufacturer might point to improper maintenance. An entity that leases a tractor-trailer may blame the owner and vice versa.
Furthermore, the various insurance companies involved may spar over just where the liability lies. It is often up to a personal injury attorney to maintain a proper focus on the injuries suffered by his or her client, and on the negligence that may have caused or contributed to those injuries.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that involved a commercial truck, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with you. Contact us immediately for a no-cost consultation and for more information.
When you are involved in a truck accident, many things can go awry between the time of the accident and receiving a possible settlement for damages. The time immediately following the accident is when you really need an experienced accident attorney who knows what to look for, and can prevent certain things from happening that would seriously damage your case.
Tampering With Crucial Evidence
Tampering with crucial evidence after a truck accident takes place is illegal and downright wrong, but it happens all too often when the driver of the truck may be at fault.
Truck drivers are required by law to maintain honest and accurate logbooks that contain information about the driver’s drive time and rest periods. There is a limit on how long a driver is allowed to operate a truck without a break. Driver fatigue has played a big role in many truck accidents, and the Federal Government has reduced the number of hours a driver can safely operate their truck to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.
When a truck accident occurs, truck drivers are known for making fraudulent entries to cover-up the fact that they have violated the rules by driving too many consecutive hours without a break. Many trucking companies encourage this practice to reduce liability, and so their drivers can make faster deliveries.
The Preservation of Evidence
Another critical issue is the preservation of evidence. Every truck driver has an onboard data recorder on the truck, and it is extremely important to get to this device quickly before the data gets erased in the event of an accident. It is a common occurrence for trucking companies to make immediate repairs to a damaged truck just so they can erase the data saved on the recorder. This is a major setback in any case, because it makes it difficult to re-construct the accident accurately without this information. The data recorder contains crucial evidence about speed, braking, hours of service, and e-mail correspondence between the driver and the trucking company. Only an experienced attorney knows an immediate “spoliation letter” must be sent. This tells the trucking company that the damaged truck is evidence in a lawsuit and cannot be altered, touched, or repaired pending the court date. When a vehicle is the subject of litigation, this step is critical in the preservation of evidence. Without it a major case could be lost; one that could have been easily won had the evidence been preserved.
The Importance of a Skilled Attorney
If you have been involved in a truck accident, it is imperative that you seek representation immediately, because time is of the essence when it comes to the preservation of evidence. Our attorneys at DiCesare, Davidson, and Barker have the skill and experience that it takes to be successful when dealing with the trucking industry. We have the expertise to handle these special concerns and encourage you to call us and let us provide the immediate help you need.