Important Issues in Trucking Accidents

Imagine if that compact car that just rear-ended you at a stoplight was instead a tractor-trailer semi truck.  As an example, a 1999 Honda Civic weighs a little over 3400 pounds, while a semi-tractor with a large sleeper weighs around 20,000 pounds. With the addition of a trailer the maximum weight allowable in Texas is 80,000 pounds.  It is obvious that the forces involved in a collision with such a heavy vehicle are drastically magnified. Unfortunately, these magnified forces often result in much more serious personal injuries and property damages.

The trucking industry is highly regulated.  There are rules, regulations, and laws that cover everything from maximum weight and size of vehicles to the number of hours a driver can be on the road. A primary reason for all of these Federal and state rules is to increase the safety of over the road trucking. Unfortunately, people cut corners either purposely or through lack of vigilance and sometimes these rules are broken. Often an overly sleepy driver or a trucking company that allows overweight or oversized loads gets away with it and no one is hurt. Sometimes, the results are catastrophic and deadly.

A typical over the road driver gets paid by the mile, the more miles he drives the larger his paycheck.  The obvious motivation is for the driver to driver longer and faster.  The longer a driver drives the more tired he becomes, the faster he drives the more difficult it is to control and stop the truck. Taken to an extreme, drivers may take amphetamines or other drugs to keep themselves awake.  Invariably, these stimulants alter the driver’s perceptions and can give a sense of false control and well being to the drugged driver.

The U.S. Department of Transportation makes rules about work hours and other working conditions of drivers engaged in interstate commerce. A driver may drive for up to 11 hours and work for up to 14 hours in total.  Thereafter, 10 hours off-duty is required. A driver may not drive if he has worked for 60 hours in the past 7 days or 70 hours in the past 8 days unless they take 34 or more hours off-duty. Most drivers are required to document their time in a logbook.

If you have been the victim of an accident with a truck there are many questions that should be asked.  Is the driver licensed to operate this truck? Is the driver “legal” that is, has he abided by the maximum driving time limits? Is all required safety equipment present on the truck? Has the truck been inspected recently to insure it passed minimum requirements? Was the driver impaired at the time?  Did the driver abide by his own company’s policies and procedures?

If you or a loved one has been in such an accident there is a good chance it has had serious consequences.  A typical layman without experience in this field may not know the right questions to ask.  An experienced attorney can help sift through the mass of regulations, laws, and other factors and advise you accordingly. Contact the Law Office of Julie Johnson, PLLC for a free consultation.