A truck driver who crashed his rig into a state trooper in Pike County, Pennsylvania in January 2017 was sent to jail and was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). According to investigations, this is not the first time the driver and truck have been written up for a series of safety violations. Cecil Lipscomb, the truck driver, was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the accident, according to police. The trucker had also falsified logbooks and had repeatedly driven over the maximum number of hours allowed by federal law without getting proper rest.
Research indicates that fatalities due to trucking accidents increased by 15.5% between 2009 and 2015. A major contributor to this rise in deaths is truck driver fatigue. Studies by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator (FMCSA) found that nearly 65% of truck drivers reported that they felt drowsy while driving, and half of the drivers reported falling asleep at some point while driving. In response to the dangers of truck driver fatigue, the FMCSA has implemented an 11-hour driving limit. The purpose of the time limit is to reduce the amount of time a truck driver is allowed on the road without rest. Truck drivers must periodically log their hours to document compliance with this regulation. According to reports, Lipscomb had driven over 13 consecutive hours at the time of his accident.
Following this accident, investigation into Lipscomb and his truck revealed 21 safety violations over the last 3 years, including brake, steering, and light issues. In most instances, as few as one or two violations can result in suspension or termination. However, proper maintenance is only one factor required for safe trucking – a well-rested driver and proper equipment are also vital.
Unfortunately, many truck drivers are not well rested while they’re on the road. To make matters worse, many drivers turn to drugs, alcohol, and other stimulants to counter the effects of driver fatigue. Cases like the recent Pike County crash are all too common. Of all the truck accidents attributed to truck driver fatigue, 33% of drivers also tested positive for drug use. In response, the FMCSA published a final rule in December 2016 to establish the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse rule will require FMCSA-regulated employers, Medical Review Officers, and other substance abuse professionals to report to the Clearinghouse information related to violations of drug and alcohol regulations by current and prospective employees. The Clearinghouse will provide FMCSA and other employers the necessary tools to identify drivers who are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle due to drug and alcohol violations.
Truck accidents like the one in Pike County are avoidable if truck drivers follow the law and company safety procedures. In such catastrophic cases, the victims of trucking accidents are eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and their pain and suffering. When truck drivers or their employers intentionally falsify logbooks or illegally destroy or alter evidence, punitive damages may be appropriate to deter such conduct from occurring down the road. If you or someone you know has been involved in a catastrophic accident due to a truck driver’s fatigue or drug use, call the experienced lawyers at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 1-800-LAW-4004.