Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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shutterstock_430656778Busy Tennessee roadways like Interstate 40 and Interstate 24 are filled with cars. Interstate 40 runs nearly the entire State of Tennessee, from Memphis through Knoxville. Among those vehicles that fill our roads and interstates are commercial trucks. While Tennessee is home to many large corporations, thousands of truck drivers from companies based all over the country drive through the Volunteer State on a daily basis. Since these big rig trucks are much larger in weight and size than the average sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks driven by most Tennesseans, when one of these trucks crashes into a smaller car, injuries frequently result.

What are some steps you can take if an 18-wheeler strikes your car?

Stop at the Scene and Call the Police

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USA Today conducted a comprehensive investigation into a subset of the trucking industry in the United States – port truckers employed by trucking companies who transport goods across the country on behalf of many of the largest retailers in the United States, including Target, Home Depot, and Costco. Many of the trucking companies studied were based in California and employed low-income immigrants, some of which speak little to no English. Journalists reviewed testimony in labor dispute cases, contracts, and statements made by over 300 truck drivers. The research revealed that many truckers are overworked and in debt, both of which ultimately affect their driving performance.

One common theme showed that these companies used tactics to force drivers to finance their trucks themselves, even if it meant taking out debt that they could not afford. Knowing that the driver was over-extended in debt, executives from the company exerted that leverage on the employees to work longer shifts. If a trucker quit, the company could keep the truck, meaning the driver lost all of the money he or she had put into owning it. The company would then simply lease the truck to the next driver hired.

In addition to leasing fees, truckers still had to pay for gas and maintenance, among others. After deducting for leasing expenses and other payments, some drivers were barely making a profit at all. One trucker reported his take-home pay at a mere $0.67 per week. If the trucker was fired, the company would continue to charge the driver for payments owed under the contract. Court filings revealed many high-profile corporations were charged with labor violations, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, UPS, Goodyear, and Costco.

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An “underride accident” is when a car crashes into the rear or side of a semi-truck or tractor-trailer and ends up underneath. Trucking statistics show that over 200 people are killed in these types of wrecks each year. When a car slides underneath a trailer, sometimes the top of the vehicle is sheared off. If a victim is fortunate enough to survive the crash, that person may sustain serious and permanent injuries.

A product known as AngelWing is designed to protect vehicle occupants in case of a side collision with a large commercial truck. It is currently being tested. When functioning properly, the side guard “engages and deploys the vehicle’s built-in safety features such as airbags, anti-avoidance sensors, crumple zones or seat belts, designed to protect its occupants from possible injury or death.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), side guards on trucks would greatly reduce the risks of underride accidents. Currently, side guards are not required by law. Per a report by NBC News, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, a lobbying group for the trucking industry, strongly opposes a formal requirement for side guards. Their reasons include additional cost, technical challenges, and concerns that the side guard would increase the truck’s weight to more dangerous levels.

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A trial date has been set for the driver who fell asleep at the wheel while operating a commercial truck, which killed a 31-year-old man. John Ray Carpenter is facing charges of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of anywhere between 3 and 15 years in prison. Carpenter did not deny that he “dozed off” or “blacked out” while driving his multi-ton septic tanker shortly before colliding head-on with Johnson, according to authorities.

The criminal complaint also alleges that the trucker voluntarily admitted to authorities that he is aware that he goes through spells periodically where he believes his eyes are open when they really are not. Further investigation discovered that prior to this wreck, the defendant had a long history of traffic collisions but continued to drive trucks commercially for a living. In fact, he was involved in 13 accidents between the years of 2000 and 2015. Additionally, records show that the driver was involved in a traffic collision just one week prior to the incident at issue in this case, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation declared the driver unfit to operate commercial trucks and has restricted him from doing so.

A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the truck driver in connection with this fatal truck accident. The lawsuit alleges that the driver operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and that he should not have been allowed to operate a commercial truck due to a serious medical condition, sleep apnea.

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A driver can only be as good as the vehicle that he or she is operating. Even licensed, experienced, and well-rested truck drivers are dependent on their vehicles to effectively carry out their jobs. If something is wrong with their truck, such as a mechanical failure, it can cause problems for even the most experienced drivers. In turn, this puts members of the public in great danger of injury or even death.

Vehicle maintenance in the field of commercial trucking is crucial. These giant trucks and tractor-trailers take a beating when hauling heavy loads across the country. It should come as no surprise then that these vehicles require constant maintenance and upkeep to ensure that they run smoothly.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth rules and regulations regarding the upkeep of commercial vehicles in FMCSA Rules and Regulations § 396. Specifically, Regulation §396.3 states that all carriers must have a program in place to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” This broad and ambiguous requirement leaves certain decisions of how to maintain a carrier’s fleet entirely on the carrier. It is up to the carrier to ensure that they comply with FMCSA regulations, and often, this lack of specificity can lead to inadequate maintenance.

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The modern world today is driven by technological advancements. Everything from travel, leisure, and business is fueled by the ever increasing use of technology. We can research an important legal topic at lightning speed and conduct business meetings from halfway around the globe. This unavoidable push to the future is even making its way into the commercial trucking industry.

Researchers from Iowa State University are trying to incorporate the use of big data to big rig trucking. In a detailed report presented to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), researchers laid out some of the biggest obstacles trucking companies face, including delays, accidents, and safety. It is estimated that trucking companies lose millions of dollars annually sitting in traffic. This is why many truckers face intense pressure to drive as many hours as physically possible, even if it means knowingly disregarding federal trucking regulations such as hours of service. By employing real-time data collected by state traffic centers and other resources, researchers believe truck drivers could potentially receive information on traffic congestion, accidents, road conditions, and traffic speed.

This up-to-the second information could help truck drivers avoid congested or delayed roads, in turn resulting in faster and more punctual deliveries. Dave Cantor, one of the researchers from Iowa State, believes that this technology is already readily available. “The DOT has a lot of real-time data on the operating conditions of state highways and secondary roads, and it wants to make sure the data is of value to carriers,” Cantor said. The problem then becomes what is the best way to transmit this information to truck drivers?

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medical-05-1455836An investigation into a March 2017 fatal accident revealed the truck driver who caused it was under the influence of several types of pills at the time of the crash. The truck driver, just 20 years old, crashed into a bus carrying senior citizen congregants of a Texas church who were coming back from a three day retreat. 13 people ended up dying as a result of the collision. The victims were between 61 and 87 years old.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, in addition to local police, responded to the accident scene. Investigators found five partially smoked marijuana cigarettes in the truck as well as two full marijuana cigarettes. The trucker admitted to having taken prescription pills which led investigators to believe he was under the influence. He admitted to taking Clonazepam, Ambien, and Lexapro. Other pill bottles were found in the truck as well.

The facts of the accident suggest the driver could have been under the influence. One witness was driving behind the truck and saw it driving erratically. For example, the trucker had crossed the center line several times. The witness was so concerned about the erratic driving that he called the local sheriff’s office to report what he was seeing and ask law enforcement to get the truck off the road before somebody got hit. Following this accident, the witness got out of his car to check on everyone. When he talked to the trucker, the trucker admitted to texting while driving and apologized multiple times.

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crosswalk-1532024The amount of pedestrians injured or killed as the result of a vehicular accident each year is enormous. Even when pedestrians use crosswalks and sidewalks, they are in danger of serious injury or death, often at the hands of careless or distracted drivers. For instance, a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 4,700 people were killed in pedestrian related traffic accidents in 2013, with another 150,000 suffering some form of injury.

Unfortunately, pedestrian fatalities have continued to rise since then; there were 5,376 pedestrian accident deaths reported in the United States in 2015. Many of the victims happen to be children. The troubling number of pedestrian deaths has lawmakers and safety regulators searching for new and improved ways to prevent these tragic incidents.

Recently, a pedestrian was struck and killed in a hit and run accident in Tampa, Florida. The crash occurred in the early morning hours when a commercial dump truck hit a pedestrian who was walking down the street around 5:40 a.m. After striking the pedestrian, the trucker fled the scene. Witnesses assisted Tampa police in describing the trucker, and police were able to use that information to find and arrest him shortly thereafter.

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A truck driver was arrested in late March 2017 after driving from Seattle to Massachusetts under the influence of cocaine, LSD, and crystal methamphetamine. The driver was caught by police outside of his truck at a gas station. Police noticed he was locked out of the truck, acting combative, and showing signs of drug use. He then admitted to police that he had used drugs. Police subsequently arrested the trucker.

All states, including Tennessee, have laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. The laws apply to all drivers, whether driving on the job or for personal use. In addition to state laws, commercial truck drivers must follow federal regulations adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These rules expressly prohibit driving while intoxicated. They also address prescription medication. For example, a driver cannot take a controlled substance or prescription medication without a prescription written by a licensed doctor or medical practitioner. There are certain medications that will prohibit a driver from being able to operate a truck under any circumstance.

After a truck or 18 wheeler crash, truck drivers may be subject to drug testing. Local law enforcement, including the police, sheriff’s department, or highway patrol, may decide to conduct its own drug testing of the defendant. Truckers believed to be under the influence of alcohol or another drug may be arrested at the scene and face criminal charges for their actions. There may be a criminal investigation before the District Attorney formally brings charges in criminal court.

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Long haul commercial truck driving can be one of the deadliest professions in America. Over 250,000 accidents each year are attributed to commercial trucking, with roughly 5,000 of those accidents resulting in fatalities. One of the biggest contributing factors to the deadly nature of commercial trucking is the poor health of truck drivers.

Commercial trucking is a demanding profession, requiring countless hours on the road. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to haul loads over multiple state lines on a single crossing, often going hours without sleep or proper nutrition. Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and back pain are all common ailments in truck drivers and have also been linked to poor driving performance. Further, high blood pressure and fatigue, two top indicators of poor health in truckers, can be attributed to poor diet and lack of sleep. Factors such as stress, heavy lifting, long hours, and lack of exercise are all characteristics of commercial trucking and contribute greatly to poor health conditions.

To offset the effects of sleeplessness, many truck drivers turn to stimulants like amphetamines. Amphetamines can be used to stave off fatigue, allowing some truck drivers to drive longer without rest. Along with producing dangerous driving conditions in general, these drugs can also contribute to major health risks such as vertigo and hallucinations. Stimulants also change the driver’s perceptions and ability to react to emergency driving situations, including inclement weather. It should thus come as no surprise that over 35% of truck drivers who die in an accident test positive for an illegal drug.