WYOMING TRUCK ACCIDENT LAWYERS
Trucks on the Highways
The United States has an estimated 3.5 million truck drivers across the United States, logging nearly 4.5 billion miles annually. One in nine of those drivers are independent owner-operators, while the remainder work for a specific trucking company. (Compare this to Canada, who has only about 250,000 truck drivers.) The United States economy depends on the trucking industry to deliver about 70 percent of all freight transported; if the trucking industry were to shut down, there would be less than two days’ worth of groceries for the public, plus the medical, fuel, and retail industries would be similarly impacted. As you can see, America’s trucking industry truly is the lifeblood of our nation.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration there were 411,000 crashes in 2014 which involved a large commercial truck. Of those, 3,424 resulted in at least one fatality. More than a third (37 percent) of all fatal crashes involve a large commercial truck and occurs at night. Both non-fatal and fatal truck collisions overwhelmingly occur during the week, rather than on a Saturday or Sunday. In 2014, about 30 percent of fatal crashes which occurred in a construction zone, involved a large commercial truck. Overall, there were 10.7 fatal large commercial truck crashes per million people in 2014—a one percent increase from 2010. Although there are more female truck drivers now than in the past, in 2014, only 2 percent of truck drivers involved in a collision were female. The FMCSA ranks speeding as the primary cause of accidents, followed by distraction and impairment.
Causes of Trucking Accidents
Fatigued Truck Drivers Causing Accidents
Like any automobile accident, a truck-involved accident is likely to have more than one cause, however more and more often, the primary cause of trucking accidents is driver fatigue. The Department of Transportation estimates that at least 13 percent—and probably more—of all truck accidents which result in a fatality can be attributed to truck driver fatigue. Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, says “while fatigue is not the sole cause of truck crashes, it is one of the leading causes…” Few truck drivers want to admit they were driving while exhausted, therefore it is difficult to get an exact number of the truck accidents related to fatigue. The most common reason truck drivers are driving while fatigued include:
- Because truck drivers only get paid for the time spent behind the wheel, many drivers keep two sets of log books—the real hours to turn in for pay, and the “correct” hours in case the log books are looked at by DOT.
- Truck drivers are under constant pressure to get loads delivered not only on time, but ahead of time in order to make a quick turnaround and re-load. These drivers feel as if they could potentially lose their job if they stop to rest.
Chronically fatigued truck drivers pose serious dangers to other drivers and to themselves. Truck drivers who are chronically fatigued may also suffer from heart conditions, cancer and diabetes, plus some truck drivers use methamphetamines to stay awake. While ephedrine is a stimulant which can keep the driver awake, the side effects can be equally dangerous—an inability to focus and delayed reaction times. One study found that truck driver fatigue is most likely between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Distracted Driving by Truck Drivers
Distractions take many forms, such as cell phone use, changing radio stations, looking at something by the side of the road instead of the drivers around you, or simply daydreaming when attention should be focused on the road. Just as all drivers in today’s busy world are prone to distracted driving behaviors, so are truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found in a 2009 study that 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something other than driving the truck. Despite the fact that it is against the law for a truck driver to use a cell phone while driving, estimates place the number of truck drivers using a hand-held cell phone at any given time at 10 percent.
When Truck Driver Error is a Result of Inexperience
Drivers of 18-wheelers are required to participate in an all-encompassing training program which teaches trucking regulations, the configuration of the commercial truck and instructions on handling and maneuvering an 80,000 pound vehicle while sharing the road with much smaller vehicles. The drivers are schooled in how specific cargo or weight of the cargo can increase the chances of an accident. They are given instruction on how to operate the truck during hazardous weather conditions, at night and in heavy traffic. Drivers who will be hauling hazardous chemicals or toxic waste must engage in further training and testing before getting behind the wheel.
Despite these apparently stringent requirements, many truck drivers take to the road before they have a solid grasp of their role on the roadway. Truck drivers who lack the training or the experience to cope with dangerous or stressful driving conditions may end up being a hazard to themselves or other drivers. Following a truck accident an investigator may look for signs that point to lack of experience as a cause of the accident. These may come in the form of a driver who blatantly disregarded traffic rules, who was guilty of excessive speed, or who maneuvered the commercial truck in a manner which was unsafe to those around him.
Inexperienced drivers may drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or may be unaware of how an over-the-counter drug they are taking impairs their ability to drive. The inexperienced driver may continue to drive even though they are ill, or engage in aggressive driving behaviors. Lack of familiarity with the road is also a result of inexperienced drivers, and can lead to serious collisions. Because there is a constant shortage of truck drivers, some trucking companies skirt the rules involving training and background checks in order to get the drivers on the road more quickly.
Impaired Driving by Truck Drivers
The FMCSA estimates that 44 percent of truck drivers involved in an accident are taking over-the counter or prescription drugs—many of which can impair driving ability. The results of random drug tests showed nearly a third of all interstate truck drivers tested positive for alcohol or some type of drug. Of that approximately 33 percent, half of those tested positive for marijuana, two percent tested positive for cocaine, 12 percent tested positive for a non-prescription stimulant and about one percent tested positive for alcohol. Any of these drugs may have a negative impact on the truck driver, including lowered reaction time and coordination, decreased concentration, altered perception and lowered judgment and attention. An impaired truck driver is more likely to exceed the speed limit, drive in a reckless manner, or take chances they would otherwise not take.
Other Causes of Truck Accidents
There are other causes of truck accidents including inclement weather, poorly loaded trailers, malfunction of tires, brakes or other parts of the truck, reckless or aggressive driving behaviors, lack of proper vehicle maintenance, lack of visibility (“blind spots”) by the truck driver, and poor roadway design.
Most Common Injuries from Trucking Accidents
Because of the disparity in size between a 3,000-pound passenger vehicle and an 80,000 pound large commercial truck, those in the passenger vehicle are likely to be killed or seriously injured. Those who survive are often left with very grave injuries which can result in completely altered futures. Traumatic brain injuries can leave victims struggling to perform their normal day-to-day tasks and can leave victims’ families struggling to deal with the personality changes in their loved one. Truck accidents can cause spinal cord injuries, leading to paralysis, limb amputations, broken bones, burns, internal organ damage and even disfigurement. All of these injuries require significant medical expenses, therefore it is very important that those injured in a truck accident contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Why Trucking Accidents are So Complex
Following a truck accident it can be particularly difficult to establish liability, since several parties could potentially be responsible for the accident. The driver of the truck may be clearly at fault, although in some cases the trucking company who hired the driver may share in that fault. The trucking company may have been aware the truck driver was exceeding his or her hours or that the truck driver was not sufficiently experienced to be driving. The loading company could be responsible if cargo shift was the reason for the accident. The maintenance company could be responsible for the accident if poor maintenance was the cause of the accident. Even the manufacturer of the truck or the truck parts could be held liable for the accident if there was a defect in the design or manufacture of the truck or truck part.
Getting the Help You Need Following Your Truck Accident
If you were injured in a trucking accident that you believe was caused by an inexperienced, fatigued, reckless, impaired or distracted truck driver it is important that you get legal help as soon after the accident as possible. Trucking accident claims are much more complex than a typical car accident because of the number of potential defendants. Whatever the cause, you deserve an advocate in your corner who will fight aggressively for your rights, ensuring you are compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and the damages to your vehicle. Don’t wait until it’s too late—evidence can be lost or destroyed and you will need a strong advocate in your corner to help you get what you deserve.
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