Although most truck drivers understand the risks they face on the highway, there are many truck drivers who are not operating their rig in a manner that is safe to the public.
Most truck accidents that involve driver error include one or more of the following factors:
- driver fatigue;
- failure to properly load the trailer or secure cargo;
- overloading, failure to follow safety protocols;
- using alcohol or drugs while driving;
- Improperly trained drivers.
Driver fatigue can significantly increase the risk of a crash. In fact, it is believed that nearly 30% of all accidents are caused by driver fatigue.
Driver fatigue can have many causes, the most likely of which is that the driver has been on the road for longer than is prescribed by law, or by the safety protocols. There have been instances recently where drivers who have caused accidents had been on the road for 14 to 15 hours at the time of the accident.
Other causes of driver fatigue could be illness, lack of quality/quantity of sleep, and the time of day. The time of day the driver is on the road is important because if the driver is on the road when they are normally sleeping, their body is more likely to be less equipped to handle the rigors of handling a large piece of machinery such as a big rig.
Failure to Properly Load the Trailer or Secure Cargo
Failing to properly load a trailer is also major cause of trucking accidents. When big trucks with heavy trailers need to stop or maneuver quickly, but the load is not properly secured, or is heavier on one side than the other, then the truck itself can become almost impossible to control. This is where you often see trucks jack-knifed, trailers tipped over, and people seriously injured. If that cargo slides that trailer can go sideways before anyone has time to react. It will also make the truck that much harder to stop, because just like a milk jug being slid across a table, if a load suddenly flies forward towards the front of the trailer, that weight will make the truck lunge forward as well.
Properly loading trailers is so important that there are state and federal guidelines that trucking companies must abide by in the way that they load and carry freight. They prescribe that cargo must be properly strapped down with tie-downs and shoring bars or other approved methods. Because of this, looking into all the possibilities of improper loading and securing in any truck accident case is important because a failure to follow state and federal guidelines is a key indicator of fault.
Overloading and Safety Protocols
Safety protocols are also a key indicator of fault. If the trucking company, or there are state and/or federal guidelines that prescribe that the driver must follow a set of rules or procedures in any facet of their duties, any failure on the driver’s fault may trigger liability.
If the trucking company themselves put the driver in the position to break the company’s, state’s or federal guidelines, then it is a key indicator of fault on the part of the driver and the company. Either way, if the driver is at fault, very likely the company will be held liable under what is called “respondeat superior” which is Latin for “let the master answer.” It is essentially a doctrine that holds employers liable for the acts of their employees that are done in the course and scope of their employment.
There are several indicators of a breach of safety protocol, and most of them are listed up above: improper loading, overloading, failing to properly secure the load, too long on the road. There are more, however. Many more. To make sure that we catch the company in the act it is vitally important to make sure that we keep the trucking company from destroying the “black box” from the truck. The “black box” works just like you think of when there is a plane crash. It tells us all sorts of information as to why and how the accident happened and whether there was some sort of driver error or malfunction aboard the truck that led to the crash.
Using Drugs and Alcohol While Driving
Using drugs and alcohol is also a major contributor to crashes. If a driver is impaired through a mind altering drug or slowed by too much alcohol, then the driver is unable to properly perform their job and is driving illegally while under the influence of some sort of intoxicant. While one would hope that drivers were able to take their jobs seriously enough not to drink and drive, that is not always the case. Alcohol being a contributing factor in truck accidents does not happen that often, but when it does happen, the consequences, and the injuries to other people on the road, can be catastrophic.
Improperly Trained Drivers
There are many factors that contribute to the unsafe operation of large trucks. Improperly trained drivers may not realize that operating a commercial truck is not something you can learn by doing; specialized training is required, and required by law. This means that large truck drivers are required by state and federal guidelines to have special licensing, but some companies have cut corners and the drivers may not receive adequate defensive driving training or proper safety control and hazard training.
Failing to properly train drivers, or a driver that lacks specialization for the particular type of load he is carrying can prove devastating. For instance, having a load that extends out of the back of a flat-bed trailer presents issues with clearance around corners and when changing lanes. It also changes aerodynamics and can cause the truck to catch wind differently. If the driver is unsure of the load, then this can present a danger to others on the road.
Sometimes even the best trained drivers are put under economic pressure to violate safety regulations. In order to make ends meet, it may be tempting for truck driver who is paid “by the mile” to drive just a little while longer without proper rest. This may seem like a harmless gesture, but it has been proven that this endangers the driver and everyone else out on the road.
Don’t Wait, Call Today!
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident with an 18-wheeler, or any commercial vehicle, you need to call Guest and Gray, P.C. Our experienced trial attorneys have spoken with numerous clients in your position. We do this because we care. Because someone has to hold the trucking companies and their drivers accountable when they injure other drivers out on the road. Because someone has to stand up to their insurance company and require them to pay injured victims what they deserve. We do this because of you. We are here for you.
Give us a call today and let us give you a full case evaluation. Call now!