Every day we share our roads with commercial motor vehicles, (semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, tankers, dump trucks, garbage trucks, gravel trucks, passenger buses, and the like). Every day we also trust our safety to the professional drivers operating those commercial motor vehicles and the companies or people that own and maintain these massive, forty-ton vehicles. Sometimes those professional drivers or companies can choose to break the rules of the road, betray our trust, and put profits ahead of our safety. When that happens, the consequences can be catastrophic for people like you and I in comparatively smaller, more vulnerable, vehicles.
Semi-truck accidents can happen for many reasons. Sometimes, trucking companies put profits ahead of safety. They may hire drivers without first conducting a drug test or checking driving and police records, which leads to unsafe drivers getting put behind the wheel of big rigs despite having a history of unsafe driving or drug and alcohol problems. Other times, the drivers are hired without the trucking company providing them with adequate training. Tucking companies can also fail to provide on-going training to improve the skills of a professional driver or remind them of safety basics.
Even qualified, professional truck drivers can be pressured by their company into making mistakes in an effort to meet a delivery deadline. Some additional reasons for accidents involving 18-wheelers are:
- Drowsy, overtired drivers
- Driving too fast for road, weather or traffic conditions
- Driving like a bully or king of the road
- Improper truck maintenance or no maintenance
- Improperly secured loads or spilled loads
Unfortunately, trucking companies often have a circle-the-wagons mentality and blame the victims of the accidents even when it's clear that it was their push for profit or professional driver carelessness that caused the crash.
With great power comes great responsibility. - Commercial motor vehicles are different from the cars you and I drive. The average passenger car weighs 4,000 pounds (2 tons). A tractor-trailer can have a weight of about 80,000 pounds (40 tons). That means that when there is a crash, the heavier mass of the tractor-trailer can and does cause more crush damage, catastrophic injuries, or death. The number of large trucks on our roads has nearly doubled in the last three decades, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The companies that put these 40 ton juggernauts on the roads, and the professional drivers that operate them, MUST remember the responsibility they have been entrusted with. When they choose to violate that responsibility, they should be held accountable for the harm they cause.
As the danger increases, so too does the care that must be exercised. - The minimum safety standards, the basic rules that have to be followed by professional drivers and companies to keep people safe, are also different. As an example, the basic driver manual in New Mexico for a passenger car is 42 pages, while the commercial driver license manual for New Mexico is 152 pages. Professional drivers of commercial motor vehicles must exercise the amount of care that an ordinarily careful professional driver would.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was established in January 2000 as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). FMCSA is the federal regulatory body charged with and dedicated to improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and saving lives. The FMCSA administration passes regulations designed to accomplish its purpose. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are designed to provide a part of the very minimum safety standards related to the operation of commercial motor vehicles, including but not limited to, professional driver minimum qualifications, hours of service, trucking company registration, minimum levels of financial responsibility, parts and accessories necessary for safe operation, and transportation of hazardous materials.
Not every one gets a commercial driver's license (CDL). Professional drivers have to be trained and go through special testing before they can have the privilege of driving those big-rigs down the road next to my family and yours. Many truckers attend specialized trucking schools so they can learn all the things that are necessary to safely and responsibly operate a tractor-trailer or other CMV. Driving a 40 ton, articulated, vehicle is not the same as driving my wife's Honda Fit. Professional drivers must know how they are different. For example, the stopping distance of a tractor-trailer is different. A safe professional driver must always be able to stop within the distance they can see ahead. Under even ideal circumstances and at 55 miles per hour, stopping distance can be over 420 feet. That's over one football field and almost one-half of another. At night, a safe professional driver must be able to stop within the area lit by their headlights. Empty or light tractor-trailers can take longer or be harder to stop because breaking depends upon friction between the vehicle and the roadway. Before, during, and after an every trip, a driver of a CMV must complete a very thorough inspection of their tractor, trailer, and load. These are just a few examples of the ways in which a professional driver can have a very different set of responsibilities because they have a CDL and because they are driving a mechanically and physically massive truck on the road next to us. Each State has its own Commercial Driver's License Manual which reflects the FMCSR and provides basic standards for safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
The companies that put the big-rigs on the road are also responsible for safety. They are responsible to their drivers and to us to ensure that the people they place behind the wheel are qualified for the job, that the commercial vehicle itself is safe to operate, and that the load being carried is safely secured. In the race for profits, some companies will choose to cut corners and do things like hiring or retaining unqualified drivers, failing to provide on-going training to their drivers, failing to support their drivers, pushing drivers to go faster and longer, and skimping on maintenance. When those things happen, lives are put at risk. It becomes only a matter of time before someone gets in the path of the run away 40 ton truck.
If you need an attorney trained and experienced in handling commercial trucking cases. - Trucking accidents are not like car accidents. The physics are different. The mechanics are different. The basic rules are different. For that reason, an attorney must be specially trained in handling trucking cases. We at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., are trained and experienced in handling trucking cases.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer or other commercial motor vehicle on Interstate 25, (I-25), Interstate 40, (I-40), Interstate 10 (I-10), U.S. 550 or anywhere else, don't take a chance - call Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C.