Operating a large commercial truck is not the same as operating a car. It requires a substantial amount of experience and skill. Even drivers who carry CDLs must use extra caution and stay attentive, sober and alert. The leading factors in truck crashes include:
- Unqualified drivers — These are drivers who are poorly trained, lack a CDL license or lack experience.
- Impaired drivers — Drivers who are impaired by alcohol, recreational drugs and/or prescription medications.
- Distracted drivers — Drivers who use cellphones, multitask, fill out paperwork, or eat and drink while driving.
- Drowsy drivers — Truck drivers are among the most at risk of drowsy driving because of the amount of time they spend on the road. Overnight or early-morning drivers are especially at risk.
- Speeding and erratic driving — Trucking companies often push their drivers to make more deliveries within a short amount of time, which leads to speeding and erratic driving.
- Mechanical defects — Defects involving the wheels, brakes and steering can suddenly cause a large truck to careen out of control.
- Unbalanced cargo — When cargo is improperly loaded and unbalanced, the trailer of a semi-truck is at risk of jackknifing or rolling over.
Responsibilities trucking companies have
- Hire experienced and qualified drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that all commercial truck drivers obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). In addition, trucking companies are expected to hire drivers who have been properly trained and have clean driving records. That means no history of reckless driving, frequent crashes or impaired driving.
- Comply with the federal hours-of-service regulations. The FMCSA established the hours-of-service (HOS) regulation to limit the number of hours truck drivers spend on the road and prevent drowsy driving crashes. Truck drivers can't spend more than 11 hours within a 14-hour shift on the road. In addition, they must take 10 consecutive hours off from duty between shifts and take 30-minute driving breaks after driving 8 cumulative hours without a break.
- Comply with weight restrictions. In Texas, the allowed weight limit for large commercial trucks is 80,000 lbs. total, 20,000 lbs. on a single axle, 34,000 lbs. on a tandem axle group, 42,000 lbs. on a triple axle group, and 50,000 lbs. on quad axle groups.
- Ensure that all vehicles are properly maintained and pass inspection. All components of a large commercial truck must be maintained and pass inspection. That includes the brakes, tires, steering system, wheels, axles, lights, reflective devices, hitches and engine must work properly. The FMCSA requires that trucking companies provide records of repairs, maintenance and inspections.
- Ensure that drivers aren't operating while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Trucking companies are required to administer drug tests to new employees and randomized drug tests to existing employees. Trucking companies are also prohibited from knowingly allowing truck drivers to report to duty or operate while under the influence of alcohol.
What to do immediately after a truck crash
Truck crashes are often catastrophic and result in serious injuries and deaths. If you're involved in a crash with a large truck, you likely need prompt medical attention. If you're able to call the police, take pictures of the crash scene, and speak to witnesses, these actions could benefit you when it comes time to pursue a truck accident claim. Many truck crash victims don't have that luxury due to severe injuries and the need for emergency medical care, however.
To make matters worse, trucking companies are extremely difficult to deal with. They have their own team of investigators and adjusters that they can deploy to the crash scene within hours. In addition, they pay high premiums to their insurers. Both the trucking companies and insurance companies stand to lose hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars from a single crash. Both will fight to protect their bottom line.
That's why it's critical that you speak to an experienced Texas attorney who knows how to handle truck accident cases and get results. Fort Worth attorney Coby L. Wooten can:
- Launch an investigation into the driver and the trucking company.
- Deal directly with the trucking company's insurer (sometimes there is more than one insurance company involved).
- Accurately tally up your damages and help you recover every dollar.
- Fight for a fair agreed settlement, or a court verdict if a settlement can't be reached.
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck crash, contact Coby L. Wooten, Attorney At Law, P.C. and schedule a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency fee basis.