Driving on the highway among semis and tractor trailers can be daunting and frightening. Many people reassure themselves with the knowledge that these drivers are trained to safely and properly handle such giant machines. As it turns out, many truck drivers aren’t all that experienced, and the growing number of deaths and injuries involving large trucks have been rising.
According to The New York Times, fatalities in auto accidents involving big trucks were up 4 percent (4,000 deaths) in 2012 and injuries were up 18 percent (70,000). An additional 200,000 truck accidents caused damage.
Why Are Truck Drivers So Dangerous?
New truck drivers are only required to spend 10 training hours in the classroom after getting their commercial driver’s license (which consists of passing a written test and briefly driving around a closed area for a few minutes, similar to acquiring a regular driver’s license).
Many national trucking companies have responded to federal rulings which have called these standards inadequate and taken it into their own hands to offer more extensive training, requiring several weeks of training through a combination of classes and driving with a senior operator.
The industry rules, however, have never been amended by the Transportation Department. There has been no increase to the 10-hour classroom requirement for commercial truck drivers and supervised time on the road has not been added to the training standards.
A High-Profile Large Truck Accident
The crash between comedian Tracy Morgan’s van and a Wal-Mart Transportation truck last summer on the New Jersey Turnpike continues to make headlines. One fatality and critical injuries resulted from this horrible accident in which the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the tractor trailer was traveling about 20mph over the posted 45mph speed limit.
There were other factors at play, however, and some believe that stricter federal truck-driving guidelines could have prevented such a tragedy. The truck driver responsible for this crash had commuted over 700 miles in his personal vehicle from Georgia to Delaware before immediately beginning his work day.
Morgan and three other survivors from the crash filed a lawsuit alleging that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, directly leading to the crash. The suit claims that Wal-Mart and its private fleet were negligent by allowing this man to drive, and should have been aware of his lengthy private commute prior to getting behind the wheel of the truck and the amount of time he had been awake preceding the crash.
The NTSB report notes, though, that the driver was technically within the hours-of-service limits, going on duty 13 hours and 32 minutes before the crash and driving 9 hours and 37 minutes, according to the trucks’ electronic logging device. The federal limits for truck drivers are 14 hours on duty and 11 hours of drive time.
The truck driver has been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Wal-Mart has issued an official legal defense in their case, claiming they should be absolved of liability because Morgan and the other passengers in the van were not wearing their seatbelts when the crash occurred.
People often say you have to watch out for “regular” people driving rental moving trucks because they’re not experienced. Not many people often think that the people driving 80,000-pound tractor trailers aren’t all that experienced either. If you have been involved in a truck accident, contact Femminineo Attorneys PLLC to speak with personal injury attorney David C. Femminineo about your case.