The trucking industry plays a vital role in our economy, and most truck drivers are hardworking, responsible, and cautious people.  But, the trucking industry is still plagued by cost-cutting companies.  When trucking companies fail to properly maintain and operate large trucks, they put people in danger, and an experienced truck accident law firm is important to successfully negotiate these complex laws.  With the help of our vast network of collision reconstruction, mechanical, engineering, and trucking experts, we at DeCamillis & Mattingly have successfully litigated personal injury and wrongful death cases against some of the largest trucking companies in the country.

Most semi-trucks weight between 40,000 and 80,000 pounds.  Cars, on the other hand, weigh an average of 3,200 pounds, and motorcycles only weigh an average of 700 pounds. Negligently operating or maintaining an 80,000 pound metal machine on the roadway with 3,200 pound and 700 pound machines is a recipe for disaster. After a commercial vehicle collision, timely investigation is critical.  Physical evidence disappears; witnesses forget; data is erased, and trucking companies purge documents.  We immediately gather information, inspect the scene, obtain measurements, send preservation of evidence demands, engage experts, examine the truck, trailer, and any other involved vehicles, interview witnesses, and arrange “black box” downloads.  Through the “data” gathering part of the process, we determine the cause of the collision.

The Department of Transportation and other agencies compile volumes of statistics regarding commercial motor vehicle collisions.  For example, did you know that 61% of fatal collisions involving large trucks occur on rural roads?  View these statistics from 2012 through 2014.

The Department of Transportation also analyses statistics regarding the cause of commercial vehicle accidents.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Analysis Division and the National Traffic Safety Board cite driver fatigue, improper training and supervision, defective equipment, speeding, drug and alcohol use, driver error, excessive weight, and distracted driving as among the top causes.

As a few specifics, the National Traffic Safety Board found that driver fatigue is responsible for approximately 40% of commercial motor vehicle accidents, and over 50% of long haul drivers reported falling asleep behind the wheel at some point during their careers.  In addition to fatigue, distracted driving (talking on a cell phone, eating, and adjusting navigation devices) is a top cause of commercial motor vehicle collisions. Expert studies determined that talking on a cellular telephone reduces the brain activity used for driving by 37%.  Given the great danger posed by large trucks, drivers need 100%.  Like distracted driving, speed plays a role in many collisions. Drivers are under a lot of pressure to make their destination as quickly as possible.  This pressure leads to speeding.  Semi-trucks cannot stop as quickly as a car so speeding is particularly dangerous.  Combining speed, fatigue, and/or distraction behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound machine has devastating consequences.

Due to the danger presented by large trucks, the industry is highly regulated.  At DeCamillis & Mattingly, we possess the knowledge and experience to tackle the complex regulations governing commercial motor vehicles.

Federal and state laws regulate the operation of commercial vehicles.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) places requirements upon truck drivers and trucking companies.  When litigating trucking cases, understanding these regulations is critical.  The regulations cover everything from record keeping and reporting, consumer protection regulations, the leasing of vehicles, training requirements, safety fitness procedures, and commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards to hours of service, weight restrictions, driver requirements, employer responsibilities, and the inspection, repair, and maintenance of commercial motor vehicles.

As a few examples, 49 C.F.R. §392 governs the driving of commercial motor vehicles.  In addition to general requirements such as the observation of speed limits and other state laws, this section prohibits the use of mobile devices, dictates precautions at railroad crossings, mandates the use of emergency signals and warning devices in certain situations, and forbids driving while ill or fatigued.  49 C.F.R. §396 regulates the inspection, repair, and maintenance of commercial motor vehicles.  The regulation requires motor carriers to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain commercial vehicles to ensure trucks are in a safe and proper operating condition at all times.  At the completion of each day, drivers are required to check the service brakes, parking brake, steering mechanism, lighting devices and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, rear vision mirrors, coupling devices, wheels and rims, and emergency equipment.  Next, drivers must prepare a written report regarding their inspection.  Before beginning each shift, drivers are required to review the last inspection report, ensure the vehicle is in safe operating condition, and verify that any deficiencies were corrected.  View all of the regulations →.

If you or someone you love sustained serious injury or died as the result of a commercial vehicle collision, how do you know if a FMCSA violation played a role in the collision?  How do you know what other factors caused or contributed to the collision?  Call our team at (502) 589-2822, and we’ll find out.  Holding trucking companies responsible for their actions makes America safer.