Articles Posted in Trucking Safety News

The next time you’re out on the road, this story might make you think twice about following an 18-wheeler. While most people may associate fatal trucking-related traffic accidents with a smaller car, minivan or SUV being struck by a much larger and heavier semi tractor-trailer rig or commercial delivery truck, hundreds of people nationwide die every year as a result of passenger cars running into the rear of semi trailers.

As Baltimore auto accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers, we understand how severe these so-called under-ride accidents can be. And without the proper under-ride protection on the rear end of a long-haul trailer, the occupants in the passenger car can easily be decapitated during the collision. Fatal traffic crashes of this sort don’t necessarily have to be high-speed incidents either.

At the very least, cuts, bruises and broken bones are possible as a result of an under-ride collision. Worse still, neck and spinal injury can occur, as can traumatic brain injury. Depending on the circumstances, some individuals who survive this type of wreck can be paralyzed and require weeks or months of physical therapy to bring them back to something approaching a normal life.

Families of victims can end up suffering financially long after their loved one has been hurt or killed. This is especially true when the victim is a primary wage earning for the family. The news today indicates that the under-ride prevention methods and structures used on many tractor-trailers may prove inadequate when they are actually needed in a crash. Poorly designed parts or incorrectly installed components could result in a much more serious outcome for a drive hitting the back of a trailer.

According to the news, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted tests using a properly-fitted under-ride preventer on a semi trailer and found that federal standards for these rear under-ride guards should be made stricter. Based on video shown by various news outlets, it appears that the IIHS has a point.

In one of the IIHS videos, a Chevy Malibu impacts the rear of a tractor-trailer at 35mph. Even though the Malibu has a 5-star safety ranking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the semi trailer is fitted with a conforming under-ride guard, the front seat passengers could likely have been killed as a result that crash. As the reporter states, hitting a brick wall would actually be safer.

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Recently there has been some more discussion about the so-called “sweatshop” workplace conditions that over-the-road truckers must endure as part of their job hauling goods and materials across the nation. Long hours and tight deadlines have been blamed for numerous accidents here in Maryland as well as other states.

As a Baltimore trucking accident attorney and personal injury lawyer, my work of this area of accident law exposes me to a myriad of horror stories ranging from minor truck-passenger car accidents to fatal semi tractor-trailer wrecks. In many cases, excessive speed is a major factor in the collision. Even if it didn’t cause the initial accident, high speed coupled with the huge size and mass of these large 18-wheelers makes most any traffic accident worse.

Occupants of passenger cars struck by such a massive vehicle can be left with serious and life-threatening injuries that can linger for years and ruin a person’s quality of life. The costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation following a tragic highway trucking accident can hobble families struggling to survive in this uncertain economy, placing stress on family members and fracturing the very fabric of a formerly happy home.

The death last August of a Maryland university professor on an Ohio expressway has raised the question of commercial truck drivers’ ability to function well under the currently legal federally regulated hours of service. It was the untimely death of Stevenson University professor Susan Slattery and numerous other traffic accidents involving commercial truck and passenger vehicles — such as minivan, sedans, SUVs and motorcycles — that has people like Joan Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), looking long and hard at the current rules.

As a Baltimore trucking accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I have heard dozens of heartrending stories involving families who have lost loved ones in traffic wrecks due to another person’s negligence. According to a news report, the federal regulations governing the number of hours a truck driver may be one the road could also be to blame for thousands of deaths each year.

To some, semi tractor-trailers are simply rolling time bombs that claim nearly a dozen lives every day across the United States. And it’s most likely true, according to some, that of the dozens of 18-wheelers a driver meets on the road every hour may be operated by a trucker who has been driving for more than the 12 hours. In fact, there is no way for other motorists to know whether or not a commercial driver has been on the road for only five or as much as 15 hours.

Claybrook herself has reportedly been an advocate for reducing the hours truckers can drive for a while now. Known as “Hours of Service,” federal regulations state that truckers can drive no longer than 11 hours with 10 hours off for rest. But these rules could change as early as 2011, now that there have been some successful lawsuits carried out by safety groups.

As a result, the federal government is now carefully reviewing the question of how many hours a trucker could more safely drive in any given shift. Given the possibility of proposed changes to the current rules governing hours of service, a change in the law could be implemented no later than next summer.

Some would say that it couldn’t come soon enough, what with driver fatigue being blamed for as much as 40 percent of fatal trucking-related accidents; claiming about 5000 lives across the nation every year.

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For most Maryland drivers, being safe on the road can means watching out for the other guy and making sure your car, truck or motorcycle is mechanically sound and well maintained. As a Baltimore auto accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I understand the reasons why we all should give our personal vehicles the special attention they deserve in order to run right and keep us safe in case of an accident.

That said, everyone — drivers and passengers alike — must remember that the commercial vehicles in which we travel from time to time can be a major source of traffic injuries and potential fatalities. It goes without saying that we have little control over or knowledge of the quality of maintenance that these vehicle receive prior to riding in them.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), those large-capacity passenger vans that we all see taking church members, school athletic teams and retirees to and from various events could be more dangerous than any of us imagine. Based on a combination of factors, these vehicles apparently have a higher than average propensity for rollover accidents than most other types of passenger cars.

Defective safety equipment on a commercial vehicle can easily lead to a serious accident down the road. Where trucks are concerned, any traffic accident can result in a serious injuries and even fatalities. Here in Maryland, heavy vehicle wrecks can and do occur with alarming frequency. As a Baltimore trucking accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I know that poorly designed or incorrectly maintained vehicle systems — such as brakes, steering and occupant protection components — can be the cause of commercial motor vehicle accidents that result in head, neck and internal injuries as well as death.

Truck producers and commercial vehicle owners and driver must be aware of their responsibility to make certain that these massive vehicles are as safe as possible to protect the road-going public. If any system breaks on a truck the results can be fatal, not only for the people in nearby passenger cars, but also to the occupants of the commercial truck or bus.

Not long ago, police determined that the brakes on a Maryland tour bus were not working correctly and apparently caused two of the vehicle’s tires to blow out while traveling along the interstate at highway speeds. According to news reports, the failure of the motor coach’s braking system resulted an overheating condition, which caused a couple tires on that vehicle to blow out.

The recent bus accident on Interstate 270 yesterday, which claimed the life of the driver and injured a number of passengers including many children, reminds us of the random nature of highway traffic accidents. In this instance, the commercial vehicle was a chartered bus carrying 11 people back home from a trip to Washington, D.C. As a Maryland trucking accident lawyers and personal injury attorneys, our thoughts go out to the families of the victims and we all wish the survivors a speedy recovery from their injuries.

Of course, the Interstate Commerce Commission long ago instituted safety regulations to help protect both motorists and the occupants of commercial vehicles from the numerous and potentially deadly consequences of poorly maintained and operated delivery trucks, interstate buses, and 18-wheelers traveling on public roads. It’s no surprise that car accidents involving large commercial vehicles can lead to multiple fatailities.

For anyone interested, those regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations, which was established for the express purpose to “help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities and injuries.” [Refer to 49 CFR 383.1(a)]. In fact, by requiring drivers to maintain a single nationwide commercial motor vehicle driver’s license the federal government was trying to keep unqualified and potentially dangerous individuals from driving commercial motor vehicles on our highways and byways.

Drivers of smaller passenger vehicles, including pickup trucks and SUVs, are all threatened constantly by the presence of large commercial trucks which share the public roadways. The weight of these much more massive semi tractor-trailers, box trucks and other delivery vehicles can eclipse the average family car. For example, a fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh upward of 80,000 pounds.

As Maryland trucking accident lawyers, I and my colleagues know that any traffic accident involving a semi can be a life-threatening event. Annually, hundreds of heavy vehicles, including Kenworth, Peterbilt and Freightliner big rigs, are involved in accidents across the country. A trucking accident, especially at highway speeds, can easily result in serious injury to the occupants of the smaller cars caught up in that particular collision; many of these wrecks can be fatal to the drivers and passengers in smaller cars, trucks and motorcycles.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that big rigs are more likely to be involved in serious multiple-vehicle collisions than SUVs, minivans or other passenger vehicles. Statistics bear this out that time after time injuries from trucking accidents are much more serious and very often fatal. Typical injuries to passenger car occupants can include spinal cord damage, traumatic brain damage, broken bones and other serious and possibly permanent bodily injuries.

There are many different causes of trucking-related traffic accidents. From poorly maintained or badly designed vehicle equipment, to poor road conditions and driver error, most highway tractor-trailer accidents are hardly ever that… accidents. As Maryland truck accident attorneys, my office knows what to look for when it comes to injuries caused by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company.

One cause of commercial truck crashes that is frequently in the news is that of driver fatigue. Government regulation limit trucker to a maximum number of hours behind the wheel, which ideally means that the driver then gets sufficient rest before the next day’s driving shift. What the law can’t easily address is how well truckers sleep and whether or not they are fully rested as a result.

Enter the problem of sleep apnea. A common problem with the general public, this affliction can cause loss of concentration and has been known to result in motorists falling asleep at the wheel. But for the average office worker, sleep apnea is more likely to get him chewed out at work than cause him to crash his automobile into a family of five on the interstate.

To some repair garages, dishonest trucking companies and thoughtless semi tractor-trailer drivers, saving some cash now is worth the risk of causing a serious traffic accident in the future. Cause and effect are not always considered by unscrupulous garage owners and the semi truck drivers that employ them. But the dangers are real and the results can be deadly in many cases.

As Baltimore trucking accident attorneys, our office helps the victims of 18-wheeler and commercial big-rig accidents. For those unfortunate families who have lost a loved one as a result of another person’s negligence, emotions can run very high especially when deception and outright fraud are involved.

This was apparently the situation in a case where the owner of a repair garage allegedly sold inspection stickers for a 1997 Kenworth semi with worn brakes that killed a motorist along the Schuylkill Expressway in 2009. New reports say that the garage owner, 62-year-old Joseph Jadczak pled guilty in 2009 to vehicular homicide and also to permitting the operation of a motor vehicle equipped with unsafe equipment.

Apparently trucking accidents can occur anywhere, even when you’re family is supposedly safe at home. That’s what happened not long ago when the driver of a trash collection truck apparently lost control and slammed into the front of a South Baltimore home. As a Maryland personal injury lawyer, I have helped many people following the aftermath of semi collisions and tractor-trailer crashes on our highways and surface streets.

Although most truck-related crashes involve other vehicles, this particular accident caused massive damage to a family’s home. It is only by shear luck that no one was seriously injured in the incident. Accidents involving large commercial vehicles can range from minor abrasions, to deep cuts and bruises, contusions, neck and spinal damage, or traumatic brain injuries.

According to reports, the family who house was damaged did receive help from the city, who owns and operates the garbage truck that hit the structure. The city’s housing commissioner was told by the mayor to do “everything possible to help this family.”

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