Does your attorney know how to drive a semi-truck?
Does your attorney attend trucking seminars to stay up to date on laws and regulations that could affect your case?
I learned many years ago that semi-truck accidents are extremely complex, and even to an attorney it can be difficult to determine where negligence may have occurred or how a company or driver’s failures might have led to your accident. When I started taking trucking cases, I took the initiative to find and attend a trucking seminar to learn as much as I could about trucking. The experience so helpful that I have continued to regularly attend these seminars ever since.
Semi-truck accidents can be so devastating simply because the trucks are so large and weigh so much. In 2020, there were 415,000 police-reported semi-truck crashes in the US. Of those, 1% were fatal, and 24% resulted in injuries. The NHTSA recorded significant increases in traffic fatalities during the first two years of the pandemic, despite many people working from home part or all of that time.
What Size is a Commercial Vehicle?
An unladen truck and trailer can weigh 10,000-25,000 pounds. A truck laden to full capacity can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Compare that your mid-sized SUV, which weighs between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds.
We’ve all seen weighing stations on the side of the interstate, which require trucks to be weighed at intervals along their route to ensure the trucks aren’t laden past the legal allowances for the truck and material type. It takes a long time and lots of space to stop that amount of weigh, and once it’s traveling at high speed the truck has a tremendous amount of momentum. The tiniest error or problem with the truck or trailer can result in terrible consequences for the people around them.
Fatigued driving is a leading cause of truck crashes, so one of the first pieces of documentation I look at when I take a case is the truck driver’s logbook. This is where a driver records how far they traveled, when and where they had their trucks weighed, and when they rested.
How Long Can a Truck Driver Drive in the US?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the US Department of Transportation (DOT), commercial truck drivers are required by law to work no more than 14 consecutive hours, including rest breaks. If they only had a 10-hour break before driving, they can’t drive more than 11 consecutive hours afterward. Thirty-minute rest breaks are mandatory after 8 consecutive hours of driving, so a driver should take at least one rest break every shift. Though the break is intended for the driver to get out, walk around, eat, and take a true break from their job and driving, they can legally perform non-driving duties like loading and unloading during this break. The FMCSA’s 70 day-8 hour rule says that truck drivers can’t drive more than 70 hours in an 8-day period, or 60 hours in 7-day period. To reset this time period, the driver must take a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off.
Companies sometimes fail to track their trucks carefully or even encourage their drivers to lie in their logs so they can exceed these driving limits. Many trucks are equipped with electronic logging devices to help prevent this. In examining police reports and evidence gathered at the scene, I’ve often found that police officers failed to secure the log books at the scene, and later those records are altered, lost, or destroyed. They may also not know how to obtain the digital records, or know to ask for them. But because I attend the same learning seminars that truckers do, I know how they’re supposed to log their journeys, how to read their logs, what types of trucks are most likely to have digital logging systems, and how to obtain and compare those records.
I also know where a truck can be turned around, how truck heights can limit routes, how long it should take at a weigh station or to load or unload a truck. In studying the logs and maps of the truck driver’s route, I can discover any inconsistencies, any places a driver may have been speeding, skipping weigh-ins, or fudging their hours to try to stay under federal limits. Combined of my extensive legal experience, I understand how those lies and negligent actions could have contributed to your accident.
If you’ve been in a semi-truck accident, hire an attorney who can drive a semi, and let me bring all my knowledge and experience to your case. I offer everyone a free consultation so I can learn as much about your unique case as possible. Contact my team at Dellacona Law Firm to set up yours.