Truck Accident

How Trucking Companies Cause Deadly Truck Accidents

When a deadly truck wreck occurs, suspicious eyes usually fall on the truck driver. Were they speeding? Driving while drunk or high? Playing with their cell phone in the cab?

Too often, truck drivers simply act as the “fall guys” in these cases. Yes, the truck driver may have engaged in negligent behavior — but often, that behavior occurs because of a larger pattern of negligence and callousness on the part of their employer, the trucking company.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the negligent trucking company behavior patterns that contribute to wrecks on our highways and to learn how an attorney can help if you’ve been affected.

Trucking Company Coercion Leaves Drivers Dangerously Fatigued

A 2017 investigation by USA Today shone a spotlight on some of the impossible situations that truck drivers find themselves in thanks to unethical employer behavior. Reporters from USA Today interviewed more than 300 truckers at various port trucking companies in southern California and reviewed court documents from various trucking-related court cases.

Many of the truckers told reporters that their employers gave them no choice but to break federal safety laws and drive far too many hours in a day. Drivers at one company, Pacific 9 Transportation, testified in court that their managers dispatched them for up to 20 hours a day, then refused to pay the drivers unless they falsified logs that tracked their hours.

The USA Today investigation only confirms what any experienced trucking attorney already knows: this type of coercion goes on every day at trucking carriers throughout the nation. As a result, drivers are often forced to drive dangerously fatigued or face threats and punishment from their employer, up to and including termination.

Truck companies have also fought efforts to create regulations that would require truck drivers to get tested for sleep apnea and receive treatment if they’re affected. One study, sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, found that almost one in three commercial truck drivers suffers from some form of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common cause of chronic fatigue, and undiagnosed sleep apnea can put a truck driver at a much higher risk for causing a crash.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: Truck Driver Sleep Apnea Remains a Threat to Public Safety

Lax Hiring and Training Practices Put Inexperienced, Undertrained Drivers on the Road

According to data from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trucking industry is currently facing a shortage of nearly 50,000 drivers. This shortage is, in many ways, a crisis of the trucking industry’s own making.

Truck driver pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation while the long hours have stayed much the same, and long-haul trucking no longer appeals to young people considering various career opportunities. As a result, the average American truck driver today is 55 years old, which is about 10 years older than the average age in comparable fields such as manufacturing and construction.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: 3 Myths Unsafe Trucking Companies Want You to Believe

To make up for the shortfall and keep their shipments moving on-time, many trucking companies are loosening their hiring standards and turning to increasingly inexperienced younger drivers. Many of these drivers have never operated a commercial vehicle before, and they receive very little training before they take to the roads.

The result is a growing number of inexperienced, overwhelmed drivers piloting 80,000-pound trucks that can cause devastating injuries and fatalities if the driver makes one wrong split-second decision.

Another Common Cause of Truck Wrecks: Shoddy Maintenance

The trucking industry is a competitive business characterized by tight margins, and many companies will do anything to save a buck here and there. Too often, this means cutting corners on critical inspections and truck maintenance.

As an example of how widespread this problem is, consider the results from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA’s) Brake Safety Day in April 2018. During the event, CVSA enforcement personnel inspected more than 11,000 commercial trucks and buses to identify underperforming and non-functional brake systems.

Overall, inspectors found that almost 14 percent of trucks and buses had critical brake issues that made them unfit for the road. While the CVSA proudly announced the fact that it pulled nearly 1,600 trucks off the road, one day of heavy enforcement isn’t enough to deter trucking companies from continuing to cut corners. The results from Brake Safety Day amount to a drop in the bucket when compared to the many more thousands of trucks that continue to travel our highways with dangerous and defective brake systems.

Negligent Trucking Companies Know How to Defend Themselves Against Claims

While trucking company negligence often contributes to (or outright causes) deadly truck wrecks, trucking companies have plenty of experience covering up their tracks. When a crash occurs, they and their insurance company will take steps to minimize liability immediately, often dispatching teams of investigators to the crash site within hours.

These investigators will, from the first minute they arrive at the scene, begin to craft a narrative that blames the victims or other drivers for the wreck so the trucking company doesn’t have to pay for its negligent behavior. Sometimes critical evidence even “disappears” in the investigation team’s wake.

To fight back against the trucking company’s tactics, you need to work with an experienced truck wreck attorney with a track record of success handling commercial vehicle cases. A skilled truck accident lawyer will know how to move quickly to preserve evidence after a crash so they can investigate the wreck and all the factors that helped cause it — including trucking company negligence.

Contact Seattle Truck Law Today If You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a large truck or bus, please contact Morgan Adams and the Seattle Truck Law team today. We’ll listen to your story and advise you about your legal options during a free consultation, and when you choose us to represent you, we’ll investigate all the causes of the crash that injured you and pursue every available option to get you the compensation you deserve.

To schedule your free initial consultation today, please call (866) 580-HURT or complete our quick and easy online contact form. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can move to preserve evidence and make sure your rights are protected – so call us right away if you need help.

References

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. (2018, July 17). Nearly 1,600 commercial motor vehicles with critical brake violations were removed from roadways during CVSA’s unannounced Brake Safety Day [press release]. Retrieved from https://cvsa.org/news-entry/2018-unannounced-brake-safety-day-results/

Costello, B. (2017, October). Truck driver shortage analysis 2017. Arlington, VA: American Trucking Associations. Retrieved from
http://progressive1.acs.playstream.com/truckline/progressive/ATAs%20Driver%20Shortage%20Report%202017.pdf

Driving when you have sleep apnea. (n.d.). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/sleep-apnea/driving-when-you-have-sleep-apnea

Murphy, B. (2017, June 16). Rigged: Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-forced-into-debt-worked-past-exhaustion-left-with-nothing/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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