Not Making the Grade: When Semi Trucks Fail to Handle Haul Roads

Not Making the Grade: When Semi Trucks Fail to Handle Haul Roads

The Mine Safety and Health Administration reports that certain accidents occur repeatedly on U.S. haul roads. These are very often fatal to the truck operators.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 442 fatal mining accidents were investigated in a five-year time period. Of these, 121 or 27 percent, involved surface haulage trucks.

As the most common type of machinery involved in surface accidents, haulage trucks are involved in fatal crashes. Vehicles include over-the-road trucks, front-end loaders, ore carrier trucks, utility trucks, water trucks, forklifts, cherry pickers and mobile cranes.

Certain types of accidents occurred repeatedly. These included:

  • haulage trucks going out of control
  • trucks driving over dump points
  • trucks experiencing serious mechanical defects

The MSHA reviewed numerous truck accidents and found factors that caused haul road accidents: defective equipment, driver error, overloading and steep grades.

Henry Queener, a Nashville semi truck accident lawyer, explained, “It’s clear that drivers are driving too fast, not wearing seat belts or are operating overloaded vehicles. There are cases where the road grades are too steep, safety measures are not being followed or trucks are not being maintained properly, like having faulty brakes.”

Attorney Queener continued, “Large industrial equipment is striking workers down and colliding with other vehicles. The work is dangerous.”

An 18-year-old miner was working with three weeks’ experience. He was fatally injured when he lost control of his water truck that was converted from a drill truck. His truck had a 3,560 gallon tank and was traveling on a haul road with a 8.43 percent grade. His death was attributed to his inexperience and inadequate training, along with faulty brakes and transmission.

Another occurred on an 11 percent downgrade. Three of the vehicle’s six service brakes had no braking. Grease was found on the brake linings. The remaining service brakes had brake drums that were larger than the allowable diameter. The truck was also overloaded, being 30,000 pounds over its manufacturer’s maximum gross vehicle weight.

When workers are injured or killed, the parties involved should contact semi truck accident lawyers.

Fatigue is a Costly Cause of Casualties

Fatigue is a Costly Cause of Casualties

Drowsy truck drivers are a dangerous and deadly threat to public health. It’s estimated that truck crashes cost the US economy roughly $99 billion a year in the form of lost wages, lost commerce, and expensive medical bills. It is estimated that roughly 30% of fatality, and 15% of injury crashes involving large trucks are caused by truck driver fatigue.

Fatalities are Rising

In 2013, 3,964 individuals were killed in accidents involving large trucks. 586 of these fatalities were truck drivers or their passengers. These statistics show that when a large truck is involved in an accident, it’s the occupants of the smaller passenger vehicle that are at the greatest risk. The fatality rates are increasing and 2013 was the fourth year in a row that they rose.

Driver Shortage Exacerbates Problems Caused by Fatigue

Fewer drivers mean companies are requiring more and more drive time from their drivers. Large trucking companies have been reporting up to 90% turnover every year since 2012. As the hours get longer, and the hauls even further, more and more drivers are leaving the industry. As of now, it is estimated that there is a shortage of drivers exceeding 35,000. This means that more and more companies are hiring inexperienced drivers to fill slots vacated by more experienced drivers. The more inexperienced the driver, the greater the likelihood that they will be involved in an accident involving fatigue, driver error, or other cause that a seasoned driver may not make.

Trucks are Disproportionately Dangerous

The NTSB estimates that trucks account for less than 10% of all road miles driven each year. However, they are involved in approximately 1 in 8 fatality accidents. 7% of drivers self-report having fallen asleep at the wheel, and a total of 13% report fatigue as a contributing factor to crashes they have been involved in. When driver fatigue is combined with crowded highways and busy intersections, it is other motorists who pay for the driver’s lack of sleep. Even minor fatigue can cause significant loss of focus and inattention to the road that can cause an accident.

Individuals who have been involved in an accident involving a semi-truck driven by a fatigued driver should contact a semi-truck accident lawyer. When a fatigued truck driver causes an accident, they are responsible for the physical injuries and property damage, as well as the loss of income, companionship, and quality of life that their lack of sleep leads to.

Regulation Gaps Lead to More Dangerous Truck Accidents

Regulation Gaps Lead to More Dangerous Truck Accidents

In late April, a semi casually rolled into a home in Greenbrier. The driver left his rig unattended to visit a family member. No one was killed, but a home was destroyed and had the timing of the incident been different, the outcome could’ve been far more disastrous.

On the surface this seems more to do with bad driving habits than laws or oversight. However, gaps in both regulations and oversight lead to scores of similar incidents each year. Tennessee truck accident lawyer Henry Queener has handled numerous cases where he thinks improved enforcement would make a difference.

“The problem isn’t always the drivers or their habits,” Queener says. “We find profiteering by large trucking firms and a lack of funding for officials to oversee code enforcement, safety checks and other vital functions codified in law is what causes harm.”

According to CDC publications for 2015, truck drivers were the most likely candidates for on-the-job deaths, with 65% of those deaths happening as the direct result of a truck accident in 2012. NTSB data shows truck involvement in nearly 25% of accidents in work zones, and as many as one in eight fatal accidents on American roads. Tennessee truck accident lawyers know 119 people died in truck accidents here last year.

Technology to alert drivers to road hazards, remind drivers of important maintenance and vehicle operations issues, and track the activities of truckers exists, but is rarely used on big rigs in America despite it’s prevalence elsewhere. Truck accident lawyers agree that though mandating the technology used in Europe to keep truck accidents from happening seems attractive, it is costly. “More effective enforcement of existing regulations would be a good start toward safer roads for all,” says Queener.

TDOT Crew Member Killed After Semi Veers Off Road

TDOT Crew Member Killed After Semi Veers Off Road

TDOT Crew Member Killed After Semi Veers Off Road

A Tennessee Department of Transportation worker was killed on I-40 when a semi truck veered off the road and hit him. 65-year-old David Younger died as a result of his injuries. Younger was with a crew of three TDOT trucks when the accident occurred. The crew had pulled over to repair a flat tire on one of the trucks. Two other TDOT employees were injured in the wreck, as was the driver of the semi.

Crews Face Dangerous Job

Eighteen people died in work zone crashes last year, including four TDOT workers. Over 100 TDOT workers have been lost in the line of duty since 1948. These workers are honored each year with special displays in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville.

To ensure that drivers and workers are safe in work zones, drivers are encouraged to:

  • Avoid texting or tweeting while driving.
  • Avoid adjusting the radio.
  • Be aware of workers and equipment.
  • Obey all posted speed limits and caution signs.

Move Over Law Violated

Lt. Bill Miller with the Tennessee Highway Patrol stated that the I-40 crash was under investigation because the driver of the semi violated the Move Over Law. The Move Over Law was initially enacted in 2006 and required motorists to move over to an adjacent lane or slow down when passing stopped emergency vehicles. The law was expanded in 2011 to include utility service equipment.

The accident had a profound effect on the workers involved. David Younger left behind his wife of over 40 years, and two children and grandchildren. Accidents involving semi truckscan be caused by driver negligence, speeding, overloaded trucks and many other factors.

It is important to contact a semi truck accident lawyer as soon as possible if a crash occurs. Truck companies have considerable resources available and a victim or the victim’s family should act quickly to ensure that necessary evidence is obtained.

Keeping a Safe Working Environment

All workers deserve to have a safe working environment. The Move Over Law was put in place to help ensure safety for TDOT workers, emergency workers and other personnel. Violations of this law and negligence of drivers can have a lasting impact on workers and their loved ones. Drivers should buckle up, put down the phone, and slow down in work zones.

Larger, Heavier Trucks Could Make Roadways More Dangerous

Larger, Heavier Trucks Could Make Roadways More Dangerous

According to the United States Department of Transportation, larger, heavier trucks are associated with a higher risk for serious large truck accidents than smaller, single trailer trucks. Not surprisingly, law enforcement officials, safety leaders, elected officials and even individual truck drivers themselves agree. In fact, a recent poll reveals that an alarming 95 percent of law enforcement officers who were surveyed feel that longer, heavier trucks will be more dangerous. Additionally, an estimated 88 percent of individual truckers who were asked believe that the increased use of larger trucks will negatively impact the safety of America’s roadways.

Large Truck Weight Limits

Large truck weight regulations have been the topic for debate for decades, and in September of 2015, the Safe, Flexible and Efficient Trucking Act was introduced to the House. Fortunately, the amendment that would have raised large truck weight limits to an alarming 91,000 pounds was rejected. Because heavier trucks are more difficult to steer, can become top-heavy and more prone to rollovers, and take a longer distance to stop, the added weight could have posed significant dangers to everyone on the road. Additionally, the heavier trucks would have caused more damage to the roads than the typical 80,000 pound trucks do, causing poor infrastructure that would endanger the lives of motor vehicle operators and their passengers. Sadly, in an effort to transport an increased amount of cargo, many trucks continue to be overloaded, exceeding the federal weight regulations.

Extending the Length of Twin-Trailers

The weight of large trucks isn’t the only issue at hand, however. The Coalition for Efficient & Responsible Trucking (CERT) supported a proposal to increase the maximum length of twin-trailer semi-trucks last year as well. Current regulations allow double-trailer rigs to have trailers that are a maximum of 28 feet long. Advocates aimed at increasing that length to 33 feet to increase the amount of cargo that truck drivers could transport in a single trip. While it is true that the legislation would have likely resulted in fewer trucks being on the nation’s roads, the dangers associated with the longer trucks significantly outweighed the benefits of less congestion.

Smaller cars and pedestrians can already be difficult for truckers to see, and longer trailers would only make that worse. Passing and merging would become more difficult, and the added trailer length would cause these trucks to have a 22-foot longer stopping distance. Fortunately, the language to lengthen twin-trailers was not approved.

Regulation Gaps Lead to More Dangerous Truck Accidents

Tennessee Voted the Best State to Own a Trucking Business Because of Lenient Regulations

Recently, Tennessee was named the best state to own a small trucking company, in part because of its lenient trucking regulations. While federal regulations dictate certain requirements for trucking companies, regulations differ from state to state.

Tennessee Trucking Law

The recent survey that placed Tennessee at the top of the list for best states to own a small trucking business considered several factors, along with regulations, including friendliness to truck drivers and overnight parking fees. Favorable regulations, however are a big reason that truckers flock to Tennessee.

State law regulates much of the trucking industry. For example, no commercial vehicle may weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Trucks may also be no taller than 13 feet, six inches and no wider than 8 feet.

Tennessee law also regulates commercial driver license issuance. Trucking companies must ensure that each of their drivers has a current commercial driver license, along with a valid medical card.

In comparison with regulations in other states, Tennessee’s laws are fairly lax. In California, for example, certain laws that cap emissions and limit driving hours are pushing trucking companies toward states like Tennessee. Carriers in California are required to givea paid 30-minute meal break for every five hours on the clock and a paid 10-minute break for every four hours behind the wheel.

Though Tennessee law accounts for many trucking regulations, federal trucking industry rules trump local requirements, when a conflict arises. These federal laws regulate interstate trucking and determine things like the amount of hours that a trucker can drive before resting and which records must be kept.

Any truck driver or trucking company that violates either Tennessee or federal law may be found liable for any injuries or deaths that they are responsible for.

Truck Accidents and Liability

When a truck driver or the company that they work for does not comply with state or federal regulations, they could be found liable if an accident occurs. In Tennessee, a crash victim must prove that a defendant breached a legal duty for them to be found negligent. Once a victim determines that a driver or company’s negligence caused his or her injuries, they may be eligible to receive compensation. Victims may consult with semi truck accident attorneys to determine if filing a lawsuit is warranted, and if a driver or trucking company violated state or federal trucking laws.