The Dangers of Untrained Semi-Truck Drivers

by Arthur Elk

truck5How are you behind the wheel of a moving truck? If you’re like most people, you probably have to take extra precautions because you’re a little unsteady at the wheel. Now imagine that you’re driving an 18-wheeler and are trying to navigate 80,000 pounds of metal and cargo. That’s about 16 times the size of an average car.

As a car accident attorney, I know that there’s a reason that truck drivers need special training to be licensed to drive an 18-wheeler. The bulk of these tractor-trailers makes them more difficult to maneuver and to drive safely. When drivers don’t get the right training, they present a serious danger on the road. About 170,000 people are injured each year in accidents involving tractor-trailers, and about 5,000 18-wheelers are involved in fatal accidents. In fact, one out of eight deaths in traffic accidents involve a tractor-trailer or other large, commercial truck.

If you are in an accident with a tractor-trailer, the truck driver is likely backed by a big corporation and its insurance company, both of which are going to do everything in their power to deny you compensation for your injuries and damages to your vehicle. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in my practice. Working with a qualified car accident attorney means that you have a tough, legal advocate working to protect your rights. I have made it my career to fight for the rights of people like you who have been injured in accidents involving tractor-trailers — many times because the driver lacked the proper training. Don’t let someone else’s carelessness ruin your life. Work with an accident lawyer who can fight on your behalf.

Insurance Claims: Settling Too Early Can Be a Huge Mistake

Ohio personal injury attorney Bill Price explains why accepting an insurance provider’s settlement offer may not be the right decision.

One of the most common challenges you’ll face after an injury is the need for money. We already need it every day, but when you’re injured and can’t work, you need money more than ever to provide for your family.

To make matters worse, insurance companies know your situation. They know whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or if you’ve been out of work for 6 months due to an injury – and they use this to their advantage.

Insurance companies deal with claims every single day. Claims just like yours. Claims that involve personal injury accidents like automobile crashes, tractor-trailer wrecks and even slip and falls. You don’t deal with an injury every day. In fact, the average person only brings one lawsuit against a company in their life regarding personal injury – if at all.

Insurance adjusters take that knowledge and use it against desperate, inexperienced injury victims. You don’t know whether your injury is worth $50,000 dollars or millions. What you do know is that with a family member out of work, bills can pile up quickly. Not only are there lost wages, but also medical bills, including hospital stays, prescription drugs and even physical therapy. For a struggling family, $50,000 can seem like a lot of money.

While an early settlement can help get you back on track and help pay off some bills, don’t accept an offer before seeking legal advice. An experienced personal injury attorney can look into the matter for you and help determine if more insurance money is available. Remember, a quick settlement may help right now, but what about future medical costs? If you’ve been seriously injured, it may take a very long time before you’re able to return to work – if ever. All future costs should be carefully examined in order to provide you and your family with the compensation you deserve.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

William J. Price

Fuel Shortage May Bring More Drowsy Drivers to Ohio

Truckers hauling flammable cargo declared exempt from federal safety rules.

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With yet another cold snap looming, Ohio Governor John Kasich has declared a state of emergency in response to the state’s heating fuel shortage. The proclamation, issued on January 18, allows commercial truckers transporting propane or heating oil to drive more hours and more consecutive days than normally permitted by law.

Citing health and safety concerns, Kasich claims the inclement weather is causing longer driving times, making it difficult to meet demand while complying with federal hours-of-service regulations and requirements. The proclamation reads in part,

Motor carriers and drivers transporting propane and heating oil to address transportation issues arising from the severe weather, heavy snowfall, and difficult driving conditions in Ohio, are exempt from compliance with Rule 4901:2-5-02 of the Ohio Administrative Code and 49 CFR Part 395 – any such provision of a state statute, order, or rule pertaining to the hours-of-service is suspended.

FMCSA Hours of Service Rule

The latest federal Hours of Service Rule, which went into effect in July of 2013, reduced the number of average weekly hours from 82 to 70. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the new federal regulations were designed to improve safety for the motoring public by reducing drowsy driving.

The agency estimates the new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 truck accidents and 560 injuries each year.

Duty of Care

Even though drivers hauling propane and heating fuel will not have to comply with the hours-of-service regulations and requirements, they still owe a legal duty to other motorists:

The Proclamation does not alter a carrier’s duty to monitor its drivers, to maintain records of duty status and to ensure that drivers are not ill, fatigued, impaired, or otherwise unable to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.

This state of emergency may remain in effect up to 30 days, and Ohio isn’t alone. Similar exemptions are in place in more than two dozen states across the country.

 

Source:

“State declaration aims to ease propane gas shortage” by Bowdeya Tweh, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 18, 2014.

Tips on Sharing the Road with Semi Trucks

by Arthur Elk

Driving next to an 18-wheeler or other large semi truck can be scary, especially for new drivers or those driving very small vehicles. The drivers of these 18-wheeler trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle. There are additional, smaller blind spots on the right front corner and mid-left side of the semi truck.

Driving in these blind spots can be quite dangerous because the driver of the truck may not see you and attempt to merge lanes. If this happens and you get in an accident, you should consult with a car accident lawyer to determine if the driver of the semi truck was at fault. If you’re driving on a highway and drive up right next to a semi truck, it’s good practice to pass the truck quickly, but within the speed limit, to minimize the risk of driving in one of the truck’s blind spots.

You should also be careful not to be too close to a truck when it is reversing. Because of the truck’s large size, it is more difficult for the driver to reverse, and doing so may take several tries. If a semi truck hits you while reversing, you should seek the advice of a car accident lawyer to determine if you can get compensated for the accident. If the truck driver is liable, you may be able to get a settlement for any injuries and property damage that you sustain in the accident.

Share the Road

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration offers these tips to motorists:

  • Leave more space for trucks and buses. Truck and bus drivers leave extra room behind the vehicles they follow because it can take them twice as long as a car to stop. 
  • Pay attention – don’t get distracted. Stay focused! Using cell phones, navigation devices and even laptops while driving makes the roadways more dangerous. 
  • Avoid the "No Zone"Stay out of the “No Zone.” Drivers of large commercial vehicles must react faster than car drivers in emergency situations due to the size and weight of their truck or bus. Truck and bus drivers have huge blind spots around the front, back and sides of their vehicles, otherwise known as the No-Zone. Be safe and don’t hang out in the No-Zone.
  • Stay Alert. Pay close attention to the side effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Coupled with fatigue or a distraction, prescription or over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous on the road, and potentially deadly.
  • Wear your seatbelt. Buckling your seatbelt is the single most important thing you and your passengers can do to save your lives in a crash. Be safe and always buckle up!

Arthur Elk: Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

By Arthur Elk

The highways are filled with semi-trucks and tractor-trailers. Because of their large size and tremendous weight, semi-trucks are more prone to accidents than small passenger vehicles. As a car accident lawyer, I see cases like this all the time. When they occur, there is a huge risk of injury. Ironically, truck drivers seem to be better protected due to their sheer bulk and surrounding metal. But when semi-trucks collide with smaller cars, serious injuries and even death are likely to occur.

The most common causes of trucking accidents are as follows:

  • Drug use
  • Blind spots
  • Distractions
  • Speeding
  • Road rage
  • Driver fatigue
  • Illegal driving maneuver
  • Driver unfamiliar with area

Careless driving of passenger vehicles can also trigger an accident. Trucks need a lot more room to slow down, stop, and turn. It’s important to keep this in mind when traveling. Also remember that their visibility is limited due to blind spots.

Most trucking accidents involve front or rear-end collisions, lane change collisions, jackknifing, or loss of control. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident, it’s vital to seek the help of a qualified car accident attorney who can help determine fault, take action, and protect your rights in order to seek compensation.

Rising Statistics on Tractor Trailer Related Injuries

Attorney William J. Price discusses the pitfalls of proving lost wages
for a client injured in a tractor-trailer accident.

Each day, we go about our lives on the road — expecting those around us to be alert and aware of their surroundings so as not to cause an accident.

Despite improved safety measures, traffic accidents continue to occur across the country, with thousands of deaths and millions of injuries each year. Deaths from U.S. motor vehicle crashes rose 5.3 percent in 2012, according to new numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s the first time since 2005 that fatalities have gone up. National Safety Commission officials pointed to distracted driving and an increase in the number of heavy trucks on the roads as possible explanations for increase.

Trucking Accidents

Earlier this year, the NHTSA released a Large Truck Report stating that 287,000 large trucks were involved in accidents in 2011, resulting in 3,757 deaths and injuring 88,000 people. The number of registered large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) have steadily increased from around 8 million in 2011 to over 10 million in 2013.

While tractor-trailer drivers undergo special schooling to drive such a vehicle, it is ultimately the driver’s responsibility to be aware and cautious while on the road. The truck may cause an accident due to improper maintenance or equipment failure. The driver can also contribute to an accident by allowing himself to become distracted.

A truck driver can become distracted by the same things divert the attention of all drivers, including cell phones, playing with the radio or looking at maps. Additionally, tractor-trailer drivers may be affected by long hours on the road. Some truckers drive for many more hours than is legally allowed – and that’s just the driving portion. They may have other work, such as loading and unloading, and the cumulative hours without rest can greatly affect the abilities of a truck driver.

Truck accidents are less common than collisions involving private vehicles, but they are associated with far more serious injuries. If you are struck by commercial truck, you and your family may face substantial economic and non-economic damages,  including medical expenses, prescription drug costs, pain and suffering, lost wages and even future losses — as some injuries can be significant and/or permanent.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above, read our blog, and explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO.
I welcome your call.

William J. Price

Deadly Ohio Semi Crash

An Ohio woman died Wednesday in a horrific tractor-trailer accident in Circleville, Ohio. The truck driver is facing charges for allegedly tampering with evidence. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Amy Schneider of South Bloomfield was killed in the accident and the truck driver was listed as 41-year old Tracy Ferrell of Michigan.

Ferrell was driving north on Route 23 at about 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning when he failed to brake at a red light. Ferrell’s semi-truck plowed into Schneider’s vehicle and two other cars that were sitting at the intersection.

Schneider’s vehicle was struck first, crushing her small car and pinning it under the semi. The truck and car combo then pushed into another vehicle, which crashed into an SUV, causing it to overturn. Police said Schneider was pronounced dead on the scene and that the other two drivers were injured and taken to local hospitals. They were identified as: Francis Shirley, 49, the driver of the SUV, and Karen Kindle, the driver of the second car.

According to reports, Ferrell had removed a page from the driver’s log book and attempted to hide it from authorities. Police arrested him for allegedly tampering with evidence and believe he fell asleep at the wheel, however the investigation is ongoing.

Driver fatigue remains problematic

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) studies detailing the relationship between sleep deprivation and the prevalence of trucking accidents have shown the longer a driver is on the road without rest and sleep, the greater the likelihood he or she will be involved in an accident.

In an effort to combat this problem, the FMCSA recently issued new rules to address safety concerns. The rules reduce the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week to 70 hours. Under the old hours of service rule, drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The rule also prohibits drivers from driving more than eight hours at a time without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Additionally, drivers may not drive more than 11 hours each day.

Drivers must also keep detailed logs regarding their time behind the wheel. Federal regulations require all drivers to record their hours, either manually or using an electronic device. Even though rules require drivers to keep accurate driving accounts, some trucking companies break the law by encouraging their employees to maintain false (or misleading) log books in order to meet deadlines and boost profits.

 

Source:

Semi crushes car on Rt. 23, killing woman near Circleville” by Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch, September 1, 2013.

Woman Hit By Truck, Company Refuses to Pay

 

We know that when you are going through pain and suffering caused by an accident, trying to deal with everything afterwards can be exhausting and challenging.

If you need to file a claim against the other party and prove they were at fault, this can be a difficult task – not to mention, emotionally draining. It’s hard to keep fighting with people who deny your claim simply because they don’t want to pay out money.

That’s why our clients trust us to handle these issues so they can concentrate on getting themselves healthy and feeling better. One such client was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by a dump truck. The company that owned the truck flat-out refused to pay her dime.

They wouldn’t believe she had suffered any true harm, even though the car she was in was slammed into by a large commercial dump truck.

The dump truck struck with such force that it pushed the car around and placed the passenger side into the path of oncoming traffic, all traveling at a high rate of speed. She suffered a fracture to her face, chest injuries and a severely broken pelvis. Although she underwent multiple pelvic surgeries, she was still left with a permanent limp and pain in the area.

Through the use of expert witnesses, the showing of evidence, and other testimony, we were able to show how the truck driver was at fault for her harm. This in turn made the trucking company at fault for its employee’s actions. They eventually paid $1 million in compensation to her as a result of our efforts.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

Michael Eisner

New Rules for Truck Drivers Spur Debate

Semi-truckThe new hours-of-service rules reflect the administration’s concerns that truck drivers who do not get enough rest put other motorists at risk. Studies conducted by the FMCSA concluded that working long hours on a continuing basis can lead to chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers. The agency estimates the new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 truck accidents and 560 injuries each year.

FMCSA’s new hours-of-service final rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume driving if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m.
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift
  • The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies and drivers that commit flagrant violations could face stiff penalties. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Legal battle underway

Some members of the trucking industry are challenging the changes, which they see as too restrictive. The American Trucking Associations have filed a law suit against the FMCSA to prevent the new rules. The suit alleges the rules contain “arbitrary and capricious” provisions that force “unwanted and unnecessary” changes on drivers.

However, according to the FMCSA, “Only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, and more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce will see no changes.” The agency also contends that the new regulations will provide a broader economic benefit. They estimate there will be $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. “Most importantly, it will save lives,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

Dangers of drowsy driving

Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that drowsy driving was probably the cause of more than half of crashes leading to a truck driver’s death and for each truck driver fatality; another three to four people are killed. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2011 there were 329,000 motor vehicle crashes involving large trucks and buses that resulted in 73,000 injuries, and 3,568 deaths.

Whether or not the lawsuit is successful, accidents with large trucks and commercial busses will undoubtedly continue to occur. Distracted driving, improper training, neglected equipment, and even the erratic driving of a motorist near a large truck can all contribute to a crash.

At Elk & Elk, our attorneys have the resources and the knowledge required to tackle even the most complicated commercial vehicle accidents. If you have been hurt in an accident, Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our experienced lawyers. We are available 24/7/365 to make sure we are there when you need help the most, and we never charge any fees upfront.

Sources:

Federal limits on truck drivers’ hours fuel controversy” by Emily West and Chas Sisk, USA Today, July 9, 2013.

Initial Brief for Petitioner and Intervenors in Support of PetitionerAmerican Trucking Associations, et al. v. FMCSA (D.C. Circuit, Case No. 12-1092) Oral arguments took place on March 15, 2013 before Circuit Judges Brown and Griffith, and Senior Circuit Judge Randolph.

“Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, March 2013.

Runaway trailer kills 7

Wednesday evening, four children and three adults were killed when a runaway trailer filled with crushed cars careened violently into a minivan, ripping it apart. The father of two of the children was transported to a local hospital, in good condition.

The rig was headed south about 25 miles outside of Syracuse, New York when the trailer became disconnected and crossed the center line, striking the northbound minivan. The force of the impact tore the minivan apart, and both vehicles came to rest on the shoulder of the roadway. USA Today reports that “[T]he van’s driver saw the trailer coming and drove off the road trying to avoid it.” Neither of the truck’s two occupants was injured.

According to The Washington Post, “In New York, trucks are required to be inspected at least once a year and are subjected to random roadside checks by the Department of Transportation or state troopers. Drivers are also required to do a ‘walk-around’ inspection of their trucks every time they make a trip, checking — among other things — tire pressure and condition, brakes and the coupling between truck and trailer.”

Ohio tractor-trailer inspections

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol work to ensure that commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are traveling safely throughout Ohio. PUCO inspectors regularly conduct safety inspections on CMVs. Each safety inspection follows a thorough process to make sure that the driver and CMV meet the necessary state and federal regulations. Vehicles and drivers that fail to meet these regulations may be placed out-of-service and cannot continue operating until they comply with the regulations.

If no critical violations are discovered during the inspection, the inspector issues a decal from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) for the vehicle or vehicles. These decals exclude the vehicles from future inspections for up to three months and are recognized in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

National Statistics

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2010 large trucks were involved in:

  • 3,484 fatal crashes
  • 58,000 injury crashes
  • 214,000 property damage crashes

Operating commercial vehicles safely takes training, practice, skill, patience and attention. These big rigs are a necessary part of our nation’s transportation system, which most often runs safely. But as the catastrophe in New York reveals, even the slightest slip-up behind the wheel of a big rig can quickly balloon to monstrous proportions and seriously injure anyone who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you have been injured in a truck accident, the Ohio commercial vehicle and semi-truck accident lawyers at Elk & Elk can evaluate your situation and study whether you have a claim.

It’s as easy as picking up the phone and calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO or taking a few minutes to complete our free, no-obligation online contact form.