Articles Posted in Truck and Tractor Trailer Accidents

If you are injured, or if your loved one is killed, in a trucking accident, you need to make sure the attorney you hire to bring a personal injury or wrongful death case is familiar with federal trucking law safety regulations and laws.  Proving that one or more safety rules were violated and contributed to causing the accident is crucial.  In this blog post, I am providing my readers with some (but not all!) of the important safety regulations we trucking accident lawyers regularly rely on in setting up a trucking accident personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Before I get into the rules, though, just a short overview of why trucking safety rules are so important.  Obviously, transportation plays a vital role in facilitating trade and commerce across the country. Heavy commercial trucks are a critical component of this industry, responsible for the efficient movement of goods. But given their size and weight, heavy trucks can cause massive damage, and thus ensuring the safety of these vehicles and their drivers is of paramount importance. The United States federal government has thus implemented a comprehensive set of safety requirements to regulate heavy commercial trucks. These requirements aim to mitigate risks, reduce accidents, and safeguard the well-being of all road users.

Without further ado, here are some of the major rules:

You might think that if you or someone you love gets hit by a commercial truck in New York you should seek out a New York car accident lawyer.  You would be wrong.  Suing a commercial trucking company for personal injuries is NOT the same as suing for a run-of-the-mill car accident.  You need a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable in the hyper-specialized field of truck accident litigation.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many important similarities between truck accident and car accident litigation.  For starters, both trucks and cars are subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic law, a set of “rules of the road” that applies to all vehicles on New York State roads (even bicycles!).  Thus, for example, all vehicles must stop at stop signs and red lights, yield at yield signs, and signal turns, etc.

But in addition to being subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, commercial trucks are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)(adopted and codified in New York under Title 17, Section 820).  This is an additional set of safety rules that applies only to commercial trucks.  A lawyer with a working knowledge of these rules is better armed to take on the trucking insurance company.  He or she can find additional ways to lock in liability against the negligent truck operator, his employer, and the owner of the tractor and trailer.

In the last few decades, the way we build cars has drastically reduced deaths and serious injuries.  As Central New York car and truck accident lawyers, we know.  Our car crash case volume has gone down, and the injuries are often less severe.

Some of the greatest safety improvements are at the front of the car, which is now designed to absorb a great deal of crash impact — accordion like.  This, accompanied with airbag deployment and seat belts, saves hundreds of lives per year.

But all these safety features are of no avail if the car you are riding in slides under the back of a tractor trailer or truck.  The occupants’ heads get crushed  against the back of the trailer (see second photo above).  The structures designed to absorb the energy of a crash are bypassed, as they slide underneath. The airbags and safety belts can’t do their jobs at all. It is literally a “head-on” collision.  That’s your head, not the car’s.

Just read a New York Times op-ed piece titled “Trucks Are Killing Us”. As Syracuse NY trucking accident lawyers, we already knew that. And we also knew that truck-accident fatalities are increasing at the same time as car fatalities are decreasing. That’s because trucks are getting bigger and heavier, and their drivers are not getting any better. And that puts all of us who are on the road in danger.

We’re on the road – so to speak – to a major national trucking accident crisis. And what is congress doing about it? Making matters worse! Here are some of the things Congress has done according to the article:

  •  trimmed back well-considered safety improvements ordered by federal regulators, including, for example, a rule that allowed truck drivers to work only 70 hours a week (the new rule allows for 82 hours);

I pulled some all-nighters in college. Who didn’t? But that was behind a desk. I have never tried one behind a wheel, nor do I intend to, thank you.

Not everyone can say that. A Walmart tractor trailer driver, Kevin Roper, might not be able to say it. Last Saturday, while driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, he rear-ended a van carrying, among others, the comedian Tracy Morgan (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock). The New Jersey police assure us (we don’t know how they know) that Roper had not slept in 24 hours. Federal law limits tractor trailer drivers to 14 hours shifts, with only 11 of those behind the wheel.

Roper’s sleep-deprived accident caused a pile up. Several were injured and one victim was killed. Morgan himself is in critical condition. There have been some reports he may lose a leg.

The Metro-North engineer who derailed his train last year, killing four passengers and injuring dozens more, was suffering from a sleep disorder. He slept through the accident.

The driver of the Chicago subway train that recently crashed at O’Hare International Airport told authorities she fell asleep before the train entered the station. Her train derailed and raced up an escalator, causing injury and death.

In the 2003 Staten Island Ferry crash, it was determined that the pilot lost consciousness while at the ship’s controls. He had taken the painkillers tramadol and Tylenol PM, both of which can cause drowsiness as a side effect.

Hope you all enjoyed your pumpkin pie. I sure did. And have you examined your waist line recently? If you’re like many Americans, it’s expanding. But not as fast as American truck drivers, according to a NY Times article I read last week. And then just today I read an article about how trucks are getting heavier, too. It seems everything in America is super-sized these days.

But let’s just talk trucks for now. Officially, the national weight limit for freight trucks on interstate highways is 40 tons (80,000 lbs). But in almost half of the 50 States, Federal laws now allows for trucks weighing more (not yet in New York). Last week, Congress added Maine and Vermont to the list, allowing trucks up to 100,000 pounds there.

So what’s the BIG deal? (pun intended). Big trucks make for big accidents, as this Central and Syracuse NY trucking accident lawyer knows all too well. And they also make for more frequent accidents because they are harder to control and stop. And they also chew up our roads and bridges faster, which chews up your tax dollars faster.

The tractor trailer driver knew he was in trouble. He was blearing his horn as his tractor trailer careened out of control down the West Seneca Turnpike hill the other day in Syracuse. The brakes on the truck had failed. Six vehicle collisions later, three people were taken to the Community General and Upstate University hospitals with, fortunately, non-life threatening injuries.

Too many tractor trailer air-brake failures have taken too many lives. Faulty brakes contribute to about a third of all truck crashes in the United States. Very few trucks on the road are checked for brakes as well or as often as they should be. Brake inspections require time and labor, and trucking companies often choose not to spend the time and money doing them.

In other words, truckers and trucking companies cut corners to reap bigger profits, putting all of us at risk.

At about 1:30 a.m. last night, a Canadian tour bus and a tractor trailer collided and erupted in fire in the eastbound lanes of the New York State Thruway, in the Town of Junius, Seneca County, between exists 41 and 42. This is very close to where I live (Geneva) and work (Auburn). The tractor trailer driver was killed and about 35 of the 50 or so bus passengers were injured. Many of the victims were transported to area hospitals, including Geneva, Auburn and Newark-Wayne Hospitals, and some were brought to Rochester and Syracuse.

This tragedy comes on the heels of another deadly bus accident in Steuben County less than a week ago, which killed two and injured 35. That Steuben County accident appears to have been caused by a blown out tire. This most recent bus accident appears to have been caused by driver error.

Some folks might say that the Steuben County was no one’s fault — the tire just blew. Not so fast! From my experience as a New York bus accident lawyer, blown tires can be caused by, among other mistakes: (1) failure to inspect or change the tires on a regular basis; (2) placing improper tires on the bus; (3) a product defect for which the tire manufacturer can be held liable. Also, the driver may not have been trained to properly control the bus with a blown out tire, or may not have reacted properly.

Wednesday, on Route 5 in Elbridge, a tractor trailer rear-ended a stopped car so hard that the car, a Kia, burst into flames, killing its driver and passenger. The Onondaga County deputy sheriff’s office says the tractor trailer left no skid marks at all, which means its driver did not apply the brakes. And what does that mean? That the driver did not even see the stopped car. And what does that mean? One of two things: Either he was sleeping, or he was distracted.

Most likely distracted. I have blogged about this before: distracted driving is become a HUGE problem on our roadways. More and more Central New York car accident lawsuits against distracted drivers are being filed. As a Syracuse car accident lawyer, the volume of car accidents cases I handle where the at-fault driver was distracted because he was using a cell phone, texting, and using some other electronic device has increased dramatically over the years.

Typically, distracted driving causes crossover accidents (the texting or dialing driver slowly drifts across the centerline without noticing) and rear-end collisions (the distracted driver does not notice that the vehicle in front of him has stopped). But distracted drivers also tend to run red lights, blow past stop signs, and run into utility poles or other roadside structures.

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