Trucking accidents are common on US highways, killing almost 5,000 people each year, and injuring many more. Truck and passenger car accidents tend to be more serious than those involving passenger vehicles alone due to truck size.
Know the hazards and risks when you share the road with trucks, and the laws regulating the trucking industry. It can make a difference as you practice defensive driving, or you're involved in an accident with a big rig.
Trucking Accident Triggers and Risks
There are differences between commercial vehicles and their drivers compared to passenger vehicles and drivers. Some of these differences are factors in accidents and include:
- Driver fatigue
- Not being able to brake fast enough to avoid collision
- Fuel fires due to carrying batteries in a precarious position on the truck
- Truck driver inexperience or lack of proper training
- Overloaded or improperly loaded trucks
So, the vehicles you meet on the road, and who is driving, can and does matter when it comes to accidents.
Federal and State Laws
State and federal regulations govern the trucking industry. Most federal regulations are in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Trucking rules include:
- Hours of service limits. These are designed to make sure drivers get enough rest and sleep on road trips. They limit the amount of time a driver can remain on the road before taking a break
- Structured logs. Truckers must record their driving information in log books. These logs help show violations of sleep restrictions, negligent driving and other driver misconduct
- Vehicles. Safety standards apply to everything from the size and weight of the truck to its equipment and emissions
- Insurance coverage. Trucking companies must carry various levels of insurance coverage depending upon the type of materials they haul
- State laws. States have their own laws that set speed limits for commercial truckers and sleep requirements for drivers
Once again, these laws and rules can affect whether or not an accident is likely to happen, and the legal outcome if you're injured in a trucking accident.
Looking for Liability and Trucking Companies
Trucking accidents also differ from passenger vehicle accidents because it's likely a trucking company may be liable for your losses. Your trucking accident attorney will look at whether or not a trucking company can be held liable for the truck driver's actions.
The legal theory used is called respondeat superior. It makes an employer liable for its employees' negligence while they're on the job.
The trucking company, on the other hand, may try to prove the accident happened while the driver wasn't on the job and was driving for personal reasons. Or it may deny responsibility because the driver was an independent contractor and not its employee.
So, the differences between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles don't stop with the number of wheels, vehicle weight and reasons for driving – laws covering these vehicle types and uses differ too. You'll also see how these differences matter as your personal injury lawyer investigates and builds your case after a trucking accident.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I almost got into an accident with a tractor-trailer. Do I have any legal claim against the trucking company or the driver if there wasn't a collision?
- I'm a frequent user of highways, tollways and interstates, and I notice one trucking company's drivers breaking traffic laws. Is there a complaint process I can use?
- Is a trucking company liable if one of its drivers uses a semi's power and size to harass car drivers, such as pushing a car off the road on purpose?