By Joe Jones
Semi-trucks and trailers are often referred to in the industry as “Land Locomotives.” Their operators have a duty to the public to operate their rigs in a safe manner. Like most events we call “accidents” in life, it is the exception to the rule that results in tragic injuries and/or death, and this holds true for semi-truck drivers. When truck drivers fail to operate their rigs safely and don’t follow regulations and safety rules, it can result in people getting injured, maimed or killed.
We all have seen or have experienced a tractor-trailer driver who is a roadway bully by tailing vehicles too closely, hogging the road or driving too fast for road conditions. However, because professionally trained truckers are properly viewed as hard-working and salt-of-the-earth, some traffic investigators can be quick to find no fault on the part of semi-truck drivers. Assumptions can turn out to be wrong when measured against the facts. Objective investigation matters.
Investigating Trucking Accidents
When we investigate a truck crash case, Terrell Hogan attorneys, and the trucking and safety experts who work with us have real-life experience with the trucking industry’s rules of the road and safety requirements.
Our team examines the driver’s experience, driving record, and how long the driver had been behind the wheel because driver fatigue is the number one contributor to trucking accidents. While a truck driver may have experience in one type of semi-truck, we ask how much experience did the driver have in this particular truck? Is he or she familiar with the characteristics of the truck with a load, without a load, without a trailer, especially with respect to its stopping distance and maneuverability?
We also investigate the driver’s history of accidents, DUI’s and traffic tickets including texting and cell phone use while driving and the kind of training the driver received. Did the driver receive safety training, and how long had it been since he or she last received it? Did the driver operate a truck that required special licensing, such as hazardous material training? Even though a driver may have received training, the driver’s deposition may reveal a lack of knowledge of the rules of the road and the federal and state safety requirements.
We also examine whether the driver was going too fast for road conditions and if a safe-distance from the leading traffic was maintained so they could avoid a crash. Were they distracted by electronic devices (cell phone, GPS, CB, eating)? In other words, were they operating their trucks in a safe manner under traffic and road conditions, and in accordance with regulations?
The safe operation and performance of a truck is directly tied to its maintenance. We investigate whether the truck had been properly maintained and repaired — especially the brakes. Many trucking “accidents” have been caused by out-of-adjustment brakes or malfunctioning brakes. A semi-truck traveling at 55 MPH can take 300 feet to stop in ideal road conditions, and if the road conditions are not ideal, and the brakes are not in good working order or well-maintained, the stopping distance can be even greater. Maintaining good tires is also extremely important. Stopping and maneuverability can be greatly affected by tires.
An improperly loaded trailer can contribute to the truck’s operation and roadway performance. A shifting load may cause the driver to lose control, or even worse, the load could come off and injure or kill someone.
We also investigate whether mechanical defects contributed to the accident and, if so, did the truck operator or owner know about them?
When investigating trucking accidents, we don’t focus solely on the truck driver. There could be multiple defendants, including the driver, owner, broker, shipper or insurer. It’s important to work with a law firm that understands the trucking industry, how it operates, and who the responsible parties may be.
If you or a loved on has been seriously injured or killed in a trucking accident, consider having Terrell Hogan represent you. It has the resources and litigation experience to represent your interests. Call (904) 722‑2228. Joe Jones is a Florida Registered Paralegal and former Command Judge Advocate for the U.S. Navy.