The trucking industry forms the backbone of America’s freight transportation, with over 38.9 million vehicles moving over 72% of the nation’s freight in 2021. However, statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also reveal accidents involving large trucks result in over 4,000 fatalities every year, 84% of which are pedestrians, bicyclists, or passenger car and motorcycle occupants.

Unfortunately, not all trucking companies respect the laws and regulations surrounding commercial trucking. By pursing profits over safety, they instead contribute to the number of large truck accidents and the damages they cause to innocent victims on the road. Here are the top causes of trucking company negligence you should know.

1. Long Hours and HOS Violations

Federal laws regulate the maximum number of hours a property-carrying driver, such as a commercial truck driver, is legally allowed to drive. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outlines a summary of these Hours of Service (HOS) regulations:

  • Requirement to take a 30-minute break for every 8 hours of consecutive driving
  • Maximum shift length of 14 hours, with an 11-hour driving limit per shift
  • Minimum of 10 hours off duty between each shift
  • Maximum of 60 hours on duty for every 7 consecutive days on duty, or 70 hours on duty for every 8 consecutive days on duty
  • Minimum of 34 hours off-duty between each 7/8 day on-duty period

Studies have shown that truck drivers often work unreasonably long schedules and drive far past the limits imposed by federal HOS regulations, often at the encouragement of their employers. In doing so, drivers suffer from chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation, reducing their reaction times, impairing their judgment, and increasing the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

According to the FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, fatigue is one of the top contributing factors of large truck accidents, representing 13% of all accidents.

How to Prove Truck Drivers Violated HOS Regulations

Since 2017, most trucking companies have been subjected to the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule, requiring them to use electronic devices to record service hours for each driver and each vehicle.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, an experienced South Carolina truck accident attorney from Joye Law Firm can help you obtain evidence to prove a HOS violation. Examples of evidence we can compile on your behalf include ELD driving logs, GPS data, cellular records, time stamps on shipping records, and other crucial data.

2. Negligent Vehicle Maintenance

According to data compiled by the Department of Energy, an average Class 8 truck (a category which includes tractor-trailers) will drive over 62,000 miles per year. In comparison, the average passenger car or light truck vehicle only drives about 11,500 miles annually.

Although the average semi-truck is designed to drive many more miles than a car, maintenance is still crucial to ensure they remain in proper working order.

A trucking company that fails to maintain its fleet not only risks breaking the law by failing inspections but also endangers drivers with an increased chance of vehicle faults and malfunctions, including the following:

  • Tire blowouts
  • Brake fade and/or failure
  • Steering column damage or failure
  • Damage to trailer hitches
  • Engine failures

According to the FMCSA, brake problems are the most common contributing factor in large truck crashes, representing 29% of all incidents. Other common vehicle-related contributors are tire problems (6%) and load-shifting due to overloading of trucks (4%).

3. Inadequate Driver Screening and Training

One of the top responsibilities of any trucking company is to ensure their drivers are qualified to handle their tasks.

Besides ensuring each driver has a valid Commercial Driver’s License with the appropriate endorsements, each company must also verify the driver’s history and provide all necessary training and safety drills to ensure their drivers are safe and responsible.

Federal law also imposes medical requirements and periodic medical examinations valid for two years to ensure each driver is physically able to continue working.

Ideally, trucking companies should screen potentially unsafe or irresponsible drivers before hiring them. Should they find evidence of unsafe behavior, the company must issue the appropriate corrective or disciplinary actions, from retraining to firing.

Unfortunately, many accidents can be attributed to unsafe behavior, unqualified drivers, and poor screening practices.

The FMCSA’s Causation Study determined the following driver faults are among the most common causes of truck crashes:

  • Speeding or driving too fast for the road conditions (23%)
  • Driving under the influence of over-the-counter drugs (17%), including stimulants
  • Inadequate surveillance of blind spots (14%)
  • Illegal maneuvers (9%), such as unlawful passing, driving down the wrong lane, or U-turns in prohibited zones
  • Inattention (9%)
  • External distractions (8%), such as mobile phone usage.
  • Following other vehicles too closely (5%), suggesting a violation of the recommended safe distances

Injured in a Truck Accident? Call Joye Law Firm

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a truck accident, it is vital to seek experienced legal representation. Hiring a lawyer with experience in successfully handling truck crashes is essential to prove liability and get the compensation you deserve.

Joye Law Firm has over 50 years of experience representing the interests of South Carolinians. Our team has an excellent track record representing victims in accidents involving semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and other commercial vehicles.

We will fight for your rights, standing up against pushback from big trucking companies to help you get the maximum financial compensation you are owed. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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