Truck Accident Attorney
Serving Kansas City, Independence, Blue Springs & Lee’s Summit
Over the last 20 years our law firm has handled injury and fatality cases involving semi-trucks and other large commercial trucks. Most accidents involve evidence of truck driver negligence, including at least one of the following:
- Truck Driver Fatigue
- Improper Lane Change
- Excessive Speed
- Reckless Driving
- Driver Inattention/Distraction
With regard to improving truck safety, there are two areas that are especially important to truck safety. First, the deployment of new accident reducing truck technologies will markedly improve truck safety and help truck drivers avoid collisions before they happen. Second, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new trucking industry safety evaluation system will help improve truck safety by making both truck drivers and motor carrier firms accountable.
1. Accident Reducing Technologies
The majority of truck accident cases are caused by truck driver fatigue, driving too fast, or attempting to change lanes at highway speeds. To combat these problems, several of the large carriers are moving to install new technologies on their truck fleet that will warn truck drivers who are speeding or attempting to make an unsafe lane change. Radar that gives feedback to the truck’s on-board computer is the base technology behind these warning systems. Not only will these warning systems directly prevent highway accidents, but the data can be regularly analyzed by the trucking firm to evaluate how safe their drivers are.
Distracted truck drivers have caused several well-publicized distracted driving crashes causing multiple deaths over the last year. In fact, a large national trucking firm indicates that over 50% of their high-severity crashes involve a distracted truck driver. The problem is bound to grow as employers demand increased production and faster deliveries.
At the 2010 Summit I met Mr. Chuck Cox who heads Cellcontrol. Cellcontrol makes products that allows trucking firms to control driver communications in order to reduce incidents of distracted driving. This is particularly important because a distracted truck driver is the most dangerous driver on the road.
2. Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) Federal Regulations
Many truck accidents involve a truck driver or trucking firm with a history of unsafe driving. Unfortunately, by the time I discover a driver is unfit, it is too late as they have already caused an accident.
This scenario could change with the implementation of a new trucking industry safety evaluation system, the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA). The CSA is designed to get bad drivers off the road. Under the authority of the FMCSA, inspections will be conducted to determine if the driver has met the federal regulations. If a driver’s safety is rated as marginal or below, the CSA will trigger an intervention with the motor carrier.
As of September 2011, The FMCSA has issued over 33,000 warning letters pertaining to truck safety violations. I have no doubt that this has already made a difference.
Motor Carrier Truck Safety
In addition to truck driver negligence, highway safety is directly impacted by trucking firm negligence, including:
- Failure to follow trucking operations policies, procedures, and protocols
- Negligent driver selection, retention, and training
- Failure to maintain trucks (tires, braking systems, etc.)
- Improper truck loads
1. Accident Reducing Technologies
While Accident Reducing Technologies are going to make a positive impact in the trucking industry, it remains to be seen how many carriers will invest the money to outfit their fleet. Approximately 90% of the trucks on the road are part of a fleet of 10 trucks or less. It is my fear that many small trucking firms will not be able to afford coming technologies.
The CSA, discussed above, raises the bar for trucking firm operations. Specifically, hiring and retention of drivers, driver training, vehicle maintenance, and cargo related safety are areas specially addressed under the new safety system. As stated above, the emphasis of the CSA is to intervene with the motor carrier to fix problems within the trucking company that can lead to safety compromises.
Missouri Highway Truck Volume
Decreasing truck volume on the roadway will result in truck accident reduction. With respect to I-70 in Missouri, the federal government has recently approved truck-only lanes. Obviously, this would be a massive project and funding would be difficult to obtain to construct truck- only lanes on I-70. A more realistic option may be to create alternative truck routes. In Missouri, U.S. Route 36, which cuts across northern Missouri, was just improved with 4 lanes and now will be a more popular truck route across Missouri and Illinois.
A third way to reduce truck volume would be to increase rail shipping. Recently, railroad carriers have improved their track to where they can carry double-stacked cargo. A fully loaded double-stacked train can carry the equivalent load of 280 trucks.