Large commercial trucks, such as semi-trailers and 18-wheelers, garbage and dump trucks, and flatbeds, are a critical part of America’s transportation economy. Without the availability of these forms of transport, commerce across the country would be severely limited, reducing the ability of the American economy to grow and prosper. Unfortunately, because of their considerable size, these vehicles also pose substantial health and safety concerns to other motorists on the road.
In recognition of this fact, large commercial trucks are far more heavily regulated than other types of vehicles. For instance, federal hours of service regulations strictly limit the amount of time that truck drivers may spend consecutively, or within a given timeframe, operating their vehicles. These regulations are meant to ensure that overworked, tired drivers aren’t allowed on the road, reducing the potential damage to others on the road.
In reality, of course, these regulations are often overlooked, both by drivers themselves and by companies which seek to improve their performance by keeping their drivers on the road as long as possible. In fact, some studies have suggested that as many as 50% of truck drivers are often in violation of these regulations, in spite of strict enforcement mechanisms. This can lead to serious accidents occurring when tired, inattentive drivers lose their focus and strike other vehicles.
In these circumstances, liability for the accident may be assessed to either the driver or the company, or it may be assessed to both of them. In 2012, for instance, the FMSCA, which oversees trucking companies’ operations, shut down a Kansas trucking company that was shown to have allowed its drivers to willfully misreport their hours on service logs. Any accidents occurring as a result of this type of reckless behavior could leave both drivers and the company liable for damages.
Trucking accidents can also occur when companies choose to implement deficient hiring or training procedures. Because trucking companies are liable for the actions of their employees, and least to an extent, they must ensure that their drivers are adequately prepared for the job. Yet many companies fail to institute these types of policies, allowing dangerously unprepared drivers on the road. In these circumstances, the company will almost always be liable for any accidents which may occur.
Drivers themselves may also be liable when accidents occur, particularly if they engage in risky behaviors such as driving while intoxicated or speeding. Finally, the manufacturers of commercial trucks may sometimes be held liable for accidents if vehicular failure is to blame. Depending on the circumstances, a smart truck accident lawyer can often determine exactly which party or parties should be held liable and pursue legal action accordingly.