The U.S. trucking industry is vital to commerce in our nation. Each year, millions of tons of goods are delivered by trucks. Trucks come in all shapes and sizes, some with covered and attached compartments. Other trucks are made up of tractors [the cab and engine that provides power and steering] and the trailer [flat bed or box], attached to the tractor. Trucks not only provide goods, but also fuel and liquids, including chemicals, fertilizers and industrial fluids. Other trucks contain compressed gases, many of which are flammable.
While our trucking industry is very important to the sale and delivery of goods, good business practices in the operation of trucks and trailers include regular inspection, maintenance and repairs. Truck owners who are not responsible often take shortcuts to maintenance and repairs and push the limit to safe operation. As many trucks are so large, if they fail mechanically, they can cause very considerable damage and injuries. Trucks have to be properly loaded so that loads do not shift in route. If a large load shifts, trucks become difficult to steer. Other times, trucks can jackknife on or off the roadway. Other times, trucks are overloaded and this added weight can affect truck safety, not to mention damage to roadways and highways.
Many important truck parts require regular maintenance and inspection. These parts include truck tires and retreads. Obviously, brakes are essential to be in tip top shape making trucks able to stop even if they are carrying maximum loads. Regular inspection can also discover metal fatigue and this is very important relative to connecting pins attaching the tractor to the trailer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,964 people killed and an estimated 95,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2013. In the United States, an estimated 342,000 large trucks were involved in police-reported traffic crashes during that same year. Surprisingly, 71% of people killed in large-truck crashes were occupants of other vehicles.
Truck drivers are required to keep and maintain their driving hours. This is a safety requirement so that drivers do not extend their driving time and so that they get the required sleep to remain awake and attentive to traffic conditions. These are referred to as hours of service rules promulgated by the US Department of Transportation. Further, many trucks are equipped with event data recorders [otherwise referred to as “black boxes’] which contain specific information on a trucks speed, direction, braking and other factors and the retrieval of this information can made the difference in the outcome of trucking claims.
The trucking industry is divided into owner-operators, company drivers and independent owner-operators, all of whom are required to keep their vehicles inspected and in good and safe operating order.
If you are involved in a trucking accident and have sustained serious personal injuries, early contact with an experienced attorney in truck accident cases is vital to the success of your claim.