Government May Stiffen Requirements For Commercial Vehicles Stopping Distances and Brakes

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has just indicated that it may change federal guidelines regulating required stopping distances for all vehicles, including buses, automobiles, semi-trucks and tractor trailers, as well as improving heavy duty brake systems for tractor-trailers.

It can require as many as 335 feet to stop an 18 wheeler traveling at 60 miles per hour, depending on the weight of the load, road conditions, brakes, driver reaction, etc. That is more than the length of a football field.

I have handled many trucking accidents involving serious injuries and deaths which presumably would not have happened, or the injuries would not have been as severe, if these two restrictions had already been in place.

Here is a newspaper article from a case I handled a few years ago:

Victims want help inspecting wrecked oil truck

A hearing is set for Friday to see if an oil company should pay extra costs so attorneys representing a couple injured in a wreck in June can inspect the truck that hit them. The truck has been moved near Abilene.

The hearing will be in the 249th District Court of Johnson County in front of visiting Judge Kit Cooke.

Two women in the June 13 accident remain hospitalized at area hospitals, one in intensive care, attorney Bill Berenson said Wednesday.

Berenson is the attorney for Mary and John Reutter of Burleson, who both sustained serious injuries when an oil tanker truck driven by Ismael Villarreal, 41, of Abilene failed to stop in the southbound lane of Interstate 35W near the Briaroaks overpass and collided with two vehicles, creating a wreck with four other vehicles.

A fire from a burning hay truck had slowed traffic that afternoon, but Villarreal, ran over the back of the Reutters’ 2002 Ford Mustang convertible, according to a police report compiled by Burleson Cpl. Sean Bolton.

The tanker then struck a 2003 Toyota RAV4 driven by Donna Ferolito, 32, of Austin. The force of that impact forced Ferolito’s vehicle into a 2003 Jeep Cherokee driven by Diane Bogart, 50, of Burleson, and the Jeep was forced into a 1993 Ford pickup driven by Salvador Lopez, 23, of Alvarado.

After striking the Reutters’ and Ferolito’s vehicles, the trucker careened off the highway and drove until he crashed into a tree on the far side of the first crash, Berenson said.

Bolton cited Villarreal for following too closely. Ferolito and Mary Reutter, 60, were both transported by CareFlite to Fort Worth hospitals. John Reutter, 64, was transported by ambulance to the same hospital as his wife. He has been released.

The most seriously injured, Mary Reutter broke several bones in her upper body, suffered a punctured lung and remains in jeopardy of losing an arm due to nerve damage, Berenson said. She was driving the couple’s convertible and the top was down.

The Reutters had just moved from Florida to avoid more hurricanes. They planned to build a home in southern Fort Worth.

Berenson said John Reutter told him the accident has ruined their lives.

The Reutters hired Berenson to represent them. A lawsuit has been filed for damages and pain and suffering as the victims continue to recover, but an emergency hearing has been planned to make sure the rig can be inspected.

In the meantime, the company who owns the tanker, United Petroleum Transports of Houston, moved the rig to near Abilene, out of reach of local accident investigators as they try to investigate the case and discover why Villarreal never applied his brakes as he struck the vehicles, Berenson said.

“The company, for no apparent reason, suddenly and without notice removed the vehicles to a location west of Abilene before such an inspection could proceed,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit includes Villarreal’s employers, L&L; Inc., which owned the truck.

The lawsuit argued the Reutters’ attorneys have the right to inspect and test the tractor and tanker in Fort Worth, where it was first towed, or Burleson, where the collision occurred. Berenson said he is concerned that before an inspection can occur, the evidence will be repaired, altered or destroyed.

Berenson said United Petroleum has a facility in Euless, which would be close enough.

“Moving the vehicles west of Abilene obviously places a significant and entirely unnecessary financial burden on the Reutters and Ferolito, which may indicate the motivation behind this action,” Berenson said.

Berenson said an accident reconstruction expert has warned that he will have to charge significant additional expenses to drive round trip to Abilene for that part of the investigation.

With attorneys for all parties working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Berenson said it would have been quicker and cheaper to conduct the inspections locally, similar to costs for the other affected vehicles.

The lawsuit asks the judge to charge United Petroleum the additional expense if the inspection has to be held in near Abilene.

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Please call me for a free no obligation telephone or personal consultation. I am an experienced Texas 18 wheeler accident attorney with over 30 years of experience. My number is 817-885-8000 or toll free at 1-800-801-8585.

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