COVID-19 UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

We have a serious problem on our interstates that no one is talking about. Trucking companies can't find enough people who want to drive at the same time truck demand is at an all-time high. Fewer long haul drivers means longer hours for those who are driving. This means more cases of driver fatigue-- and more crashes - even though personal injury lawyers are filing more lawsuits to try to make our roads safer.

America's Trucker Shortage

What is causing America’s trucker shortage?

Even though trucking companies are paying much higher wages due to the trucker shortage, fewer people are wanting to drive big rigs. Industry leaders say they need to find 200,000 truck drivers, but are only able to add 50,000. Truckers are leaving in record numbers with few wanting to take their place. Several reasons are to blame. Millennials don't want to drive big rigs. It can cost up to $8,000 to get a commercial driver's license. It is grueling and boring to drive an 18 wheeler all day long. Many drivers are reaching the age of retirement. And there’s also the issue of safety. Time Magazine listed truck driving as the seventh most dangerous occupation. With too many trucking companies not following safety regulations, driving for everybody has become more dangerous.

Why the shortage of drivers has increased the number of crashes on our roads

As trucking companies try to make the greatest use of their vehicles and workers, the added stress reduces safety for other drivers on the road. More trucking companies are lowering their hiring standards to get new drivers. The trucking industry is even trying to reduce the minimum age from 21 to 18 (now that's something we are all comfortable with, right?). Companies are pressuring their drivers to work longer shifts. Truckers who are want to make more money and get back home quicker push themselves to drive faster and more dangerously. The trucker shortage has had a huge impact on the number of fatalities involving large trucks. In 2017, the number of large-truck fatalities rose to 4,761, almost a 10% increase over the previous year. During the same time period, fatalities involving other vehicle crashes decreased by 2%. It’s a problem that experts expect to get even worse during the coming years. More lax regulations and high turnover rates will continue to increase the fatality and injury rates. America’s trucker shortage couldn’t have come at a worse time. Almost everyone is buying things online, leading to increased deliveries. Mega companies like Walmart and Amazon are using substantially more trucks. Unfortunately some companies are putting profit ahead of safety.

What causes commercial truck crashes?

These are the most common ones that we see: Sometimes the trucking company is also to blame. The employer might hire a driver who has an unsafe driving record or a history of previous accidents. The company may have poorly maintained the tractor-trailer or practice policies that result in unsafe driving practices. Some know that drivers were manipulating their logbooks to cover up hours of service violations, although the new required electronic logs will prevent this.

Commercial truck crash victims may collect substantial damages

Texas and federal law allows those who have been hurt by careless truck drivers to be paid for their damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Commercial trucks almost always have minimum insurance amounts of $750,000.

What you should do if you have been in a collision with a large truck

Hire a good truck accident lawyer. He is trained to know what to do to get you the maximum results. When we are hired to represent someone who has been injured by a truck driver, these are some of the actions we immediately take:
  1. Get the police report and find out the critical information about ownership of the vehicles, driver, and amount of insurance available;
  2. Get photographs and scene information;
  3. Get eyewitness statements;
  4. Speak to the police officers;
  5. Work with an accident reconstructionist;
  6. Make sure evidence is not altered;
  7. Try to inspect the tractor-trailer and conduct a black box download;
  8. File suit (and obtain a restraining order if necessary); and
  9. Make sure that our client's injuries are being treated by doctors.

Call Berenson Injury Law for help

Berenson Injury Law has been committed to helping people injured in truck and car accidents for the past 38 years. If you have been injured by a crash involving a large truck, contact Berenson Injury Law. We will explain your rights and work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.

Related articles:

Key federal regulations for 18 wheeler drivers Recent truck crashes avoidable

The increasing number of accidents involving large trucks and the severity of the injuries they cause is a serious problem for motorists. While the effects of accidents involving 18-wheelers like the one pictured can be devastating, smaller commercial vehicles also pose a common safety risk. Trucks driven by plumbers, grass cutters, cable installers, florists, and other businesses rely on a fleet of vehicles to deliver their products or services. Are they held to the same safety regulations as larger vehicles?

Trucking Safety Regulations

The Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Fortunately the answer is yes -- depending on several factors. The FMCSA is the federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The primary goal of the agency is to reduce crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities caused by large trucks and buses but it also has jurisdiction over smaller vehicles. States also have laws related to the license and driving requirements for commercial vehicles. Any business using commercial motor vehicles must obtain authority from both state and federal trucking authorities. Trucking safety regulations are important to every driver on the road. We share the roadways with all types of commercial trucks every day. While the FMCSA determines the regulations for all types of CMVs, it is up to the employers and the drivers to enforce them. A personal injury lawyer often finds that businesses and employers have failed to abide by federal trucking safety rules and are also at fault.

Which Vehicles Are Covered?

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the number of passengers a vehicle determines if a driver must have a commercial drivers license. CDL licenses ensure that drivers have increased training to handle a variety of conditions. Laws pertaining to the application and licensing process differ somewhat among the states. One consistency is that any vehicle with a weight of more than 26,001 pounds requires CDL licensure. Businesses that operate CMVs that alone (or combined with a trailer) weigh more than 10,001 pounds are required to register the vehicles and abide by the FMCSA trucking safety regulations. Some states have increased this weight limit to include trucks anywhere from 12,000 to 26,000 pounds, which coincides with the CDL requirements. Although a vehicle doesn’t require a CDL driver, many companies require the drivers to follow the same trucking safety regulations imparted by FMCSA. The key is understanding the different classes of CDL and weights that apply to different types of vehicles: Class A – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination of vehicles with the towed vehicle having a GVWR over 10,000 pounds. Class B – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more, or is towing a vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds, or a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. Class C – A single or combination vehicle not included in Classes A or B. Single vehicles with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or towing a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. A vehicle designed to transport 23 or fewer passengers including the driver. An autocycle. Some of the most important regulations that apply to CDL drivers are the prohibitions against using alcohol, drugs, texting, hand-held phones, and driving while fatigued. These are some of the leading causes of truck crashes. Both CDL and non-CDL must follow these regulations and others, including using their seat belts and use of extreme caution during hazardous weather. If you have been injured in an accident involving any commercial vehicle, contact Berenson Injury Law. If the driver and/or the employer were negligent, you may have the right to collect compensation.

Garbage and recycling trucks are extremely dangerous to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The combination of their giant construction, improper maintenance, and poor drivers can make them accidents waiting to happen. These behemoths have caused many deaths and serious injuries in our area. Just a few months ago, another person died in a Fort Worth collision with one. These vehicles are inherently dangerous for many reasons, especially their massive size. The average truck weighs over 60,000 pounds versus the average car's weight of 3,000 pounds. Garbage truck drivers must have a commercial drivers licenses and are held to a higher standard of care under transportation statutes. Unfortunately some fail to live up to the more vigorous rules. Waste management is an enormous $100 billion a year industry and clearly has the resources to insure that safe trucks and drivers are on the roads. Our law firm has handled all types of commercial truck collision cases in Dallas - Fort Worth for the past 37 years and understands their complexities. We are fighting for our clients in a substantial garbage truck case now and have successfully handled others in the past.

Faulty brakes, overloaded cargo, under inflated tires and sleep-deprived drivers are truck accidents waiting to happen. These are the very safety issues targeted by rigorous Texas Department of Public Safety inspections. DPS officers inspect trucks and drivers and issue decals to indicate the fleet is safe and are required to take unsafe tractor-trailers out of service. Or at least that's what usually happens. But recently the owner of a Dallas trucking company paid off a dishonest DPS inspector in exchange for the required safety decals. The company claims to be “frequently recognized for its integrity and reliability” and that “safety is our biggest concern.” But instead of fixing any safety violations, the owner forked over $20,000 in bribes to keep his dangerous fleet of tractor-trailers on the road.  Let's hope that Cruz and Sons Transportation is the only truck company which has done this. Texans should be angry about this bribery. It's bad enough that one of our public officials is being paid off, but worse that he potentially put our lives at risk. These inspections are crucial to keep Texas roads safe.

Smokey and the Bandit mentality will stop.

Starting next month, all trucking companies must start complying with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule. While this might seem like a technical issue that only people in the trucking industry would care about, it's an important safety improvement for all of us. You might not remember the 1977 comedy Smokey and the Bandit. Audiences cheered as the truck driver raced against time and outwitted the police to get beer from Texarkana to Atlanta within 28 hours. He made it with only 10 minutes to spare, then won a big bet by continuing driving to Boston in 18 hours. Today drivers often race against the clock to get their load delivered by unreasonable deadlines. And they may not stop to take a much-needed rest break either. But tired truck drivers often cause real life tragedies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 13 percent of commercial drivers were fatigued when they crashed their trucks -- so you know the number is much higher. The FMCSA addressed this risk factor by strengthening hours of service (HOS) rules which restrict the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to drive and work each week and mandates rest breaks. The HOS regulations also require drivers to maintain logbooks that demonstrate they are in compliance. But skirting these rules has been far too easy.

I am again representing a client who was badly injured by a reckless trucker in the same spot where another client was seriously injured recently. Here's a photo of the18 wheeler dangling off a bridge on I-35 from CBS-11 television after it crashed into five vehicles. A distracted trucker plowed into my client’s car and others in the exact same location a year and a half ago, seriously injuring her and killing her boyfriend. Several years ago, I represented the family of a young tow-truck driver who was struck and killed by a fatigued trucker just up the road on I-35 who fell asleep at the wheel -- or had a heart attack, as his insurance company attorneys claimed in federal court. These wrecks are never-ending. Last week, a tractor-trailer barreled into six vehicles on I-35 in north Fort Worth and caught fire, injuring nine people and shutting down the highway for six hours. The truck driver was speeding and could not stop in time to avoid the crash. I'm sure that an investigation will show he was also distracted. My law firm has represented many people who were injured and the families of those who were tragically killed by 18 wheelers. When the same problem occurs over and over again, it’s time to fix it.

We know the dangers. How do we fix it?

4,067 people died in 2015 in tractor-trailer accidents, a huge increase of almost 10 percent over 2014. These fatality statistics includes pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, motorists and the truckers themselves. Why are deaths increasing and how can we stop this terrible trend?

Watch This Video

It's hard to believe that no one died in this horrific tractor-trailer crash. I'm letting you know before you watch this, because otherwise the video of a woman trapped in a burning car might be too disturbing to watch. A wreck like this can happen in the blink of an eye. Hopefully not to you. You can see the tractor trailer barreling through a construction zone and ramming into a line of cars like pin balls. To the left of the screen, you can see a car erupt into flames. It had been crushed against the center barricade. The driver was not able to get the door open as a fireball shot 10 feet in the air billowing black smoke. The quick thinking of fellow motorists and a nearby construction crew fortunately saved her life. And somehow the woman suffered only minor cuts and bruises. So much for the age old insurance company argument that only big collisions can cause big injuries and small crashes yield minor injuries, right?

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its annual Most Wanted list for 2017. The wish list comprises easily implemented regulations that could prevent tractor-trailer deaths and injuries. Safety regulations are important for the well being of truckers, but the general public is the real loser of lax regulations. Occupants and pedestrians account for 84 percent of tractor-trailer collision deaths versus 16 percent of trucker deaths. When the trucking industry claims that regulations will increase costs of transporting goods, which will be passed to the consumer, it is obvious that consumers already bear the costs of not implementing effective regulations. Truck crash fatalities were 22 percent higher in 2015 than they were just six years earlier. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds in that time. We also have definitive studies that identify the causes of tractor-trailer crashes and yet the death rate continues to increase. Why is this happening? The ineffectiveness of trucking rules is a big reason. Here are the NTSB's suggestions for new procedures and devices that would make our roads safer.

Tractor-trailer carriers are rated by the federal government and their safety records are important evidence for personal injury lawyers when their big rigs crash into other vehicles and cause personal injuries and sometimes deaths. However a new FMCSA rule changes what evidence will be available to prosecute tractor-trailer companies. Giant companies like J.B. Hunt and Federal Express can now ask the FMCSA to remove crashes from their histories to improve their safety reputation at trial.

Trucker Gets 20 Years for Hitting School Bus While Naked Wife in Cab

I am constantly surprised by what some truck drivers do while operating a 40-ton tractor-trailer. As a personal injury lawyer, I have handled many truck crash cases in which the trucker was texting, surfing the net, chatting on the phone, eating lunch, reaching down for a soft drink, and/or not watching the road in front of him. Yesterday I wrote about a Fort Worth collision I'm filing suit over where the 18 wheeler driver was distracted and slammed into my client's stopped SUV at 68 MPH. But a Florida truck driver took distraction to a whole new level. The 37 year-old truck driver plowed his log-hauling rig into an elementary school bus that had slowed to drop off kids. The driver was so distracted he failed to notice the bright flashing lights and the “stop” arm jutting from the side of the bus. No wonder! After listening to the heartbreaking testimony of the seven severely injured school children on Wednesday, the judge showed the distracted truck driver no mercy. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2014 crash.
Contact Information