Articles Posted in Safety Violations

An employer can’t claim it didn’t know about driver’s past safety violations

Employers cannot blindly hire truckers without reviewing their work history and safety record.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has detailed regulations to help prevent unqualified drivers from being hired.  This minimizes the possibility that a driver jumps from job to job to hide his history of crashes, safety violations, drug and alcohol use,  medical issues, or other problems that create dangerous driving conditions.

As an injury lawyer, I see companies failing to follow FMCSA regulations.

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Self-Reporting Must Be Ended

An 18-wheeler driver was killed when he plowed into a strip mall and his cataract surgery was cited as a possible cause of the accident.

A tractor-trailer driver ran out of his blood pressure and diabetes medication blacked out, and rammed into a tour bus, killing two passengers.

Greyhound bus wreck that injured this woman and 34 other passengers after the driver blacked out and rolled the bus over an embankment. Investigators discovered the driver had sleep apnea, a condition he didn’t disclose on his application.

A bus collided with a pickup truck, killing the driver. The bus driver also didn’t report his sleep apnea and had also stopped using a machine that would have kept the condition under control.

There are thousands of other crashes like this every year involving commercial vehicles like 18 wheelers.

These nightmarish stories highlight the ineffectiveness of the current commercial driver self-reporting system. The inadequate process fails to identify drivers who have dangerous medical conditions. Often, the driver’s condition is only discovered once he has caused a crash.

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New Federal Rules Keep Tired Truck Drivers Off the Road 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations limit drivers’ time driving, mandate rest periods and require drivers to maintain accurate logbooks. These rules are intended to keep exhausted drivers off the roads and are critical in personal injury lawsuits.

However the FMCSA investigators and injury lawyers have long been duped by dishonest drivers who kept two logbooks or manipulated the entries. When agents examined the drivers’ logbooks, all seemed to be in order, when in reality tired drivers had  extended their work hours and skipped breaks.

After causing multiple collisions or racking up numerous violations, a trucking company attracts the attention of regulatory agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Eventually the company might be forced to stop doing business if the agency determines the company is too unsafe to remain in business. 

However some of these companies have taken the dishonest approach of changing their names and applying for new Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers. These trucking companies are referred to as chameleon carriers because their name change allows them to blend in with the other carriers. 

What’s in a Name?

But a new name does not mean a new way it conducts its business. In the typical scenario, the trucking company has a clean slate that helps it stay under the radar, allowing it to continue its unsafe practices. Up to its old tricks, the chameleon carrier may not get caught until it is slapped with numerous new violations or its driver injures or even kills other motorists. 

Out-Foxing the Feds

The strategy is simple. Once regulatory agencies have taken notice, the company seemingly disappears. The no-longer-existing company, thus, avoids fines and liability. The new company avoids scrutiny. 

How have government agencies permitted this to happen? The DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) should go after companies that have multiple violations, not allow them to scurry off into the night with no consequences. In doing so, these agencies are more likely to catch chameleon carriers before they have the chance to injure others. Perhaps use the fine money collected from these noncompliant trucking companies to fund further enforcement. 

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Provisions Improve Road, Auto and Truck Safety, But There Are Major Problems With New Law

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act just passed the U.S. House and Senate and now goes to the president for his signature. The law adds $305 billion of funding into roads, bridges, rail, trucking and other badly needed transit projects and safety measures over the next five years. But the Obama administration had hoped for at least $400 million.

The new law includes measures that will increase auto and roadway safety and hold automakers accountable when they violate the law. This is long overdue considering the horrific conduct of GM, Takata and Trinity Industries, among many other corporations that have willingly injured motorists with their defective vehicles, seat belts and guard rails, then covered up evidence of their malfeasance. 

 

 

The employer of the tractor-trailer driver involved in a fatal Dallas accident Monday had numerous traffic safety violations. The Red Bird area accident tragically killed four people, including two children and a pregnant woman.

Southeastern AG Transport Inc. based in Rienzi, Mississippi transports lumbar, poles, beams, logs and other building materials. The company racked up multiple unsafe driving violations and speeding tickets. One of its drivers was involved in a nonfatal accident in August 2014 and another  was cited for using or being under the influence of drugs a month later. 

Inspection violations included inoperative turn signals, broken lights, unsecured vehicle equipment and worn tire treads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) violation records indicate that Southeastern AG Transport had enormous recent out of service rates of 33.3 percent for its trucks and 10.7 for its drivers. The national averages were 20.7 percent for vehicles and 5.5 percent for truck drivers. 

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Texas Inspections Reveal Widespread Problems 

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) removed more than two-fifths of commercial vehicles during inspections conducted as part of the safety initiative called Roadcheck 2015. During the three-day event in June, the TX DPS Commercial Vehicle Enforcement troopers worked with specially trained Highway Patrol troopers and civilian inspectors to examine tractor-trailers, buses and other commercial vehicles.

Shockingly, Roadcheck inspectors discovered that 1,710 of the 7,865 commercial vehicles inspected had such serious violations that they were taken out of service until repairs could be made, meaning that at least 22% of these large vehicles had dangerous safety problems. Defective brakes and lighting were the most common issues that resulted in out-of-service determinations. 

Huge Number of Drivers Also Deemed Unsafe

Drivers also were inspected under the Roadcheck campaign. The DPS issued 1,947 citations and 21,312 warnings and took 212 drivers out of service. Many of the drivers did not have the correct type of license to operate the vehicle they were driving. Also many drivers had violated hours of service laws (HOS) regarding keeping accurate logs of their duty and drive times and driving more than the maximum allowable number of hours.

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Electronic Logging Devices To Improve Compliance with Hours of Service Violations 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced last year a proposed rule that mandates electronic logging devices (ELD’s) in commercial trucks. The new rule is not scheduled to take effect until two years after the rule is published in the Federal Register on September 30, 2015.

This change is long overdue. Why?

Tractor-trailer drivers are required to maintain written logs of their miles travelled, work and drive hours and rest periods to comply with the hours of service (HOS) regulations. These handwritten logs can easily be tampered with if a driver has violated the HOS rules. In some cases, drivers maintain two sets of records — one that reflects the real data and a second that is manipulated to demonstrate compliance. The driver sometimes produces the fraudulent set of data after an accident or in connection to an investigation.  Proving that the logs have been doctored is one of the most frustrating aspects of handling a case against a commercial carrier and its negligent driver.

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Speeding Driver Had Been Awake for More Than 24 Hours

A year ago this week, comedian Tracy Morgan and his colleagues were on their way home after a performance when a speeding Wal-Mart truck plowed into their limo. 62 year-old James McNair, known as Jimmy Mack, was killed and 45 year-old Tracy Morgan was severely injured.

The popular star of SNL and Thirty Rock suffered serious traumatic brain injury, broken ribs and a broken leg. After a full year of extensive medical treatments and therapy, Tracy still has not been able to return to the stage. He made his first public appearance Monday and said he has bad days and good days. Although he continues to suffer from headaches and memory loss, Tracy told the Today Show host that his most difficult loss is the death of his close friend Jimmy Mack.

The fatal Wal-Mart accident might have been even worse. Tracy’s family typically travels with him to his comedy shows. But, fortunately, they remained home on this occasion. Otherwise, his children and fiancée may have been in the vehicle when the tractor-trailer plowed into them.

Confidential Settlement Agreement

Tracy’s settlement with the world’s largest retailer is confidential. Although the details are not public, Tracy expressed gratitude toward Wal-Mart, and the CEO of the company plans to make a personal apology, so these details give a small measure of insight into terms of the deal. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart settled with Jimmy Mack’s family for $10 million.

Driver Faces Criminal Charges, But What About Wal-Mart?

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America runs on trucks, but not enough young people are hearing the call of the road. This has trucking companies facing a major labor shortage, according to Business Insider.

The shortage is striking. The American Trucking Association estimates the U.S. needs 30,000 truck drivers right now, and as many as 239,000 by 2022. At least 100,000 new truckers will need to be added every year for the next decade.

Trucking used to be a solid job, but, like many industries, it has been slow to recover from the 2008 recession. Trucking companies large and small lost the ability to borrow money, which stifled growth and caused many drivers to go home and never come back. The ones still on the road jump from company to company, but their numbers are dwindling as businesses struggle to replace retiring drivers.

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