Consider the statistics. In 2012, 63,522 people were injured, and 4,103 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks. In the following year, 65,777 people were injured, and 3,996 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks. Through the first six months of 2014, the statistics are similar. In 2012, large trucks accounted for 4 percent of all registered vehicles on American highways and only 9 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, yet tractor-trailers accounted for 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.
When ordinary cars collide with tractor-trailers, it just isn’t a fair fight. While the average passenger car might weigh 4,000 pounds, a fully loaded tractor-trailer may legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds under federal law. The forces involved in these collisions are massive and often life-changing.
As a result, those who wish to operate large trucks on highways with ordinary Americans have to ask for permission from the federal government. When they ask for permission, they fill out a little-known form called “Form OP-1,” in which they promise that they will be familiar with, and follow, “all applicable USDOT regulations pertaining to the safe operation of commercial vehicles.” This may be thought of the truck company’s agreement with the American people, because much is at stake on our highways.
Operating a large truck on U.S. roads is a privilege, not a right, and truck companies have to do it safely if they are going to do it at all. This means hiring qualified, professional drivers who understand and follow the safety rules. This means maintaining trucks so that key parts like brakes and tires are safe. This means making sure that truck drivers are rested and alert while driving.
When a truck driver or a trucking company breaks the safety rules, serious injury and death may occur, and a company that does not keep its promise to the public must be held accountable for the consequences.
If you find yourself the victim of a truck crash, or you have a loved one who has been injured in a truck crash, you need attorneys who understand truck collision cases and the unique, complicated rules that apply to them. At Farris, Riley & Pitt, we know the extensive rules that are particular to trucking cases, and we know how they should be handled for a successful outcome.
Over the coming months, I am going to be looking in more detail at the financial responsibility of trucking companies, the qualifications of truck drivers and the rules about how long, and how far, drivers may travel before resting or sleeping. At the end of this series, I hope you will agree that we don’t have to demand accountability from trucking companies. They have already promised that to us.