Birmingham is a major city for commercial vehicle travel. Our city sees thousands of 18-wheelers and big rigs on our highways every day. While truck drivers undergo special training to safely operate these larger vehicles, they make errors that can lead to devastating and deadly collisions. If a trucker is responsible for your recent traffic collision, don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting with our truck accident attorney at Powers Injury Law. Your first consultation is 100% free.
Snapshot of the Commercial Trucking Industry
The national trucking industry is massive. The country relies heavily on freight vehicles to transport goods and keep the economy running. Consumers all over the world rely on America’s trucking industry for products and materials. Unfortunately, an increase in large trucks on the road means an increase in the number of trucking accidents. Here’s a look at the most recent trucking industry statistics, based on a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration report:
- There were 8,456,302 single-unit trucks and 2,746,882 combination trucks registered in the U.S. in 2015. Large trucks traveled approximately 279.8 billion miles in 2015. There are about 5.9 million active commercial motor vehicle drivers in the U.S.
- About 17,725 motor carriers transported hazardous materials across state lines in 2016. The same year, there were 88,406 active hazardous materials carriers in the U.S. Transporting hazardous materials has special requirements according to the FMCSA.
- In 2015, large trucks shipped 11,396 millions of tons of freight within the United States. This is the greatest amount of freight shipped since 2011. Every year, trucks ship more freight than trains, ships, aircraft, and pipelines put together.
Birmingham is a hub for commercial trucks, with thousands passing through every day on their way to other places. The greater the number of large trucks on the road, the greater the chance of collisions. Since big rigs will always be part of Alabama’s traffic, the only way to reduce the number of accidents is to focus on trucking safety. This starts with an examination of the most common FMCSA rule violations
Trucking Crash Statistics
According to the FMCSA, 3,598 fatal accidents and 83,000 injury crashes involved large trucks in 2015. Another 328,000 large truck accidents caused property damage only. From 1975 to 2015, the number of large trucks registered in the U.S. has increased by almost six million. Yet fatal accidents involving large trucks have decreased disproportionately in relation to the number of trucks on the roads. This points to effective safety improvements in the last few decades. Still, thousands of people lose their lives every year because of trucking company and truck driver negligence.
Statistics in Alabama show 104 large truck accident fatalities in 2015. This equates to a fatality rate of 0.15 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. These numbers increased from 2014, which saw 88 truck-related fatalities (a rate of 0.13). The state with the most truck accident fatalities in 2015 was Texas, with 593 deaths at a rate of 0.23. The state with the least was Rhode Island, with two fatalities (a rate of 0.03). Large truck crashes killed 3,657 vehicle occupants, 334 pedestrians, 54 pedalcyclists, and 22 unknown non-motorists in 2015.
Alabama Truck Collision Injuries 2015
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of fatal truck collisions in Alabama occur on highways – be that interstates, U.S. roads or state roads. The combination of size and spe
Looking at the numbers is one thing. Experiencing a large truck accident yourself is another. If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck crash in Birmingham, come to Powers Injury Law. We want to help you seek recovery for your hospital bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Talk to one of our lead attorneys during a free consultation.
Common Trucking Industry Violations
The FMCSA has hundreds of federal laws that trucking companies and drivers must obey. These range from sleep schedules to vehicle weight restrictions. Birmingham works to catch trucking violations before they cause accidents. The city does this with roadside inspections, as mandated by federal law. State inspectors are responsible for about 95% of all commercial motor vehicle inspections around the country. These inspections have produced data on the most commonly broken rules. The top five violations for 2016 around the U.S. are as follows, in order:
- No log or outdated log. Drivers must maintain current activity logs that record their hours of service, vehicle inspections, and other information. There were 171,415 general log violations and 74,566 violations for non-current drivers’ record of duty statuses.
- Traffic enforcement. Law enforcement issued 67,487 citations for speeding six to 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
- Other driver violations. Non-English speaking drivers resulted in 66,339 violations in 2016. An FMCSA rule requires interstate drivers to read and speak English proficiently enough to respond to official inquiries.
- Seat belt violation. There were 59,964 citations for failure to use seat belts while operating commercial motor vehicles. Truck drivers must obey the federal seatbelt rule regardless of each individual state’s seatbelt laws.
- Hours of service (HOS). Inspectors issued 58,757 violations for driving beyond the eight-hour limit since the last 30-minute break. Breaking the HOS regulations increases the risk of drowsy driving truck accidents.
Other common violations involved failure to obey traffic control devices, lane restriction violations, operating without a commercial license, and cell phone use behind the wheel. Moving violations were the most common, followed by drug and alcohol violations, railroad crossing violations, and miscellaneous reasons. Serious rule violations result in out-of-service (OOS) orders for the truck and/or driver. The truck cannot resume its transport until someone resolves the issue. In 2016, there were 464,343 OOS orders for vehicle-related issues and 160,691 for driver violations.
Types of Truck Accidents
Every FMCSA law serves a purpose and is important to the safety of everyone on the roadway. Violating just one rule puts other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians at risk. Sadly, not all truck drivers and companies take federal rules as seriously as they should. This results in thousands of fatal truck accidents every year. When a large truck crashes, it tends to do so in specific ways based on the vehicle’s size, shape, and weight. The most common types of accidents include:
- The bed of the truck swings out at a 90-degree angle from the cab, creating a “jackknife” shape. These accidents commonly occur when the driver fails to use the proper braking technique. A truck in jackknife position loses control and may flip over.
- Tire blowout. Tire maintenance is key to preventing trucking accidents. When a tire blows out on the truck, it can cause the vehicle to “trip,” and rollover, career into other vehicles, or drive off the road.
- A truck can topple and roll over if the driver speeds too fast for conditions, tries to take a turn too sharply, or uses improper braking techniques. Trucks sliding and rolling over can crush other vehicles or cause pileups on the highway.
- Blind spot accidents. The length of an 18-wheeler makes blind spots inevitable. If you can’t see the truck’s rearview mirrors, the driver can’t see you. A truck may merge on top of a smaller vehicle that lingers in its blind spots.
- Rear-end collision. Large trucks cannot stop as quickly as smaller, lighter vehicles. This increases the risk of rear-end collisions, which can crush the smaller car. Truckers must maintain proper following distance and pay attention to the road at all times.
- Lost load. Unsafe cargo loading practices can lead to the load shifting weight or falling off the truck. Lost loads are extremely dangerous to other drivers and can cause serious accidents.
Truck accidents may stem from driver negligence, fatigue, inattention, speeding, tailgating, use of alcohol or drugs, or poor vehicle maintenance. Birmingham Personal Injury Lawyers At Powers Injury Law, we have the ability to investigate a truck accident in Birmingham and get to the bottom of what caused it. Examining the type of accident can help point to a likely cause. For example, a tire blowout could point to lack of truck maintenance or a defective tire. Lost load accidents could come down to negligence on the part of the trucking company’s loading crew.
Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Crashes
The trucking industry is responsible for thousands of serious injuries and wrongful deaths on United States roadways every year. Truckers are under a lot of pressure to deliver and pick up loads on strict schedules, sometimes leading to poor decision making. Truckers may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with long hours of isolation on the road, or ignore their hours of service regulations and drive drowsy to meet a deadline.
In other cases, trucking companies may pressure their drivers to work too hard or engage in unsafe driving practices, such as offering bonuses for people who beat their deadlines. There are many reasons trucking incidents occur in Alabama.
Take a look at the causes of truck collisions in Alabama in 2015:
Causes of Alabama Truck Accidents: 2015
Powers Injury Law handles Birmingham truck collision cases involving (but not limited to):
- Distracted driving
- Eating/drinking behind the wheel
- Texting or using phones while driving
- Driving under the influence
- Careless or reckless driving
- Incompetent drivers
- Road rage
- Disobeying roadway rules
- Driving past hours of service agreements
- Drowsy driving
- Overweight/poorly packed loads
- Hazardous cargoes and spills
- Improper truck maintenance
- Mechanical malfunctions
- Defective vehicle parts
- Poor hiring, training, and retention practices
Regardless of why trucking crashes occur, they can lead to life-threatening injuries and death. Due to the enormous size and weight of 18-wheelers, commercial trucks often crush, roll over, or completely obliterate other vehicles in their paths. Drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicle almost always suffer worse injuries than the truck driver in these collisions.
What to Do After a Trucking Crash
After a trucking incident, the first step of Powers Injury Law is to determine fault. This may take an in-depth investigation into the cause of the crash. Work with Powers Injury Law to get investigators on your case as soon as possible after a collision. Our team will revisit the scene of the collision, protect critical evidence from destruction, and put together a strong case for why you deserve fair compensation for damages.
We have the power to access information such as the driver’s previous traffic collision history, phone records at the time of the crash, and driver’s log that reports his/her activities and sleep times. Many commercial trucks today use electronic logging systems to measure vehicle maintenance and driver behaviors. We can use this information to piece together how and why your collision occurred.
Fault may lie with the driver, who engaged in dangerous practices and caused a collision. If the driver is an independent contractor (as many are), your only option may be to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company. If the driver is an employee however, you may bring a claim against the trucking company or fleet manager. A collision resulting from inadequate maintenance or negligent hiring/training practices may also become the liability of the trucking company.
After a crash with a commercial truck, it’s important to learn your rights in terms of how to pursue compensation. Monetary recovery for your property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages can go a long way toward helping you and your family heal after a disastrous 18-wheeler wreck. If your loved one was killed in an accident our Birmingham wrongful death attorneys are ready to get started on your truck wreck case, contact Powers Injury Law for a free consultation.