The size of the US trucking industry is enormous. It includes all forms of transportation, from subway, municipal bus and train systems for commuters to the massive ships serving as containers transporting goods from one port to another all over the world. The airline industry transports both passengers and cargo worldwide. The transportation industry as a whole maintains the need for one particular mode of transportation, trucks and tractor-trailers.
The trucking industry holds great significance to the overall transportation industry due to the fact that all types and sizes of businesses depend on the trucking industry to fulfil their needs. The needs of customers shipping cargo create a need for fast and timely delivery. The timeliness of the needs of customers brings with it, a greater need for safety. Speed of delivery creates more dangerous truckers and thus, a need for increased safety regulation. The trucking industry is so massive that in order to reach a final destination, the shipper cannot simply use one mode like trains, ships, and planes. Without trucks and tractor-trailers, many goods cannot reach ports, rail yards or airports. In the event that the trucking industry had a temporary breakdown, it would have a great effect on the US economy as a whole.
Being the lifeblood of the US economy, the trucking industry contributes massively towards the transportation of hundreds of thousands worth of goods every year. With almost 70 percent of the freight tonnage being moved on trucks in the United States, the trucking industry is a crucial pillar of the US economy. Our economy would reach a standstill without the drivers and the trucking industry itself. Almost 3 million heavy-duty trucks (class 8 trucks) are required every year for the transportation of 9.2 billion tons of freight. This means having to utilize more than 3 million drivers every year. The trucking industry utilizes more than 37 million gallons of diesel fuel annually to move all the goods.
The size of the trucking industry and its effect on the U.S. economy are best understood by reviewing statistics as shown in the following list:
i.Of all the registered vehicles, commercial trucks account for 10.9 percent of the total vehicles. These trucks paid $14.3 billion in federal highway-user taxes. These trucks generated $18.7 billion in state highway-user taxes.
ii.For each gallon of diesel fuel, 24.4 cents is paid in federal fuel tax as of August 2011.
iii.For each gallon of gasoline 18.4 cents is paid in federal fuel tax.
iv.On average, 22.6 cents is paid for each gallon of diesel.
v.For each gallon of gasoline approximately 21.8 cents was paid in 2011 for state fuel tax.
i.For business purposes, 2.4 million trucks of class 8 type were used in 2009 which dropped to 2.3 million in 2010.
i.The number of miles logged by class 6-8 trucks was 131.2 billion miles. This value is for business purposes (excluding government and farm)
I.90.2 percent of motor carriers operate at least 6 or fewer trucks.
II.97.2 percent of motor carriers have fewer than 20 trucks.
I.In 2010 the trucking industry employed approximately 6.8 million employees. This value excludes those drivers and employees who claim to be self-employed.
II.During this same period, there were approximately 3 million truck drivers that were employed by the industry.
Trucks and motor carriers have a number of essential responsibilities and functions. One of the functions of trucks and motor carriers that carry immense economic value to the overall economy is the delivery of raw material to manufacturers. Trucks are used for the transportation of raw materials from local suppliers (mines, farm, loggers, and quarries) to factories in order to turn the raw materials into vital products. After the manufacturing process is complete, the trucks are then required to transport the finished goods to retailers and wholesalers. Trucks carry all sorts of goods from one place to another and make up to $140 million in shipped goods annually according to research conducted by Business Insider as of 2013. The diversity of goods transported includes furniture, motor vehicles, stone and minerals, agricultural and fish products, leathers, petroleum, textiles, wood, coal and a number of other products. Trucks transport just about every product category that can be imagined.
Business Insider reports that almost 800,000 truck drivers work in the US and their combined earnings reach about $30 billion each year. The owner-operator model is mostly used by the small trucking businesses. This basically means that the truck driver is self-employed. Many larger motor carriers employ union drivers. The rights of each individual driver are protected by the unions. One of the largest unions is the Brotherhood of Teamsters. This union can have a substantial effect on the economy by simply striking. A prolonged strike in the trucking industry can bring the economy to a halt and can cause massive delays in shipping along with sharp price increases. The effect of a shutdown is to ultimately create a higher end retain price for consumers.
Business Insider reported that the trucking industry accumulates revenues of $650 billion annually meaning that it earns almost 84 percent of the entire revenue that is contributed by the commercial transportation industry. Due to the massive size of the US trucking industry, various regulations have been placed on it by the federal, state and local governments. For example, regulations prevent trucks from driving on certain streets and roadways. Many state and federal agencies have set different speed limits for large trucks and tractor-trailers due to the hazards that come along with the transportation of goods. As discussed previously, hours-of-service maximum driving limits on hours have been set to protect the public. These rules and safety regulations are in place to ensure the safety and security of the motoring public. Some motor carriers work together in coalitions to help shape the policies, regulation and laws. They do this by creating minimum industry standards called Best Practices for the entire industry. One important organization that has considerable political power is the American Trucking Association. This association supplies relevant data and details about shipment, safety and other information that helps the industry as a whole.
Despite the immense gross revenue of the US trucking industry the trucking industry as a whole faces a number of challenges. The biggest concern faced by the industry is the fact that it is highly unsafe. Thousands of accidents are caused each year due to safety violations combined with fatigued drivers and time deadlines imposed on tired truck drivers. The FMCSR and the CSA studies of the Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are constantly undergoing changes to attempt to prevent fatal and life altering injuries. Regardless of the rules and regulations which are presently in place, accidents still occur because of a number of reasons.
The inadequate maintenance of trucks, tractors, trailers, tires and brakes leads to profit driven inadequate maintenance and repair. Overloaded trucks on poor roadways lead to a significant number of crashes with motor vehicle passenger cars.
Another reason that greatly contributes towards crashes is the fact that the general public sharing roads are unaware of effect that heavily loaded tractors and trailers cannot stop in the same time as motor vehicles and cars without heavy loading. Passenger car operators are generally unaware of braking issues concerning large semis. Drivers of cars are further unaware of perception and reaction time. Truck drivers are taught to learn what these terms mean. Regardless, many truck drivers still drive heavy loads over legal limits without caring what the ultimate effect of their own reaction and perception time as it relates to their stopping ability to avoid slow and congested traffic.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that large trucks which included single-unit and tractor-trailers with weight in excess of ten thousand pounds cause far more deaths on the highway than passenger cars in general. The Institute reports that these heavy commercial motor vehicles have a higher incident rate per mile when it comes to deaths in comparison to other passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicle occupants obviously are at greater risk for death simply due to how force and mass combined with speed and acceleration have a devastating effect on the smaller and weaker vehicle. The larger the mass of the truck and trailer the more deadly the force is at the moment of impact. On average, trucks weigh 20-30 times more than passenger cars. The motoring public in a car will always be the loser when a collision occurs and the smaller vehicle takes the brunt of the impact. Truck drivers in larger vehicles often walk away from an accident unscathed, while the occupants of the cars leave in body bags.
When a tractor-trailer is fully loaded the combination of truck, trailer and load may weigh 80,000 pounds. When overloaded, the danger of this instrumentality of death increases exponentially. The length of these tractor-trailers often meets or exceeds a length of 65 feet. These weight and length variables fundamentally influence the capabilities and driving characteristics of the particular commercial motor vehicle. Some of the affected characteristics are discussed below.
Brakes: At 55 mph, an auto can normally stop inside 130 to 140 feet. In contrast to the smaller and lighter passenger car, a fully loaded big rig can take 190 to 200 feet of stopping distance to reach a final resting point. An overloaded semi with poorly maintained brakes may take 400-500 feet or longer to reach a complete stop. The truck driver does not realize that the poorly maintained brakes and overloaded vehicle will not stop as fast. This leads to the foreseeable result of the inability to stop, collision with a passenger car, and severe injury and death to the occupants of the smaller vehicle.
Increasing speed: Truck drivers often speed down hills and mountains where they become instrumentalities of destruction. This is why many states have truck ramps to allow the speeding and out of control tractor-trailer to go to a long ramp taking them up hill to stop their continuation of building a velocity that is too safe for anyone. In Wyoming, they have developed large types of rubber bands that catch the semi, then expand and slow their rate of acceleration as a last possible chance to avoid someone dying.
Visibility and blind spots: Tractor-trailers have huge blind spots in the back, on both sides and in proximity to the tractor near the immediate rear of the driver’s seat on either side of the tractor. These blind spots are known to the truck driver, but not to the approaching or passing motorist. Blind spots can be from as few as a few feet to as high as 100-200 feet, depending on the length of the trailer or tandem trailer. The blind spots not only are on the sides and in the back, but reach to the front of the tractor cab. Oftentimes, drivers of these larger vehicles miss pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals that are outside of their visible area of sight and these innocents are injured and killed.
Mobility: Big trucks require additional room to make turns. Drivers frequently move to the left to make a right turn. Likewise, on multi-path streets, truckers will veer toward the center path in light of the fact that it provides addition room for completion of their turn. Auto drivers need to stay as far away from a turning tractor-trailer as humanly possible in order to avoid injury.
Below are a few statistics pertaining to the crashes and accidents caused by trucks:
Huge trucks, for example, tankers, tractor-trailers, semis or 18-wheelers are significantly larger in size that the smaller passenger vehicles, pick-ups and SUV’s traveling the nations streets, highways and turnpikes. If a highway is a faster roadway with a higher speed limit, the mistakes of the truck driver can be much more significant due to the reduction in perception and reaction time of not only the truck driver, but also the operator of the passenger vehicle. A small mistake may lead to a huge catastrophe that could have been prevented at a slower speed. Some safety lapses by motor carriers that cause accidents, death and severe injuries are:
Failure of Equipment
Large trucks have numerous moving parts. Equipment must be checked on a daily pretrip inspection basis and at required distances per regulations of the DOT and FMCSR. The driver that fails to follows the rules runs the inherent risk of causing a collision with a passenger vehicle. Drivers have to inspect brakes, tires, air brake systems, hydraulics, lights and a host of other safety related items. When they put off the inspection, the foreseeability of an accident occurring is clear and increasing. Truck drivers cannot brake or stop adequately. They have blowouts from bad tires and then swerve across a lane of travel causing undue misery and grief. When they do not inspect their tied downs and loads, the loads become unsecured and injuries happen. If lights are not properly working the auto motorist may not see the large rig. Lawyers who work on these cases make huge discovery requests for the maintenance and repair logs to determine whether the truck driver and motor carrier complied with the strict rules under the FMCSR. Many smaller motor carrier and independent contractors avoid making repairs because it costs money and reduces profits. Equipment failures are a significant cause of motor vehicle accidents and crashes.
Driving Errors by Truck Drivers
Most truck drivers comprehend the dangers they confront on the roadway and take safeguards to drive safely and competently. Notwithstanding the safe and careful drivers there are truck drivers who will not follow the rules and do whatever it takes to get to the scheduled delivery time so they are not penalized monetarily for a late delivery. Truck driver errors are ordinarily created by driver fatigue, failing to follow the FMCSR safety regulations, failure to properly secure a load, driving while on methamphetamine and other stimulants, driving while intoxicated, overloading the trailer per regulations and many other types of errors that are too numerous to list. Drivers, who are not properly supervised, dispatched and trained lead to accidents and death.
Under the FMCSR, a truck driver must be properly qualified and trained in order to be able to operate the large trucks and tractor-trailers. This requires having a road test to prove that the driver has sufficient hazard perception skills so as not to be a danger on the road. Poorly trained drivers lead to accidents. The driver who does not have comprehensive written testing after training to determine how much he or she understood from the training process is a major flaw with many smaller motor carriers. They give the driver a FMCSR regulation book, have him sign a document saying he has read it, but no training is provided. Many drivers are unable to know or understand many of the regulations due to a fundamental system flaw, lack of training. Motor carriers that follow the rules, use classroom training, videotape presentation to teach drivers about hazards. After the training, they test them to determine proficiency and knowledge of the driver. This is not a mandatory system so many smaller companies with ten trucks and under never provide any knowledge to the drivers. When the driver is out on the highways, they cause accidents.
Another leading cause is the pay by mile to deliver on time system. The truck company and their drivers dispatch without determining actual driving time of the driver. A good company will not dispatch until they know the remaining time a driver has left to drive without violating the FMCSR. The driver only knows they get paid if they are on time and if they arrive late, the motor carrier docks their pay, reprimands them for an untimely delivery and in some cases, fires the driver. This type of system is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The obvious becomes true; the driver is dispatched to driver over hours, becomes tired and fatigued and causes a catastrophe. In order to keep their job, the driver pushes themselves to the limit and violates the maximum hours rules. The system works badly for truck drivers and the people they injure and kill in passenger cars.
Policies of trucking companies
The deliver on time model of transportation is a policy of each individual trucking company or motor carrier. The safer companies only dispatch when they know a driver has enough time to make the delivery safely. These policies can be assisted by computer algorithm programs that calculate a driver’s daily and weekly hours left available under the FMCSR. Some companies use QUALCOMM and other software and satellite systems to track the delivery and calculate the time available. The main reason most smaller motor carriers avoid using these policies and products is due to cost required to purchase and continue to use them. They sacrifice profits over lives. They do so knowingly and make a conscious decision not to pay for the safer tracking system. When this happens, it is the motor carrier that is causing the driver to drive fatigued and violate the hours of service rules.
Relationship between fatigue and accidents
Driver fatigue and/or health is a major cause of approximately 40% of all truck crashes. Fatigue is easy to prevent. The driver is simply required to stop when they are out of daily or weekly hours and ordered not to drive until a new time frame is available. This is akin to the FAA rules on pilots only flying so many hours or days in a row. The trucking industry, DOT and FMCSA regarding are constantly fighting about maximum hours of service regulations. Rule changews are made and then followed. The DOT even went to the extent to hire fatigue experts to study circadian rhythms of drivers who were monitored with EKG type devices. This allowed the DOT to study the difference between driving in nighttime, daytime and early morning hours of drive time. Dennis Wiley is a well-known fatigue expert who now testifies in court regarding how fatigue and circadian rhythms have a deleterious effect on the ability of a driver to drive too many hours. More studies are needed. The maximum hours of service rules need to be shortened. The more rested the truck driver is, the less accidents will occur. Teaching drivers to stop and rest at appropriate intervals will lead to a lessening of traffic accidents and death.
Work Factors Causing Accidents
Long driving hours will fatigue a driver and make it dangerous for the driver to continue on the road safely. Long work hours, particularly over more than one day, can cause much more profound exhaustion.
Night time driving is simply dangerous. Driving during the night places an even greater stress on the driver’s ability to stay alert and react to or perceive impending hazards and perils. The human body needs sleep and the circadian rhythm studies make that an even greater requirement. Drivers should not be dispatched at night unless they are fully rested.
Unusual early dispatch times. When motor carriers require a driver to be dispatched late at night or in the early morning hours before sunrise, just to get a load on time, they are making it near impossible to have a rested driver. These unusual dispatch times can be avoided altogether by simply having start times that make sense.
Rapid booking and scheduling for on time deliveries are hazardous. Trucking companies and freight shippers promise rapid delivery overnight without regard to safety. They have 24 hour dispatch services that are picking loads up from all over the country without regard to how many hours a driver has left. This type of booking, while efficient for profit, is a leading cause of accidents. The government regulators should require mandatory use of on-board time calculation on hours of service regulations through a combination of satellite tracking and on-board computer documentation of the hours of each driver. This information can be uploaded by satellite to the dispatcher who would immediate see that the particular truck and driver do not have enough remaining hours to make the delivery safely. In this event, another driver with rest and available hours can pick the load up. The potential for an accident would be lessened.
Insufficient time to recover from fatigue. Drivers can and should be given sufficient downtime to recover from exhaustion and fatigue. A driver can be required to stop, sleep in the sleeper or a nearby motel until he or she is refreshed.
Off duty time means physical work. The FMCSR require the drivers to actually report off duty time in the calculation of hours. The problem arises from drivers who are busy doing non-driving work like loading and unloading pallets, filling and emptying oil, gas and chemicals. Many drivers choose to work and say they are off duty in order to make their time schedules. Motor carriers can train the drivers to calculate working time as on duty to follow the safety regulations. The driver has to learn that all work activity counts against available and remaining driving time.
Poor driving conditions. The FMCSR has a section on hazardous road conditions. The regulation requires the driver to reduce speed in poor driving conditions and, if bad enough, to cease and shut down operation until the driver can safely operate the rig. Some of the conditions are rain, ice, black ice, mist, wet roads, high winds, storms, and other environmental factors that make driving a huge tractor-trailer extremely dangerous.
Hot climate and head conditions. Trucks operate differently in cold and hot conditions due to the obvious weather conditions that come with them. Truck drivers must always be prepared for a rapid change in their ability to decrease the speed of the truck. The tractor may have a change in the manner in which it operates differently in cold or hot conditions. Motor carriers should always train the drivers on these variables in order to teach them how to safely avoid accidents.
Time of Day Factors
The most common deficiency that leads to truck accidents are braking defects. The brakes of a truck may cease to function or may not work with the required strength due to oil-contaminated brakes. Defects in brakes are often from inadequate daily driver pretrip inspections of the brakes. When a driver does a pretrip inspection he must log all findings down. It is the driver’s discretion that causes the driver to find a defect, ignore the defect and commence driving a big rig in an unsafe state.
Improper tire inspections which are not performed on a daily and scheduled basis will ultimately to a blowout. Motors on the nation’s highways often. See portions of blown out tires from tractor-trailers that have been improperly inspected and maintained. The drivers often will notice that tread depth is at a very dangerous level. Rather than spend the required money that that it would take to replace the tire, they fail to write down the finding on the log and start their trip. A blowout occurs, then the obvious happens. The tractor unit loses control, swerves, or another motorist has an accident by coming upon a hazard in the roadway from the stripped tire that is blown off of the total tire and wheel. Safety concerns demand that the drivers perform the appropriate pretrip inspection on a regular basis.
Wheel separations due to improperly fitted wheel and hub assemblies can cause truck accidents. Because wheel separations are a known and foreseeable occurrence, motor carriers are required to inspect for known problems. When the period of inspection lags, the repair and maintenance is put off and accidents occur. Maintenance of the tractor and trailer is the duty of the motor carrier and the driver. The driver has a separate duty to inspect the tractor-trailer before leaving for a new destination and at specified intervals in the FMCSR. All of these factors fall under issues of proper repair and maintenance.
Part 392.7 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations on equipment inspection requires that no commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, nor shall any driver fail to use or make use of such parts and accessories went when and as needed:
1. Service brakes, including trailer brake connections.
2. Parking (hand) break.
3. Steering mechanism.
4. Lighting devices and reflectors.
7. Windshield wipers.
8. Rear-vision mirrors.
9. Coupling devices.
Subparagraph (b) this regulation requires that the drivers operating the equipment over the road shall be deemed to have confirmed that the components were in good working order at the time that they accepted the equipment and made a decision to commence driving. In addition to all of the parts listed above, they must also check wheels, airline connections, kingpin upper coupling devices, rails or supporting frames, Tie down bolsters, locking pins, clamps, and sliding frame locks as well as many other parts.
The FMCSR requires the driver and carrier to maintain maintenance and repair logs so that in the event of an accident, the FMCSA and highway patrol and other police officers can properly perform an inspection to help determine why the accident occurred in the first place. When drivers are stopped for roadside inspections by law officers, if the violations found are bad enough, they will issue specific citations for violating regulations of the FMCSR. When the violations are severe, the driver and truck will be taken out-of-service (OOS). These violations are sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration where the specific carrier information is maintained on all trucks that a motor carrier has driving for it. This allows a safety rating to be assigned to the motor carrier for their maintenance history.
Any person or company can go to the following link and view the motor carrier’s maintenance history by inserting the carrier name or the motor carrier’s D.O.T. number.
This allows the Federal government, state governments, police officers and safety professionals as well as lawyers bringing claims for injured victims of trucking accidents to perform an immediate search of the carrier’s past maintenance history. All of the citations are identified on the search pages. An individual searching here can review and print all applicable similar maintenance infractions. This allows the reviewing person or government entity to determine if the motor carrier has developed a habit and custom of failing to repair equipment. If a motor carrier’s rating of violations becomes high enough, the carrier will be red flagged for a review and a government audit occurs.
The motor carrier has a duty, as does the driver, to keep the maintenance process logged and recorded properly. They are required to perform safety repairs when necessary and required. As noted above, as the rate of violations rises due to roadside inspections and accidents, the motor carrier’s rating becomes higher and higher. The end result of the government Safer System website is to try to have a prophylactic preventative system to identify motor carriers who do not follow the FMCSR. When an audit occurs, if the motor carrier fails to comply with the request from the DOT and the FMCSR, then the motor carrier may lose its operating authority under the DOT. When a motor carrier loses its operating authority, they are unable to transport goods or persons throughout the United States on any highway, street or roadway.
Improper maintenance regularly causes accidents. In 2013, over one million accidents occurred, many from improper maintenance. A large portion of the overall truck accidents involved 18-wheelers. About 5,000 of these accidents led to death. About ninety percent of all business truck accidents are caused by truck driver failure to inspect and repair necessary safety items on tractor-trailers. Most of these accidents would be deemed preventable.
A motor carrier can obtain its appropriate authority and license to operate by simply taking a tractor-trailer out-of-service for a momentary period of time to make the appropriate repairs. The reason that this is not done, in the occasions where a motor carrier fails to comply with the rules, is due to the fact that a loss of profit occurs when the tractor-trailer is unable to move goods across the highways. A conscious decision has to be made by the driver and/or the motor carrier to put off maintenance and repairs until another day. This conscious and reckless decision is a primary cause of injury and death due to truck accidents. The truck driver is in the best possible position to inspect the truck on a daily basis.
The decision not to pay for the necessary repairs is one that is primarily made by the driver. However, the driver may be at the beck and call of the motor carrier. Sometimes, good drivers call their dispatch officers and inform them about the need for a repair and they are told to continue driving the load so that the load is delivered on time. Drivers become fearful of losing their jobs due to reprimands, terminations, reduced pay and bonuses. The system developed by the motor carrier that punishes the driver ultimately causes injury and death to motorists driving autos, cycles, S.U.V.’s, smaller trucks and other passenger vehicles. The duty on the driver and the motor carrier is a combined duty on each. The trucking company and the driver are typically called the “motor carrier.” Both must obey the same regulations in order to prevent injury and operate safely.
Trucking organizations are obliged to follow the safety rules promulgated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set forth the required rules and regulations under Chapter 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The applicable sections are from section 380 through section 399. FMCSA regulation, part 396, requires that trucking and transport organizations must examine their trucks, tractors and trailers for maintenance in order to make regular repairs to their business trucks. A qualified maintenance supervisor is obligated to analyze and examine all trucks in the trucking organization's fleet at regular intervals and at a minimum, one time per year. The maintenance and repair investigation is a requirement that makes it mandatory that the motor carrier perform a thorough and complete inspection. The inspection requirement under part 396.3 requires that every motor carrier, and Intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintain, all motor vehicles, and Intermodal equipment which are subject to the motor carriers control. This part requires that all parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times.
Part 396.7 forbids unsafe operation. It generally requires that a motor vehicle shall not be operated in such condition as to be likely to cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations Parts 393 and 396 require that all business trucks must be legitimately maintained and repaired. The rules refer to specific maintenance issues which are known to be likely to cause accidents. Some of them are:
The appropriate maintenance of trucks, both large trucks and semi-trucks, can mean the difference between life and death to smaller passenger vehicles on the roads. Where the driver and motor carrier fail to properly maintain the vehicles, it will lead to obvious and foreseeable accidents causing human misery, suffering and death. One reported accident occurred in Caddo County, Oklahoma a few years ago provides an example of what improper maintenance leads to. In this particular accident a semi had its rear axle come loose which led to losing the tires and capability of staying in the appropriate lane of travel. The driver obviously lost control. The duals of the fifth axle flew into the windshield of a passing vehicle and two teenagers were killed. The location of the accident was in a rural area. Emergency responders were not able to get to the site crash until a lengthy period of time later. By then, it was too late to save the occupants of the vehicle. This type of accident is preventable. Simple appropriate maintenance, inspection and repair would have helped to repair the axles. It is quite likely that the driver knew or reasonably should have known that the vehicle was not operating properly. Rather than shut down the vehicle and inspect the tractor-trailer, the driver chose to continue operation. Again, the driver and carrier have on time requirements that make both ignore the obvious need for repairs.
At any given moment, any person who desires to study a certain motor carrier’s safety record on the Safer System website can look at the motor carrier’s safety record and determine whether the motor carrier has a poor history on vehicle maintenance and inspection. As costs of maintenance and repair increase, the frequency of maintenance and repair becomes more and more infrequent. This infrequency of repairs leads to injuries on highways. The importance of development of a safety inspection and maintenance program by motor carriers to comply with the FMCSR is an issue that cannot be ignored. One of the best ways to prevent accidents is to make certain that the driver performs daily pretrip inspections. The motor carrier must perform their interval inspections as required. Annual inspections must be performed by qualified personnel that are trained to inspect and repair each and every part that may be defective. It can be stated that accidents which are caused by mechanical failures are almost always preventable. Inspection and maintenance should lead to discovery of the defect or need for repair. For the motor carrier, the issue of taking the time and money necessary to stop the truck for a day, week or month and bring it out-of-service would obviously lead to a loss of gross revenues. However, following the requirements would lead to a safe tractor-trailer operating on the roadways. In turn, the chance of a motor vehicle accident would be lessened.
There are a number of measures that can be taken by trucking companies, especially those dealing with semi-trucks, to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained:
Driver inspections are required under part 396.13 of the regulations. They require the driver to be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition before driving the motor vehicle. The driver is required to review the last driver vehicle inspection report. The driver is required to sign the report if defects or deficiencies are noted by the driver. The driver is also to sign the report to certify that required repairs been performed.
Periodic inspections are required under part 396.17. The inspection must include at a minimum, parts and accessories set forth in appendix G of that subchapter. This part requires that a motor carrier must not use a commercial motor vehicle and an Intermodal equipment provider must not tender equipment to a motor carrier for interchange, unless each component identified in appendix G of that subchapter has passed and inspection in accordance with the terms of the section at least one time during the preceding 12 month period. It requires documentation of the inspection on the vehicle. It must be prepared and comply with part 396.21(a). It must also include the date of the inspection, the name of the motor carrier and information uniquely identifying the vehicle inspected. It must certify that the vehicle passed an inspection in accordance with section 396.17. A penalty is set forth under (h) which states that the failure to perform the annual inspection properly shall cause a motor carrier or the Intermodal equipment provider to be subject to the penalty provisions of 49 U.S.C. 521(b).
Periodic main inspections (PMI) are required to be performed as noted in the preceding section. The annual periodic maintenance inspection requirement is a minimum requirement under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Motor carriers should not simply follow a minimum guideline. In order to operate safely, it is suggested that motor carriers set up a quarterly inspection interval at the very least. This would provide prophylactic procedures to look for parts that are about to become defective or expire. Tires can be replaced early. Axles, and other similar connective devices can be checked more frequently to prevent their failure.
The combination of daily vehicle inspections and periodic maintenance inspections is a safety system designed by the Federal Government and safety experts to assist in preventing accidents. The more often the inspections are done, the safer the tractor-trailer will be on the roads. When a vehicle has a high level of breakdowns, it becomes apparent that the vehicle should be taken out-of-service or perhaps discontinued as an in-service vehicle. Vehicles reach a point where repairs become too costly. At that time, the motor carrier should make the appropriate financial expenditures to purchase new equipment and completely discontinue and abandon use of the equipment. Internal Revenue Service guidelines for depreciation allowed for different schedules of depreciation. One of the points of bonus depreciation was to help companies improve the quality of their equipment while enjoying the benefits of accelerated depreciation.
One of the sub-issues of following the regulations on maintenance and inspection deals with the issue of compensation of the driver. Drivers often ignore the need for maintenance and repair because of their fear that they will not be able to feed their family. Sometimes, motor carriers will reprimand or terminate the drivers if they make reports of the need for safety repairs. Motor carriers should set up a different type of system of pay that is not based on a “per mile” or “on time” delivery system. A driver should be allowed to be paid their normal weekly rate while a vehicle is taken out of service and repaired. This would allow the driver to feed himself and his family and eliminate thousands, if not millions, of unnecessary and preventable tractor-trailer accidents. Profit driven protocols of motor carriers create foreseeable unsafe operating conditions. Failing to pay a driver while the driver is down and out of service creates a foreseeable situation where the driver is required to drive an unsafe vehicle across the roadway simply to avoid losing pay. This antiquated system must change in order to have any improvement in the safe operation of tractor-trailers and large trucks.
Another sub-issue of having appropriate maintenance performed by the motor carriers at all levels is the compensation rate of the mechanics and maintenance inspectors working for their company. Motor carriers are capable of paying a higher level of compensation to their qualified maintenance inspectors. Their decision to pay the mechanic a lower level like $15 an hour leads to a foreseeable result that the employee may not perform the same level of work as a mechanic who is paid $35 an hour. The motor carrier is in charge of the time frame that the mechanic is allowed to spend for each category of inspection and repair. In the event that the motor carrier decides to allow a longer period on of time to the mechanic for each category of inspection it will increase the cost of the inspection. Development of a system of an average period of time for each category of parts and equipment that must be inspected, which pays a fair labor rate to the mechanic or inspector and sufficient time to perform a realistic complete inspection will lead to a much safer inspection. Accidents will be prevented by appropriate inspections. In other words, rapid cheap inspections lead to accidents. Careful and appropriate inspections lead to safety and less injuries and deaths.
Blown out tires left on a roadway are known as hazards. They create a significant hazard and danger to all persons using the nation’s highways, regardless of whether they are in a passenger car, a motorcycle or other smaller vehicle. They are more dangerous at night time due to the lack of visibility. Many drivers will have blown out tires on 18 Wheeler’s and continued to drive the tractor-trailer down the roadway without picking up the remnants of the tires. Some of these tires are so large that the remnants create objects were hazards in the roadway. At night time, motorist may not see the object until the last minute and then veered to avoid the object which leads to collisions and accidents. At other times, the motorist well run over the large remnants of tires which causes their vehicle to veer and leave the roadway. It is thought that tire blowouts on roadways causing axis of 25,000 accidents per year and at least 100 deaths every year in the United States and Canada. The AAA Foundation for traffic safety has reported that tire blowout hazards are an in overwhelming danger to motorist and create problematic situations that are unavoidable.
Tire blowout of mechanical origin
The specific topic of a tire blowout which is from a mechanical origin involves a defect with the tire or rim and the quality of the assembly of the tire onto the room. These types of blowouts are especially dangerous and hazardous. An enormous energy burst arises from the blowout which causes the tractor-trailer to lose control. The driver of the tractor-trailer may not anticipate the shifting of the tractor-trailer and all cargo. The tractor-trailer can easily veer into oncoming lanes of travel, shift into adjacent lanes of travel and, at times, will cause the truck driver to drive off of the traveled roadway where the truck driver is injured and/or killed.
There are four events of a mechanical origin that can cause a tire to blow out. They are:
a.Over-pressurization of the tire:
When a tire has been underinflated for the load, it may become damaged internally. Running and underinflated tires can lead to the zipper rupture, which is a very taint dangerous tire condition. Drivers should use extreme caution in handling a tire that has a zipper rupture. It is known that if tire inflation pressure becomes less than 80% of the Fleet standard that the driver should deflate the tire by removing the valve core and then remove the tire and wheel rim assembly from the vehicle. When this zipper effect occurs it can result in prompt critical air loss. The tire may have a forceful projectile like eruption of pieces of the tire. These scenarios are extremely dangerous.
Tire demounting is another hazard that is a known problem in the industry. This occurs when the tire demounts from the edge of the rim with resulting air and gasses from inside the tire causing a severe eruption.
d.Tires in poor condition or with structural defect:
Tire wear conditions can create risky and hazardous driving conditions for the operator and drivers of a large truck or motor carrier. The tire, for whatever reasons develops a defect from wear and becomes hazardous. The tire may be too weak to withstand ordinary inflation pressure.
One of the more common causes of tire wear is the underinflation of the tire by the driver due to failing to check tire pressures on a daily basis. When a tire is underinflated by as little as 6 pounds it can cause a problem with the operation of the tractor-trailer on the roadway and lead to shifting of the vehicle back and forth across the highway. The driver can lose control which will lead to the inability to maintain the appropriate lane of travel. The overinflated truck tire, similarly leads to a stiffer ride for the driver. When the truck comes across potholes and other known defects in the highway. The tractor-trailer may shift rapidly because of the stiff tire and overinflation. Daily inspection of tire pressures is absolutely necessary.
Tread separation is another dangerous condition that may make the treads of the tire separate and rapidly cause the tire to explode or blowout. Many trucking companies utilize retread or recapped tires. The use of the recapped or retreaded tires is to save money by avoiding the purchase and cost of original tread tires. While legal, retread tires are known to be dangerous and often cause accidents. Safe motor carriers tend to purchase new tires and new equipment rather than utilize parts that may be known to have defects. Obviously, retreads are less expensive than the original new tire. Looking 6 strictly from a thought process of safety, it would be in the best interests of all motorists on the roadway’s to require motor carriers to only use the tires.
Tire industry studies have demonstrated that the improper underinflation of tires will make the tire much more vault vulnerable to wear and tear. On an 18-wheeler, the underinflation of one tire may cause damage to adjacent tires or tires that are in front or in back of the 18-wheeler, since the tires not carrying its necessary support for the entire frame. The underinflation of tires can lead to overheating and tire failure. Many accidents are related to tires that he either deflate or inflate rapidly due to inflation issues. Almost all of these inflation issues are preventable by simply performing the daily tire inspection and pressure check. Appropriate inflation will create a longer useful life of the subject tire. Truck drivers should be required to write down the tire pressures of each pretrip inspection in order to determine whether or not they have actually checked the tire pressures.
High temperature in a tire can lead to significant tire blowouts and explosions. Tires are known to flex and change structure as they move down the road causing pressure and force on the rubber, elastic and steel internal strings of the manufactured tire. Tire wear is a known consequence of contact between this tire and the street. When a tire becomes hot and overexpands, a significant point of contact with the street occurs. This problem creates an uneven contact between the tire and the pavement. When the tire comes in contact with road defects, the tire can easily blowout and explode. Again, most of this can be avoided by simple pretrip daily inspections.
Many manufacturers of automobiles now have automatic sensors built into the valves of the tires. The driver of the automobile can determine whether a tire is overinflated or underinflated by getting a warning on the dashboard of the vehicle that informs the driver to stop the vehicle to change the pressurization of a particular tire. Regulation should be passed to require the mandatory use of these computerized sensors for all large trucks and tractor-trailers in order to prevent these highly frequent accidents from occurring. Due to improper inflation.
Assuming that the manufacturers of tractors for tractor-trailers will resist and fight spending additional monies on computerized safety centers for tire inflation, appropriate safety measures should be implemented to make sure the driver has a consistent awareness of dangers of tires. The truck driver should be supplied with accurate tire gauges for tire pressure. The truck driver should not be penalized for stopping to replace tires, nor should the truck driver be penalized for checking the tires on a daily basis and notifying the motor carrier of the need for replacement.
The motor carrier should create and implement a systemized training system for the truck driver to instruct the truck driver to be aware of recognized and known problems with truck where condition the driver is trained to look for certain conditions like the following:
The truck driver should be appropriately trained to look for all of the above issues. At that can occur with a tire. The truck driver should be trained to learn how to take his/her hand, and Robert across the tread and silo sidewalls to look for problems with spots that are not level, Katz, shoulder wear, swelling, sidewall weakness, tread depth and other visible and noticeable problems that occur just prior to tire blowouts. The driver can then take the truck to the nearest maintenance and repair station to have the tire removed and changed. This will help avoid accidents.
Pretrip inspection and the adherence to the FMCSR inspection protocols must be methodically following by the truck driver. The motor carrier should require the truck driver to complete the following inspection requirements before each and every trip.
Formal rules of driver training on how to avoid an accident should be taught, trained and implemented through appropriate classroom and video training. Comprehensive written testing should follow all training. The truck driver should be taught the following skills to prevent accidents after a tire blowout:
The shifting of cargo and weight is another significant problem with the transportation industry and tractor-trailers in general. One of the most important training rules for drivers is to follow the appropriate loading regulations so that shifting of cargo does not occur during transportation. An improperly loaded truck is generally defined as a truck that has been overloaded by weight or by bulk. Many accidents are caused by the truck driver that fails to properly load and secure the cargo. A secondary problem arises when the truck driver fails to check that another independent contractor or customer has properly loaded the cargo into the trailer and security. It appropriately.
There are many circumstances where cargo falls off of flatbed trailers and causes extreme death and injury to motorists. There are many other circumstances where tractor-trailers have a shift of weight and cargo during transport causing the tractor-trailer to veer across lanes of travel or tip over. The circumstances are known and foreseeable. Thus, they are regulated under the FMCSR.
Part 393.100 of the FMCSR addresses protection against shifting or following cargo. The rules in that particular regulation are applicable to trucks, truck and pulled trailers. The requirements are stringent and state that each commercial motor vehicle must, when transporting cargo on public roads, be loaded and equipped, and the cargo secured, in accordance with this subpart to prevent the cargo from leaking, spilling, blowing or following from the motor vehicle. Cargo must be contained, immobilized or secured in accordance with this subpart to prevent shifting upon or within the vehicle to such an extent that the vehicle’s stability or maneuverability is not adversely affected.
Part 393.102 provides for minimum performance criteria for cargo securement devices and systems. That section of the regulation addresses the breaking strength performance criteria. It also describes working load limits. The regulation addresses performance criteria for devices to prevent vertical movement of loads that are not contained within the structure of the vehicle.
The regulation provides that securement systems must provide a downward force equivalent to at least 20% of the weight of the article of the cargo if the article is not fully contained within the structure of the vehicle.
The regulation addresses the means of securing articles of cargo, including immobilization, such that cargo cannot shift or tip to the extent that the vehicle’s instability or maneuverability is not adversely affected.
The regulation addresses transportation of cargo in a sided vehicle with side walls. The sided- vehicle or trailer walls must be built of adequate strength, such that each article of cargo within the vehicle is in contact with or sufficiently close to the wall or other articles so that the load cannot shift or tip to the extent that the vehicle’s stability or maneuverability is adversely affected. The cargo must be secured in accordance with the applicable requirements of Parts 393.104 through Part 393.136 of the FMCSR.
There is a prohibition on the use of damaged securement devices. The regulation requires that drivers and motor carriers address vehicle structures and anchor points as well as materials for dunnage, chalks, cradles, shoring bars, or used for blocking and bracing and must not have damage or defects which would compromise the effectiveness of the securement system.
The regulations under the FMCSR use a table which is identified as Part 393.108 on working and load limits. Truck drivers must be trained and supervised in order to be able to understand the specific chart limits for each load that they actually transport across the United States. They are complicated and difficult to understand. Failure to comprehend these charts and principles leads to thousands of accidents every year.
When a load is not secured properly by the truck driver’s company, or is overweight then it causes the driver to have a limitation or minimization in the ability to drive safely. The minute that the load shifts due to improper loading or overweight conditions, the likelihood of an accident occurring appears.
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Studies, loaded trailers require 20 percent to 40 percent more time to stop as compared to cars. This finding represents clear evidence that the heavier the truck is, the higher the chance of shifting of weight during transit is. Thus, the likelihood of an accident increases.
The physics related to the mass, acceleration and force of the tractor-trailer with a full load change as the weight or mass increases. The weight of an average empty tractor trailer is approximately 30,000 pounds while that of a full truck averages 50,000 pounds. Many tractor-trailers with a fully loaded cargo reach 80,000 pounds.
When a tractor-trailer is loaded with excessive cargo it has an effect on the vehicle’s stability. This simultaneously creates problems for the tractor-trailer to maintain a single lane of travel. Shifting of weight will cause the tractor-trailer to shift lanes. The uneven balances created by the shifting cargo mass and weight can make the truck driver lose control of the tractor-trailer. At times, the shifting may be different in higher wind conditions. All of these factors lead to danger to human life.
The motor carrier itself may be responsible for the overloading of the truck and trailer. At times, it is the driver who has chosen to overload the tractor-trailer. In other circumstances it may be a third-party shipper or loading company that may inappropriately overload the trailer. In all circumstances where an accident occurs, one or all of them may be independently responsible for the accident.
Once an accident occurs due to improper loading or inappropriate securement of the cargo, the lawyer representing an injured party will be investigating to determine which person or entity was responsible for the improper loading or securement. This will take review and discovery of substantial records from all persons and entities involved. Defense lawyers well attempt to withhold as much information as possible. Many times, the trucking company will fail to give their lawyer, the appropriate information and the lawyer is unaware that the information exists. Appropriate deposition of witnesses leads to disclosure that the evidence still exists. Development of this information is difficult and time-consuming. It takes intense study of obscure documents with comparison of related transportation dark documents such as bills of lading and contracts of delivery and pickup to determine who was ultimately responsible for the improper loading.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by itself cannot provide all of the appropriate enforcement that is necessary. Funds are limited. Self-regulation by the industry is required in order to make the transportation industry safer. Utilization of computer software programs and satellite tracking programs combined with regular monitoring by the motor carrier will improve the safety to the traveling public.
The proper attachment of trailers to trucks, tractors, and other motor vehicles is a major reason for motor vehicle accidents. A research study which was conducted by national insurance agency established that approximate 70% of trailer managers did not know that there was an appropriate protocol on how to connect, hitch and pull the trailers appropriately. The same study discovered that individuals who leased trailers or trucks were frequently not provided appropriate training about the attachment of trailers to the truck or tractor nor how to connect the lighting and other braking equipment.
In an alternate study in approximately 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that drivers towing trailers caused in excess of 53,000 trailer accidents which led to approximately 21,000 injuries and 450 deaths.
Whenever a trailer detaches from the vehicle towing it, the trailer becomes a deadly uncontrolled instrument of injury and destruction. Serious injuries and wrongful deaths occur due to improper training of drivers. Additional training, including comprehensive testing to determine if drivers really understand how to appropriately attach a trailer are necessary to prevent further injuries.
Trailers become detached and disconnected from the towing motor vehicle for a variety of reasons. The different reasons include some of the following:
Many accidents are caused by improperly trained operators who do not understand how do appropriately attach the trailers and their connective devices. Many more accidents are caused by pulling overloaded trailers that have shifting cargo and weight. These improperly loaded trailers cause the tractors and trucks to veer from lane to lane, where they collide with other vehicles causing injury and death. Almost all of these accidents can be prevented through proper supervision and training. Drivers towing trailers must understand the physics involved with pulling trailers. They must understand the load requirements of the FMCSR. Compliance with industry standards and the minimum standards set forth by the FMCSR will help alleviate thousands of accidents a year. It is recommended that the federal regulations be strengthened and monitored to a much more stringent set of standards. Monitoring of the trucking industry should be increased to a point where compliance is the norm.
Brad Pistotnik Law, P.A.
10111 East 21st St
Wichita, KS 67206