We’ve all been there: Driving along the highway, feeling pretty comfortable until a semi-truck approaches in the other lane. There’s a moment of feeling unsettled, maybe even afraid.
Because we all know — if that truck were to crash, it would do some serious damage.
Unfortunately, as Belleville, Illinois personal injury lawyers, we can’t treat this as a hypothetical. We’ve seen one too many trucking accidents that have permanently altered, or eliminated, someone’s life. The accidents we deal with are entirely preventable. Our job is to come in at the end, after the avoidable error has occurred, and make the affected party whole.
But here’s the thing: We wish we didn’t have a case on our hands at all.
In a perfect world, everyone would feel safe on the road. Only this isn’t a perfect world. That’s why we are heartened when we see federal regulations enacted to help spare lives, such as the latest mandate to come down on the trucking industry.
On April 1, new rules kicked in that require truckers to keep electronic logs of driving hours, versus the paper logs they’ve used in the past. On-road time cannot exceed 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. That must be followed by 10 hours of rest. The federal mandate actually took effect Dec. 18, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave the trucking industry an initial “soft enforcement” period to adjust to the new rules.
With full enforcement now in place, violators could be taken off the road.
This Is A BIG Deal
The trucking industry, which has been using paper logs since the 1930s, calls it the biggest regulatory change since the introduction of the commercial drivers license and mandatory random drug testing in the 1980s.
But why is it important to you?
Studies have shown that one of the biggest risks you will encounter with a trucker is job-related fatigue.
Sleep-deprivation leads to sloppy driving and slower reaction times. That’s true with all drivers, not just truckers. The trucking industry uses service logs to keep over-tired drivers off the road, but truckers have been known to fudge these records.
Electronic logs will make it virtually impossible for truckers to falsify their logs.
Now consider the statistics.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute, a total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Seventeen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.
Think about that.
In the vast majority of these crashes, the truck driver walked away and another person was left dead.
We’ve seen it happen here, time and time again.
We need only to point you to a horrific, quadruple-fatality crash on Interstate 55, just south of Hamel, on Nov. 2017, as reported by the Belleville News-Democrat. That semi driver plowed into seven other cars, killing four people, all under age 20, and injuring 12 others.
Just this past month, a woman from Maryville was killed when a Mack truck slammed into her car on Interstate 44 in Phelps County, Mo. Three other cars got caught up in the collision. The truck driver suffered minor injuries.
We wish we could say these are the only examples, but sadly, they aren’t. We’ve handled several such cases within our office alone.
So what’s the lesson in all this?
History has shown us that we can’t trust the trucking companies to do the right (and safest) thing on their own.
We need strong regulations to stop violations before they happen. And we need good lawyers to hold bad actors accountable when these preventable errors do occur.
People should feel safe on the roads, not scared.