Trucking accident cases are much more complicated than regular auto accident cases. There are many reasons for this, and a big one is the very complex set of federal laws which govern the trucking industry and which your attorney must thoroughly understand. Failure to comply with these laws is often at the heart of fault and responsibility in truck accidents.
All of these regulations carry with them strict rules for record keeping to prove compliance. Theoretically, this should make it easy to determine when laws were broken or mistakes were made. However, the massive amounts of paperwork can be difficult to navigate, and many trucking companies falsify documents or use elusive practices to obscure violations. It takes a very skilled trucking accident attorney to use these records properly. Your attorney must know which documents to request and how to read and interpret them to find any discrepancies which will reveal violations.
Time On the Road
Hours of service regulations (HOS) are the rules which govern how long a driver may spend on the road in one stretch, and how often he must rest. They are detailed and complicated outlining consecutive hours, total hours in a day, total hours in a month, and so on. HOS are a very controversial aspect of federal trucking regulations, and opponents believe that they actually contribute to, rather than reducing, fatigue.
Fatigue is a contributing factor in most trucking accidents. Fatigue and HOS violations are very often the result of unrealistic schedules imposed on drivers by trucking companies.
Truck drivers can lose their CDL (commercial driver’s license) for HOS violations, meaning that they lose their livelihood, so they are motivated to obey the law. But, refusing to comply with unrealistic schedules can also mean losing their job or being passed over for loads and, therefore, losing a paycheck. Competition is stiff in the trucking industry.
Truck drivers are required to keep log books which include records of their driving times and receipts for fuel purchases. Some drivers falsify entries, and some trucking companies instruct their drivers to falsify entries in order to make quicker deliveries.
At first glance, a log book may show that everything is on the up and up – that the driver was in compliance with HOS. On closer inspection however, discrepancies in receipt times and locations may not match up with driving time records, indicating that the driver did not comply with HOS or was speeding.
If it can be proven that the trucking company imposed an unrealistic schedule on the driver and/or encouraged the driver to falsify log book entries, the trucking company can be held responsible.
Furthermore, trucking companies have a duty to maintain their trucks and keep them in safe operating condition. Truck drivers play an important role in this process; they must inspect their trucks daily. Ultimately, however, the trucking company bears the burden and cannot require or allow a driver to operate an unsafe truck.
The transportation of hazardous materials is very strictly regulated. A driver must have special training and hold a special class of license in order to transport them, and there are very specific rules and regulations regarding where they may be parked, what routes they can take and how they must be secured.
An accident involving hazardous materials can mean evacuations, injuries to large numbers of people, and serious property damage.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident in Maryland, Virginia or Washington DC, please contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney.