Did you know that roughly 75 percent of American resources are, at some point, transported via truck or tractor-trailer? More than 5 percent of full-time jobs in this country are related to trucking, too.
There’s little doubt that our day-to-day lives revolve around the goods that tractor-trailers transport. Most of us don’t realize, however, that sometimes our safety depends on the responsible operation of these large trucks. Huge tractor-trailers fill American roadways, and when accidents happen, they can cause serious damage and injury.
What Are Tractor-Trailers?
Tractor-trailers are large vehicles used to transport heavy loads across the country. Tractor-trailers usually have eighteen wheels; some have sixteen wheels, although these are less common. You may frequently hear these trucks referred to as eighteen- (or sixteen-) wheelers.
Tractor-trailers constitute two distinct parts: (1) a front segment that pulls the (2) truck trailer behind.
- Tractors are trucks; they’re usually specifically designed and constructed to haul semi-trailers. Most tractors have five wheels (with the spare wheel mounted above the rear axles).
- Semi-trailers are the truck trailers hauled by tractors. Semi-trailers can support their own rears using their wheels. The fifth wheel is usually mounted to the tractor to support its front end.
The tractor segment of a tractor-trailer also contains the cab. The cab, like in other vehicles, is the space in the truck where the driver and any other vehicle occupants can sit and maneuver the vehicle.
Tractor-Trailer Driver Fatigue
Fatigue in tractor-trailer drivers
Tractor-trailers weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when they’re fully loaded. These large vehicles pose an immense risk to other people on the road, and unfortunately, a tractor-trailer driver’s fatigue can lead to catastrophe.
Tractor-trailer drivers in America work very long hours. Many of them even underreport their work so that they can continue to drive and meet goals (more on that later). In the U.S., we have federal guidelines that dictate how long and how often tractor-trailer drivers are permitted to operate their vehicles, but these regulations don’t always prevent accidents. Most truck drivers still work very long hours and may drive hundreds of miles per shift.
Tractor-trailer drivers have to follow federal hours of service regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created Hours of Service (HOS) regulations intended to improve safety for tractor-trailer drivers and the people around them. The HOS regulations are meant to reduce truck driver fatigue; however, many truck drivers do not adhere to these regulations. It’s common to drive near a tractor-trailer being operated by someone who has worked more than these regulations allow.
The HOS regulations include the following provisions:
- Tractor-trailer drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours following a 10-hour break.
- Tractor-trailer drivers must not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after returning to duty (following an off-duty period of 10 hours).
- Tractor-trailer drivers may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period (the period needs to be a minimum of 30 minutes).
- Tractor-trailer drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
Tractor-trailer drivers are frequently fatigued
Despite the HOS regulations, many truck drivers operate their tractor-trailers while fatigued. It’s a lot more common than you might expect. Tractor-trailer drivers don’t do this maliciously, either; they’re normally just trying to do their jobs as best and efficiently as possible.
No matter why tractor-trailer drivers operate their vehicles fatigued, the fact remains that they do.
A study from the Journal of Public Health (that involved more than 1,000 tractor-trailer drivers) sheds some light on the situation:
- 75 percent of tractor-trailer drivers interviewed said they violated hours-of-service rules.
- Two-thirds of respondents said that they regularly drive more than the weekly maximum hours allowed.
- Two-thirds of respondents also said that they under-report their driving hours in logbooks.
When tractor-trailer operators drive fatigued, they put everyone at risk
Truck drivers who work fatigued don’t just put themselves in danger; they put everyone else on the road at risk as well.
There’s lots of data that points to the fact that fatigued tractor-trailer drivers are very dangerous:
- Fatigued and overworked truck drivers are the leading cause of commercial tractor-trailer crashes.
- According to the CDC, tractor-trailer drivers are more likely to drive fatigued than the general population, which makes them riskier to be around.
- Roughly 13 percent of commercial truck accidents each year are caused or influenced by tractor-trailer driver fatigue.
Negligent Tractor-Trailer Drivers
Tractor-trailer drivers are often negligent in the operation of their vehicles. In fact, these practices are the root of many truck accidents every year.
Signs that point to truck driver negligence include:
- Minimal truck driving experience
- Failing to obey traffic laws
- Failing to keep the tractor and/or the trailer in safe, working condition
- Driving too long without breaks
Other Frequent Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Why do tractor-trailer accidents happen?
To improve on-road safety, everyone should understand some of the key factors that contribute to tractor-trailer accidents.
Large truck accidents are caused by more factors than just these, but some of the most common causes include:
- Poor truck maintenance: You must maintain every vehicle that’s on the road, even bicycles! Tractor-trailers are no exception. In fact, these large trucks need even more stringent maintenance to help keep them safe and operational. Lots of tractor-trailer accidents each year are caused by improper truck maintenance. Many fleets include hundreds of vehicles (some include thousands), so it’s very difficult to keep up with adequate maintenance.
- Improper cargo loading: Sometimes, workers improperly load the cargo onto a tractor-trailer. These huge trucks can weigh as many as 80,000 pounds when they’re fully loaded, so the weight requires even distribution. Improperly loaded tractor-trailers can tip over, spill into roadways, and cause disaster during crashes.
- Tractor-trailer driver error: Many roadway accidents occur because of driver error. If someone fails to pay attention behind the wheel or drives under the influence, that driver may cause an accident. Tractor-trailer drivers can make these same mistakes, and sometimes, the same mistakes are even more deadly, since large trucks are so heavy and dangerous.
Tractor-trailer accidents occur for other reasons, too. For example, lots of accidents take place because of poor road or weather conditions. It may surprise you to find that in some of these instances (especially those involving poor road conditions), you might pursue compensation from a liable party. Bumpy and problematic roads, for example, may cause the governmental entity that’s responsible for their maintenance to face liability.
Injuries After Tractor-Trailer Accidents
When someone is injured in a tractor-trailer accident, the results often vary. Many people walk away from tractor-trailer crashes with very severe injuries; some may even face permanent disability. Other people, on the other hand, that are involved in these accidents receive just minor bruising and lacerations.
Remember, regardless of the extent of your injuries, it’s important to seek medical and legal support. A medical professional can help confirm your well-being and treat your injuries, and a lawyer or attorney can help you protect and pursue your legal rights.
People who are hurt in tractor-trailer accidents may sustain injuries like:
- Broken bones
- Spine injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Loss of limb
- Internal bleeding
- Loss of a sense or senses
A Company’s Hiring and Training Practices May Lead to Tractor-Trailer Accidents
Some transportation companies don’t hire safe drivers. Some also (or instead) fail to safely train their drivers. Both of these practices are dangerous enough to cause accidents on their own. Together, unsafe drivers and poor training make for a disastrous scenario.
If one of these drivers instigates a tractor-trailer accident and causes harm, then the transportation company that hired and trained the driver may face responsibility for what happened. Negligent hiring practices are taken very seriously in the eyes of the law.
Some examples of negligent hiring practices include:
- Hiring drivers that have false or expired licenses
- Failing to perform background checks on potential drivers
- Failing to safely train employees on appropriate practices and company policies
How to Know if You Have a Tractor-Trailer Accident Claim
There’s no way to know for sure that you have a tractor-trailer accident claim until you successfully bring the claim. However, a lawyer can help you determine whether you should pursue a claim.
You can ask tractor-trailer accident attorneys about your circumstances and your claim’s validity.
- Never assume that you don’t have a claim.
- If you were involved in a commercial truck accident, then you already meet the primary requirement to file a truck accident claim.
- Your accident doesn’t need to have caused severe damage or loss for your claim to be valid.
Who Is Liable After a Tractor-Trailer Accident?
There are many people and entities that a court may find liable for a tractor-trailer accident. Many people are often surprised to find out that their eighteen-wheeler accidents were due to a seemingly random party’s liability.
Examples of commonly liable parties in tractor-trailer crashes include:
- Truck drivers
- Trucking companies (or their parent companies)
- Truck part manufacturers
- Commercial truck owners
- Third-party maintenance and service companies
- Motor vehicle occupants involved in the crash in separate vehicles
- Auto insurance companies
A qualified lawyer can help you determine who is liable for your truck accident. Truck part manufacturers, for example, may face liability if they failed to produce safe parts. A maintenance service that provides inadequate maintenance may also face liability.
Should I Hire a Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney?
Retaining an attorney to handle your tractor-trailer accident will provide advantages. One of the primary reasons to work with a lawyer is for the help that he or she will provide in investigating your case. Not only will your attorney legally represent you, but he or she will also perform an investigation to document and determine the circumstances around your accident.
You want a thorough and immediate investigation following a tractor-trailer accident.
- A lawyer can launch an investigation into the accident scene, the tractor-trailer involved, your own vehicle, and logbooks from the trucker (as well as the transportation company’s records).
- Many attorneys also work with industry experts from sectors that can help with your case. Examples include medical professionals, transportation experts, mechanics, etc.
- Some lawyers work with reconstructionists to help recreate accidents and form strong evidence of fault.
- Your attorney may use eyewitness reports as evidence to help establish faults.
No matter what you do, the trucking company associated with your tractor-trailer accident is going to launch its own investigation into the crash. Working with a lawyer will prevent you from falling behind and help keep your legal options open.
What Damages Will a Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney Help Me Recover?
Previous and Current Medical Expenses Incurred Due to the Accident
If you were injured in a tractor-trailer accident, you likely have medical expenses mounting. You have the right to pursue damages to account for these expenses. Medical expenses include emergency transport from the scene of an accident, therapies, surgeries, custom medical equipment, and more.
Projected Medical Bills Caused by the Accident
Many people know that you can pursue compensation for your medical bills after a truck accident, but not as many people are aware that you can also recover compensation for projected medical bills that stem from your accident. If someone caused an accident that will require you to pay medical bills well into the future, you should seek compensation for these expenses as well.
Some tractor-trailer accidents cause victims to miss time from work. If you’ve lost wages after an accident, you can work with a qualified lawyer to pursue compensation for those lost wages.
Diminished Earning Capacity
Unfortunately, an accident can do more than just take someone’s wages out of the picture for days, weeks, or months. Severe injuries may permanently alter an individual’s ability to earn an income after a tractor-trailer accident. There are special damages available for cases like these.
Nobody deserves to suffer emotionally or mentally, but these feelings are common after truck accidents. Tractor-trailer crash survivors can pursue compensation for mental anguish that they experience as a result of their injuries.
Did a tractor-trailer accident injure you? A McAllen truck accident lawyer can answer questions about your situation and determine if you have a good case.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501