Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
18 Wheelers – Federal Laws To Prevent Big Rig Accidents!
Of all the traffic accidents that happen on U.S. roadways and highways, 18 wheeler accidents are among the worst to take place, causing the highest amount of damage and greatest loss of life.
The latest NHTSA report on large truck statistics states that as of 2017, there were 4,761 fatal crashes involving big rigs and 621 of those were in Texas alone.1
As grim as those numbers may be, lawyers who handle 18 wheeler accidents point out that there are multiple Federal laws that were developed to reduce accident numbers.
With the implementation of certain safety restrictions and requirements on the trucking industry, these laws have made trucking safer over the decades although there is still room for improvement.
It’s when individuals and companies involved in the trucking industry either intentionally or unintentionally ignore those rules that safety is reduced and accidents are more likely to happen.
Federal Truck Inspections
The commercial trucking industry is highly regulated because of the potential for accidents when certain factors such as truck maintenance are ignored.
Federal law stipulates that every large truck in use must meet specific inspection standards every year, requiring that truck owners keep up with repairs and maintenance to be certain that their vehicles are serviceably sound and less likely to suffer a failure that could result in an accident.
Unfortunately, any big rig accident attorney can attest that poor maintenance and the continual use of trucks that have failed inspections or otherwise should not be on the road are prime factors in many deadly crashes.
Cargo Securement Rules
Cargo shifting on or within a trailer is a common cause of rollover accidents, accidental unloading, and other dangerous situations that cause damaging collisions.
Preventing these incidents requires that all truck drivers and loaders know the correct ways to load trucks and then secure those loads to prevent these events from happening.
Even though proper load handling is part of the scope of the job, 18 wheeler accident lawyers see many cases where those responsible were uninformed, careless, or otherwise did not make certain that their cargo was correctly loaded and properly secured.
Truck Weight Limits
While they are designed to carry enormous loads, there is a safe weight limit that any tractor trailer should carry to be safe to drive and prevent 18 wheeler accidents.
Strict Federal guidelines that must be observed by all operators apply to truck weight and size, which include the truck and its cargo.
Generally speaking, most single tractor trailer combination trucks are limited to 80,000 pounds nationwide; however, there are individual states such as Texas that may have their own applicable size and weight restriction on certain roads.
Weight restrictions are enforced at weigh stations, which operators are required to stop at when passing an open station; drivers may also be stopped by police and escorted to a weigh station if load weights come into question.
Driver Working and Resting Hour Requirements
One of the most important laws that applies to the commercial carrier industry and has been found commonly breached by attorneys who handle big rig accidents is the Hours of Service Rule.
The HoS rule dictates how many hours a driver is permitted to work and how many continuous hours of rest a driver must have in a day and a week to combat the growing number of accidents caused by driver fatigue.
When properly observed by drivers along with common sense to make sure they are rested enough to be driving, HoS has been helpful in reducing truck accidents.
Yet many drivers burn the candle at both ends in the interest of financial gains, making HoS rules a continuous battleground within the industry.
Laws Help - Better Compliance Is Necessary
Safety rules evolve over time as the causes of 18 wheeler accidents are determined as are different ways to prevent these accidents.
Federal laws applying to commercial carriers are well-researched and do save lives when they are followed; however, compliance in the industry remains a problem.
Despite the obvious proof that things like proper truck maintenance, load weight limits, approved cargo securement methods, and drivers getting enough rest do prevent big rig accidents, many companies and drivers still choose to take unnecessary chances.
1NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2017 Data: Large Trucks, January 2019