With the major North-South route of I-75 and major East-West route of the Ohio Turnpike contained within its borders, Ohio plays host to a large volume of commercial truck traffic. While the increased shipping business may be beneficial to Ohio’s economy, commercial trucks can be extremely hazardous when they are not operated safely. Collisions between trucks and smaller personal-use vehicles are often far more deadly than normal collisions. Because of the unique standards and regulations imposed on the trucking industry, truck accident crashes are typically much more complex than other motor vehicle crashes.
When a truck negligently collides with a personal-use automobile, there are multiple parties who may be liable for your injuries. The liable parties are the parties against which you can bring your case for compensation. In addition to the truck driver employed by a shipping company and working on their behalf at the time of the crash, the employer may be liable. Furthermore, if the truck itself is not owned by the driver or his employer but is instead leased out by a carrier who supplies rigs to shipping companies, that carrier may also be liable particularly when the truck displays the carrier’s Interstate Commerce Commission identification numbers. The large number of possible liable parties can increase the amount of compensation recovered by a victim, but it can also make litigation of these cases very complicated.
Truck collision cases are unlike typical collision cases because of all the special laws and regulations that apply to the use of trucks in commercial shipping. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) and the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) regulate trucking procedure. These laws include restrictions on the number of consecutive hours a driver may work, special licenses and training that a driver must obtain, industry standards on keeping logs of all driver activity, and special law enforcement procedures enacted in the event of a truck crash. The FMCSR mandates that drivers may not drive after being on duty for 70 cumulative hours in any period of 8 consecutive days. Drivers also may not drive more than 11 consecutive hours, or after being on duty for 14 hours. Drivers must log their duty status at regular periods. These logbooks are supposed to ensure that these rules are strictly followed, and are important sources of evidence in truck crash cases.
Trucks can be dangerous because drivers are often paid based on the number of miles they travel. This arrangement can create an economic incentive for drivers to try to drive as fast as possible and for as long as possible. This is profitable for both the driver and the shipping company he or she works for, but potentially deadly for other drivers. Tired drivers can be just as impaired as drunk drivers, and drivers focusing on maintaining the highest speed often let other safe driving behaviors lapse. For these reasons, establishing whether a truck driver was in violation of FMCSR rules concerning driving time is an important element in most truck crash cases.
Negligent hiring can also contribute to truck crashes. By law, shipping companies must perform an extensive review of a potential driver’s medical and legal history before hiring. The carrier must review any accidents the driver was involved in or convictions the driver received for motor vehicle ordinance violations. The driver must pass a road test, demonstrate that he has the appropriate licensure, and finally submit to a physical to ensure that he is healthy enough to endure the long, stressful hours of the job. Employers who cut corners on this extensive process can be held accountable for hiring unqualified drivers.