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Truck drivers get held to a higher standard for impaired driving

Commercial trucks pose a significant risk to other drivers. Every day across the country, passenger vehicles are involved in serious, even fatal collisions with commercial vehicles, including buses, eighteen wheelers and semi trucks. Because of their size and weight, large commercial vehicles can cause catastrophic injuries to other vehicles without incurring much damage. They can also experience difficulties when turning or trying to stop suddenly, particularly in inclement weather. Unfortunately, when commercial vehicles get into accidents, other drivers on the road end up paying the price. Lawful safeguards There are many laws in place intended to reduce the number of commercial vehicle accidents. Truck drivers and bus drivers have strict regulations they must follow regarding hours of operation. These laws require a certain number of hours resting between driving shifts, limit the total number of hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle without rest, and limit the total amount of hours a driver can drive during a pay period. Commercial drivers should also follow laws regarding distracted driving, which could result in a fatal accident. Alcohol and drug use are also regulated to protect others. Commercial drivers should not work under the influence The law in Texas is clear. No one should operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That is particularly true of commercial drivers, who could easily cause fatal accidents with a small mistake. In order to reduce the potential for alcohol-related commercial vehicle accidents, states have different limits for blood alcohol content (BAC) when it comes to commercial vehicle operators. In Texas, the average driver breaks the law when driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. Commercial drivers could face a loss of licensing and criminal charges with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher. Higher safety standard upheld even when off duty Many trucking companies require that drivers wait at least two hours after a single drink or have policies that prohibit driving the same day as a driver ingests an alcoholic beverage. It’s also important to note that commercial drivers are held to a higher standard even when off duty. A truck driver who pleads guilty or gets convicted of driving a personal motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher will also lose his or her commercial license for three years as a result. While these laws help reduce the prevalence of intoxicated or impaired commercial vehicle operators, individuals can still make poor decisions that cause accidents. A driver may get called to pick up a load and believe that a few drinks won’t cause an issue. Other times, commercial drivers may flagrantly break the law by drinking before or while operating a commercial vehicle. Other drivers shouldn’t have to pay the price for those mistakes.

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Companies can’t fire truckers for focusing on safety

The trucking industry can be dangerous, and drivers are employees. As such, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that truckers who are simply trying to work safely and without injury cannot be fired or retaliated against as a result. Some reasons that truckers may go against the company’s wishes, but with this legal protection, include: Filing a report with the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) if there are violations of vehicle safety regulations. Saying they will not drive because they are too tired to do so safely. Saying they won’t drive because they’re sick. Complaining about violations to the company, rather than the authorities. Refusing to get behind the wheel when a truck is too heavy to comply with regulations. Refusing to drive more hours, or more hours in a row, than the safety standards will allow. Saying they won’t make false statements in a logbook to cover up such violations. Not going faster than the speed limit allows or driving too fast for weather conditions. The reason that a company may be angry with a driver who is focused on safety is simple: income. If a driver will speed, drive more hours than legally allowed and then lie in a logbook, the company has a chance to get more jobs done in a shorter time frame. Employees sometimes take risks for fear of losing their jobs, even if it’s illegal, and multiple people can be hurt. Those who are injured on the job need to know all of the legal options they have, as workplace injuries often warrant workers’ compensation payments. Source: Ask the Trucker, “OSHA and Your Rights as a Truck Driver,” Allen Smith, accessed Dec. 12, 2017

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Truckers must know their workers’ comp rights

It’s crucial for truckers, regardless of their level of experience or their driving records, to understand their workers’ comp rights. The problem is that trucking is an inherently dangerous industry. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the United States, year in and year out. Truckers have to face those odds every single day, for the majority of the time they’re on the clock. Most other workers just run the risk of a crash while commuting to or from work, but that’s the world truckers live in every day. However, it’s not just about on-the job car accidents. Truckers face many other potential risks, such as: Suffering a strain while unloading cargo or loading up the next shipment. Doing the same repetitive motions over and over again, putting extra strain on joints. Slipping and falling while getting into or out of the truck. Slipping and falling while loading cargo; there is the potential for a fall from a significant height if a trucker falls off the loading dock entirely. This is especially dangerous when a heavy load — perhaps on a hand cart — falls as well. Doing maintenance on trucks and dealing with heavy machinery. Being a trucker isn’t like working in an office. You’re out there every day, working with your hands and doing manual labor. When not doing that manual labor, you’re in traffic, at the mercy of distracted drivers, weather conditions, drunk drivers and much more. Have you been hurt on the job? Be sure you understand exactly what steps to take as you move forward with your workers’ compensation claim. You’re an employee, even if you’re not in the office, and your rights must be respected. Source: Trucking Info, “3 Things Drivers Need to do in Workers’ Comp Claims,” Corey Lile, accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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What are causes of truck rollover crashes?

If you’ve ever found yourself stopped in a traffic jam while trying to get off an interstate exit ramp here in Waco or elsewhere in Texas, then there’s a chance that it was caused by an overturned truck. These types of incidents may leave traffic lanes closed for hours as crews try to figure out how to get a truck upright or as they clean up lost loads. Motorists may be seriously injured in these types of incidents. The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine commissioned a study into the causes of large truck rollover crashes just over a decade ago. The National Institutes of Health published their findings in 2008. Researchers found that trucks tend to respond poorly to curves in the road. They determined that the centrifugal force, or their natural inclination of a truck, is to lean in the opposite direction of a curve. Road conditions, the acuteness of the turn, speed and handling can all adversely impact a trucker’s ability to maintain their truck upright when navigating curves. Similar incidents also occur due to driver error, especially while navigating inclines. Truckers who carry loads that exceed the recommended weight limit or ones that are improperly distributed also run the risk of rolling over. Those truck drivers who make lateral accelerations or who fail to properly maintain their suspension or braking systems and tires are more prone to these types of crashes as well. The researchers found that truckers are particularly vulnerable to having rollover crashes when they fail to adjust their driving habits to accommodate for their truck and trailer’s elevated center of gravity. It’s a trucker’s responsibility to perform regular maintenance on their truck to make sure that it’s in a roadworthy condition. They’re often so eager to get a job done that they don’t take time to do things the way that they’re supposed to be done though. If you’ve been injured by a tractor-trailer that has rolled over, then a truck accidents attorney may advise you of your right to sue for compensation for any injuries that you received as a result.

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Exhaustion in truckers can lead to danger for everyone else

Driving commercial trucks remains one of the best paid positions that requires minimal education in the United States. After all, truck driving is an incredibly demanding career path. Those who drive professionally will have to work very long hours, making fatigued or exhaustion a constant concern. Additionally, the process of loading and unloading trucks, as well as maintaining control over a massive vehicle for hours, can take a great toll on the physical body. As if that weren’t difficult enough, commercial drivers also deal with significant social isolation. Their job could very well preclude them from spending their evenings and time off with their families. Many drivers have to traverse the entire country weekly, if not multiple times a week. That isolation can lead to both drug abuse and the decision to use mobile phones at the wheel. While it isn’t possible for truckers to avoid the loneliness that comes with their job, they can make decisions that minimize their experience of exhaustion or fatigue. There are even federal laws in place intended to mitigate the dangers associated with fatigued commercial drivers. Exhausted driving is so serious that the federal government has rules about it The longer someone goes without sleeping, the more their exhaustion will lead to cognitive effects. Not getting adequate sleep can result in longer response times, difficulty focusing and worse decision-making. For commercial drivers, the delays and cognitive impairments that result from exhaustion could make the difference between safely arriving with a load and causing an accident that injures or kills others. In an attempt to limit how many exhausted drivers are in control of commercial vehicles, the federal government created rules, known as Hours of Service rules. These rules limit how long a commercial driver can stay at work. For example, commercial drivers cannot operate beyond the 14th hour after they come on duty. There are also limits to how many hours they can drive in a seven or eight day period. Unfortunately, some truckers intentionally break those rules. Also, just following those rules won’t prevent exhaustion from affecting their work. Those injured by exhausted truck drivers have rights If there is any silver lining to experiencing a collision caused by a truck driver, it is that you have rights to hold that person or their employer accountable. Depending on the circumstances, you may have legal rights to take action against the individual driver, if they chose to drive while exhausted. In some cases, such as a toxic culture at a company, the employer may share some of the responsibility for the crash by encouraging the driver to engage in unsafe driving practices. Research is often needed to prove a pattern of unsafe driving for an employee or an entire business. Discussing your case with an experienced personal injury attorney is the first step you should take to connecting with compensation after a commercial trucking accident.

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New technology aims to reduce the number of drowsy truckers

A new technology known as wearable biometric monitors is currently being fine-tuned. Tech companies that are busy developing these devices are hopeful that their technology will be able to hone in on when long-haul truck drivers are drowsy. This technology will be able to send truckers an alert to wake up if it notes this. There’s no exact data for how often drowsiness is to blame for truck accidents; however, some veteran truckers argue that it could be responsible for as much as 70% of them. Many truck drivers attribute their crashes to unexpected roadwork when their fatigue is more likely to blame for it. Maven Machines is one of many companies that are on the front lines working on technology that can sense and report driver behaviors to their truck’s data system. They’re developing a headset that would allow employers and government regulators to track a trucker’s eye and cheek movements. This tends to change as a motorist gets increasingly tired. This same system would also be able to track the trucker’s speed, weather conditions and route. Another company, Optalert, is busy working on special glasses that would allow fleet companies to keep track of a trucker’s eye blinking rate. If it were to record a record that a truck driver left their eyelids down too long, then the system might assume that the tractor-trailer operator has fallen asleep. The on-board dashboard monitor would sound an alarm and report the finding to pre-selected individuals if it deemed that this had happened. Many trucking advocacy groups argue that the inclusion of this technology on their trucks invades the operator’s privacy. The manufacturers of these devices argue that they see it as a tool meant to help hold them accountable instead. These tech startups argue that these devices will teach truckers how to notice early signs of fatigue and that they will encourage them to take a break at the first sign of drowsiness. If anti-drowsiness technology were developed, this could have a positive impact on trucker safety and result in fewer accidents. This has happened since regulators started requiring truckers to keep digital logs instead of paper ones. Accidents will likely continue until this technology is more widely available. An attorney can advise you of your right to recover medical costs if you’re hurt in such a crash here in Waco or anywhere else in Texas.

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1 is killed, 4 are injured in a Nov. 19 T-Bone crash in Waco

On Nov. 19, officers with the Waco Police Department were dispatched to the intersection of South Third Street at South University Parks Drive just after 1:45 p.m. When they arrived on the scene, they found that a 22-year-old Texas State Technical College student who had been riding in one of the vehicles involved in the crash had been killed. In speaking with witnesses, the investigators determined that the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup truck had been driving northbound along University Parks Drive shortly before the crash occurred. It was as he attempted to make a left to head west along South Third Street that a gravel truck apparently came through the intersection and collided into the passenger side of his truck. The impact of the crash caused the front-seat passenger of the Ford to die in an instant. The other three occupants of the pickup and the gravel truck’s driver all suffered serious injuries in the crash. They were all transported to area hospitals and are expected to survive. Police have yet to determine whether the gravel truck’s operator will be charged with any crime for his alleged role in causing the crash. T-bone types of accidents and other others that occur at intersections are particularly dangerous. While side airbags have helped to curb the severity of injuries and death rates of victims involved in these, not everyone’s vehicle is equipped with them. Even when they are, they don’t always work as they should. A Waco truck accidents attorney can advise you of your right to sue the liable party and your car’s manufacturer when crashes like this occur.

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Do trucker’s logbooks make them less prone to accidents?

Truck driving can be very rewarding for many people because it allows them to enjoy the freedom of being on the road. Truckers operate in a highly regulated industry, though. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truckers to keep a detailed recording of the hours they work in the form of a designated U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) logbook. While you may assume that this would help truckers minimize crash rates, it often doesn’t. Truckers must keep an accurate account of each 24-hour period, including both the time they are on and off duty. If a trucker is found to have falsified their logbook, they could face serious consequences — including being subject to criminal prosecution. The maximum period a trucker transporting property can drive is 11 hours after taking 10 consecutive hours off. Tractor-trailer operators who transport passengers are only permitted to drive a maximum of 10 hours after first taking eight consecutive hours off. Even with increased safety regulations to keep truckers and other motorists safe, truckers face a lot of pressure from both shippers and their supervisors to make their deadlines. These pressures increase the possibility that a trucker will break the rules and accidents will occur. Just because a trucker is off for a certain period of hours, that does not guarantee that they got some sleep or that they come back on duty rested and refreshed. Like many drivers, truckers can also be distracted. Unlike people with traditional office jobs who might use their phones to text and go online while at work, a trucker’s place of business is the road. If a tractor-trailer operator can easily become distracted by their phone. If this happens, then they may claim many lives in an instant. Many people may go to work drowsy and, in some cases, intoxicated. However, this can be enormously hazardous to a trucker’s health and work performance. It can endanger the lives of motorists around them. If a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a crash with a truck or commercial vehicle here in Texas, an attorney can negotiate with the negligent trucker’s insurance company or take other steps to get the necessary compensation.

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Devastating underride collisions are almost always preventable

There are many different kinds of truck accidents that can occur, but the most frightening and dangerous is probably the underride collision. An underride collision occurs when the force of a crash or a vehicle’s velocity pushes a smaller vehicle underneath the wheels or trailer of a massive commercial vehicle. As you can probably imagine from that description alone, underride collisions often produce catastrophic and fatal injuries for the people in the smaller vehicle. Perhaps the most tragic thing about underride collisions is that, in almost all cases, it is possible for the trucking company involved to have prevented the collision or at least reduced its severity. There are already vehicle accessories that prevent most underride accidents Underride collisions are not a new phenomenon. However, they do seem to be occurring at a greater frequency than in the past, likely due to a combination of higher overall travel speeds and more commercial traffic on the roads. Researchers have already made commercial trucks that would greatly reduce underride collisions. Design with a low clearance under the front of a commercial semi’s cab is intentional. The lower it is, the harder it is for the truck to ride up and over a vehicle from behind. When it comes to underride crashes that occur from the rear or sides of the trailer, the installation of special guards can drastically reduce the potential of a smaller vehicle going under the commercial truck. Rear underride guards are required by federal law. You see them all the time as the rectangular metal suspended from the rear of a trailer. With many companies, however, they will purchase the cheapest guard possible, not the most effective one. Instead of investing in the widest, strongest rearguard possible, companies will do the minimum required under the law. Unfortunately, that means that rear underride crashes still happen. It also means that many companies won’t install side underride guards. Side underride guards aren’t legally required Side underride guards are large pieces of metal suspended from the size of the trailer. They prevent a vehicle from easily slipping under the trailer in the event of a traffic collision. Unfortunately, while trucks that cross into Canada may have these guards, many of the trucks that only operate in the United States do not invest in them. They could save lives, but they also cost money and decrease fuel efficiency, so companies don’t install them. Currently, activists are working to change federal law and mandate side underride guards for the protection of people and passenger vehicles that must share the road with commercial vehicles. Similar laws have failed to gain traction in recent years. Although the law may not change any time soon, public awareness of this kind of crash and of the importance of these guards is increasing every time one of these tragic accidents happen. The more that people stand up and take action against companies who cut corners and hurt or kill others, the less financial incentive there will be for businesses to bend or break safety rules.

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Company policies may push truckers to drive for too long

There are many factors that can contribute to a serious, potentially deadly collision with a commercial truck. Distraction by either the driver of the commercial truck or the smaller passenger vehicle can prove deadly, as can intoxication. Another serious risk factor all too often overlooked is the impact of drowsy driving. Driving while fatigued can increase response times, decrease the ability to focus on the road and elevates the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. These are all incredibly dangerous when the average person in a vehicle drives fatigued. When someone in control of a massive commercial vehicle is exhausted, however, that puts everyone else on the road at increased risk of a potentially fatal crash. The federal government limits commercial driving times In order to reduce the number of fatigue-related collisions, federal regulations limit how long commercial drivers can operate a truck. These policies, called Hours of Service rules, are in place to reduce collisions and prevent abusive or unsafe employer practices for commercial drivers. Truckers can only drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of rest. They also cannot drive beyond the 14th hour after starting a shift. Finally, they cannot drive more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. Tracking when drivers come on duty and when they exchange the wheel or rest helps enforce these rules and reduce the risk to everyone on the road. Bonuses and delivery policies can motivate drivers to break rules Sadly, many businesses put profits before people. They may choose to stress the importance of on-time delivery to their drivers, regardless of weather conditions, traffic issues or other factors that can result in extended drive times. Some companies offer drivers the carrot by giving out bonuses, either a lump sum amount or a few extra pennies per mile for on-time deliveries. Other companies use the stick, penalizing and even writing up drivers who arrive late, even if there’s a legitimate reason. This kind of company culture could lead to drivers intentionally breaking the law by driving when they should be on break or falsifying their driving and rest records. Breaking the law and violating the Hours of Service rules can allow these drivers to benefit financially. If that resulted in a crash that left you or someone you love hurt, you may have a case against the driver involved, as well as his or her employer for encouraging dangerous and illegal behavior. Commercial vehicle accidents can result in truly catastrophic and life-altering injuries. Victims in these crashes deserve compensation for their losses, including medical expenses and lost wages. Sometimes, holding businesses with dangerous company cultures responsible is a better option for adequate compensation than simply pursuing compensation from a driver.

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