Updated Information: The trucker who rear ended a Toyota Scion, killing Robert Bursik, was texting his girlfriend and/or using an app, Zillow, at the time. The truck driver was charged with criminal vehicular homicide for operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, he had made no effort to stop and had been using his cell phone for 8 seconds before the crash, which happened on February 27, 2018. Our thoughts are with the family.
Truck crash accidents are at their highest level in more than a decade, yet trucking industry forces continue to press for regulations that would put longer, heavier tractor trailer rigs on U.S. highways, according to attorney Fred Pritzker, a truck accident lawyer who represents victims from coast to coast. Just yesterday, Robert Bursik, a man from Amery, Wisconsin was tragically killed in Minnesota when a Freightliner truck rear ended his car. He and lawyer Eric Hageman have won settlements over $40 million for injured clients in their fight for safety and justice.
“It’s unacceptable to allow longer trucks and heavier trucks when the cost to society would increase crash severity and cause greater losses of human life.’’ Attorney Fred Pritzker
FedEx and UPS Call for Increase in Trailer Length
FedEx and UPS together are calling for an increase in the national twin-trailer standard to 33 feet from 28 feet per trailer. The so-called “Double 33s’’ are already allowed on certain highways in trucking friendly states. Elsewhere, there’s been pressure from the industry for regulators to drop the 80,000-pound limit in favor of heavier loads. The rationale — false if you ask critics — is to add hauling capacity while reducing congestion on roads and highways.
But the argument for “modernizing” truck equipment standards is running into stiff opposition from highway safety groups, the U.S. Department of Transportation and families who have suffered injuries or wrongful deaths in truck crashes.
Heavier and Longer Semitrailers Would Result in More Injuries and Deaths
Our law firm has represented people injured in accidents involving FedEx, UPS and other trucking companies.
Attorney Eric Hageman, who heads up truck accident litigation at the Pritzker Hageman law firm, said more company trucks would rear-end passenger vehicles and those crashes would be more severe if semitrailers are allowed to get heavier and longer.
“You can’t deny the danger because it comes down to physics. Longer, heavier trucks need more distance to brake.’’Attorney Eric Hageman
Most of the fatal crashes involving big trucks are rear-end collisions. Just yesterday, Robert J. Bursik, a 54-year-old man from Amery, Wisconsin, was killed in a rear-end collision with a Freightliner semi. A Toyota Scion, driven by Robert Bursik, was traveling eastbound on Highway 36 in Lake Elmo, a Minnesota city in Washington County. Mr. Bursik was stopped at a red light when the semi truck hit him from behind, tragically killing him. Although it is winter, the road was dry.
“No family should have to go through this kind of loss,” said attorney Fred Pritzker. “Road safety should be the top priority, not profit.”
Contact Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman
The Statistics Support Limiting the Size of Semi Trucks
According to the Truck Safety Coalition, there’s already been a surge in crashes where trucks rear-end cars, SUVs or pickups. From 2009 to 2015, the increase was 82 percent. One estimate from 2014 put the cost to society from crashes involving commercial motor vehicles at $112 billion, including medical bills and other recoveries by victims in at-fault truck lawsuits.
In 2016, a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation looked at states where the freight limit has been relaxed from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds. In limited state testing the trucks weighing up to 91,000 pounds had 47 percent higher crash rates. The same 2016 federal study also found that the heavier trucks had 18 percent higher braking violation rates.
The pushback against Double 33s and heavier loads goes beyond safety. The rail industry has funded a campaign that also describes how the leniency would put U.S. road and bridge infrastructure in further disrepair at the expense of everyday taxpayers—not the trucking industry.
People Injured in Truck Crashes Call for Greater Safety
But the strongest voices in the coalition against bigger semi-trucks are victims. Maryland’s Ed Slattery is still fighting for greater safety in the industry years after a triple-trailer semi rig killed his wife and injured his two son on the Ohio Turnpike. The driver of the truck told police he dozed off and rear-ended Susan Slattery’s Ford Focus in a construction zone. One of the Slatterys’ two boys was permanently disabled from a traumatic brain injury. Mrs. Slattery, who was a mathematics professor at Stevenson University, died within minutes.
“My own experience informs my serious concerns with making trucks even longer,’’ Ed Slattery wrote in a recent piece challenging the industry.
In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, truck crashes killed 4,137 people. This represents a 28 percent increase since 2009 and raised truck crash deaths to their highest level since 2007.
Trucking giants argue that extending 28-foot trailers by five feet would result in 3 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled by commercial trucks. But according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study, any reduction in truck-vehicle miles traveled would be wiped out within one year by increases and shifts in freight from rail and other modes of transportation. The study also found that permitting double 33s would incur a one-time cost of $1.1 billion to strengthen and replace more than 2,000 bridges.
For safety reasons and other considerations, 80 percent of Americans oppose putting longer and heavier trucks on roads and highways. Congress honored the opposition in 2015 when it rejected the industry-friendly “SAFE Trucking Act’’ as proposed by a representative from Wisconsin. The bill called for an increase in truck weights to 91,000 pounds and a companion bill in the U.S. Senate proposed longer tractor-trailers.
Lawmakers said “No’’ to these dangerous ideas after debates reminded them that 97 percent of deaths from commercial truck crashes—including hit-from-behind by a semi-truck—were suffered by occupants of passenger vehicles. Minnesota truck accident lawyer Fred Pritzker stands with lawmakers who vote to make our roads safe for all drivers.