Truck crashes injure more than 100,000 Americans each year, a situation that results every 12 months in truck accident deaths to as many as 4,000 people who occupy cars, pickups, motorcycles and SUVs. Semi-truck traffic is dangerous to the point where the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is actively campaigning for greater safety awareness and accountability in commercial trucking.
The United States recently met one of those NTSB challenges when Congress passed a mandate that forces over-the-road truck drivers and trucking companies to do away with paper log books and instead record each truck driver’s hours of service behind the wheel with electronic monitors. Starting December 18, 2017, usage of electronic logging devices, or ELDs, in 18-wheelers and other heavy commercial rigs became the law of the land.
Lawyer Fred Pritzker, who represents crash victims and their families, said the ELD mandate was long overdue. Clients of Pritzker Hageman, P.A., have suffered greatly over the years from tractor-trailer truck negligence caused by fatigued drivers.
“Mandating electronic logging devices will help assure that truck drivers are getting safe amounts of rest. With paper logs, the system was manipulated. Drivers and trucking companies who put money before safety would cheat.’’Attorney Fred Pritzker
Attorney Eric Hageman, the lead lawyer in truck crash lawsuits handled by the law firm, said fatigue in truck drivers has been a well-known, major contributor to crashes. He said Congress voted three times in the past five years in favor of the ELD mandate, but implementation was delayed by court challenges.
“This change puts the safety of all motorists ahead of special interests. Anything we can do to keep truck drivers alert will protect against horrible crashes.’’Attorney Eric Hageman
No More Cover-Ups
At least one major trucking association supported the ELD mandate, but a faction of independent truck drivers fought against the measure until the very end. The Pritzker Hageman law firm has advocated for electronic monitoring of truckers for almost a decade. Fred and Eric won a jury verdict of more than $2 million in recent years for the husband of a Minnesota woman who was run over on her bicycle and killed by a company truck. The law firm’s investigation found several faults, including falsified truck log entries that tried to hide over-extended hours of service by the truck driver leading up to the crash. This is one of many large recoveries for clients, including one $45 million settlement for a person who was severely burned.
Doctors have long maintained that driver fatigue is a chief reason for vehicle crashes. And a report from the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that commercial drivers using electronic logs had a significantly lower crash rate (11.7 percent reduction) and a significantly lower preventable crash rate (more than 5 percent) than trucks not equipped with electronic logs.
Testimony during the debate leading up to the law change indicated that some truck drivers have been pressured by fleet managers to drive for long hours and falsify their log books. So the overarching goal of the ELD mandate will be to eliminate those safety breaches, thereby reducing fatalities and serious injuries caused by truck driver fatigue.
Keeping Highways Safe
Strict enforcement of the new equipment mandate will be phased in quickly. By April, interstate, commercial trucks without ELDs will be placed out of service unless they fit into a small category of temporary exceptions. Pritzker and Hageman, the truck accident lawyers, said the rapid safety upgrade is needed to keep up with the continuous rise in tractor trailer traffic on public roads. Victims of truck crashes should immediately retain a lawyer to quickly begin the recovery process and — if necessary to hold the trucking company accountable — initiate a semi-truck lawsuit.
In Washington state, for instance, daily truck traffic on the state’s major routes has been booming. Transportation officials in that state studied the portion of Interstate 5 that runs through Tacoma. They recorded 21,086 trucks a day in 2016, a 34 percent increase from the prior year.
In the big picture, the Office of Freight Management and Operations for the U.S. Department of Transportation foresees continued increases in long-haul freight truck traffic. Forecast data indicate that truck travel may reach 507 million miles per day by 2045.
- Rear-Ended by a Big Company Truck
- How Do I Protect My Accident Insurance Claim?
- What Should I Do if a Company Truck Hit My Car?
- In 2011, attorney Eric Hageman advocated for hours-of-service rules for commercial truck drivers to be revised, which did finally happen.