Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeding an annual death toll of 36,000 people. In a nation of 227 million licensed drivers, nearly 6 million people are driving with a suspended license and they make up 13 percent of drivers in accidents where someone is killed. Additionally, one in ten drivers has at least one offense ranging from speeding to vehicular homicide that, for whatever reason, does not appear on their official record. This means there are likely millions of additional drivers on the road who should have temporarily or permanently lost their licenses, but have not. A lack of federal accountability allows these careless drivers to stay on the road. Our truck accident lawyers have handled numerous cases where families lost the people closest to them because trucking companies with little to no regulation hire incompetent drivers with histories of past violations.
“We’ve seen too many cases where failure to follow safety regulations have led to deaths and catastrophic injuries. Putting these drivers on the road is like unleashing a ticking time bomb.”
–Truck Accident Attorney David Coyle
Despite the alarmingly high number of crash deaths, reckless drivers are still on the road, endangering more lives every day. When an out-of-state driver commits a serious offense, there is no effective system in place to track and report the offense in their home state. As a result, dangerous drivers who should have lost their licenses repeat the same bad behavior in other states. And the consequences are deadly.
Truck Driver Safety: America’s Ultimate Blind Spot
The Boston Globe won a 2021 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for a three-part series that uncovered a startling enforcement gap in the licensing system of state motor vehicle agencies, revealing America’s ultimate blind spot. After reviewing court records, nationwide driver histories, federal and state data, and interviewing safety advocates, state officials, and industry insiders, the Globe found an overwhelming backlog of unprocessed infractions.
Even though we live in a digital age where information is readily accessible online, motor vehicle agencies across the country rely on mailing paper documents to notify each other about out-of-state infractions. Requiring a large amount of slow and labor-intensive work, this process is almost designed to fail. The Globe found that states often fail in their duty to alert each other when an out-of-state driver breaks the law. Some states fail to send warnings at all, and worse yet, others receive notices but choose to ignore them. After Globe reporters informed state officials, several states revoked thousands of licenses held by drivers with shocking records.
Lack of Federal Oversight in Trucking Industry Causes Deadly Crashes
In the U.S., 3.5 million truck drivers power an $800 billion industry by hauling three-quarters of the nation’s freight, including vital medical supplies, food, and gas. In their investigation, the Globe discovered that this multi-billion dollar industry operates with minimal federal oversight. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency responsible for preventing commercial motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries. But deadly truck crashes are on the rise, reaching a total of 4,761 people killed by big trucks in 2017. All too often, these crashes are caused by truck drivers working for companies that allow people with poor records to get behind the wheel of some of the largest vehicles on the road. Bad actors like this escape through the loopholes of a regulatory system that fails to see or stop such blatant threats to public safety.
The FMCSA has no centralized system for background checks. Drug testing requirements are inadequate, putting hundreds of thousands of undetected drug users at the helm of big trucks. Trucks are so poorly maintained that an average of one in five truck inspections result in a vehicle taken out of service. Although new trucking companies are required to file paperwork promising to comply with FMCSA regulations, no one from the agency holds them accountable, causing the crash rate for new companies to climb 60 percent higher than established companies.
Truck Accident Lawyers Become Necessary When Truck Companies Hire Dangerous Drivers
Our truck accident lawyers have seen firsthand the devastating consequences that follow when negligent trucking companies hire inexperienced and irresponsible drivers. Attorney David Coyle says, “Again and again we see horrific crashes that could have been avoided if companies had simply done proper vetting before hiring dangerous truck drivers.”
Many of our cases have involved gruesome accidents caused by truck drivers who lacked a basic understanding of their job responsibilities and were unaware of federal safety regulations. David explains, “Companies continue to send truck drivers out onto our roadways without first ensuring that the drivers they hire are safe and responsible. Moreover, some of these drivers have little to no knowledge of the safety regulations they must follow.”
In order to keep people from being killed by dangerous truck drivers, regulatory changes need to be made and, most importantly, trucking companies need to be held accountable so they stop hiring drivers who shouldn’t be on the road.