TRUCK CRASH AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS MN
The Star Tribune recently published an article about semitrailer truck safety in MN and around the country. The stories reported in this article are typical of what our top Minnesota car truck accident lawyers deal with regularly. Below, we have included an excerpt from the article. To read the entire article, which is very interesting and well written, go to www.startribune.com/when-big-rigs-push-past-the-safety-rules/321965591. Many of the stories about people injured or killed in a car accident caused by a truck or semi are tragic and preventable.
When big rigs push past the safety rules
By Pam Louwagie Star Tribune
The semitrailer truck rumbled south down Houston County Road 9, a two-lane highway that rolls across the fertile farmland of southeast Minnesota, on an overcast Saturday morning in March. The roads were clear of ice and snow, and the truck’s trailer was loaded with giant bales of hay. Dale and Teresa Erickson, married for 26 years, were cruising north in their pickup. Both vehicles were headed for a curve. When the semi driver felt the hay shift, he slammed on the brakes. But it was too late. Ten bales, each weighing an estimated 1,200 pounds, flew off. One crushed the pickup’s cab. Passers-by dragged Teresa out, but the pickup caught fire with Dale pinned inside. Both died within days. The truck’s owner and driver now face four misdemeanor charges, including failing to secure the load — the kind of violation that would have been caught during a roadside safety inspection. But federal records show that the driver, who put on about 5,000 miles a year transporting grain, feed and hay, hadn’t undergone such a check from a certified inspector since October of 2000, after a crash in which someone was injured.
Millions of large trucks crisscross state and federal highways every day, hauling billions of tons of goods between factories and fields and warehouses and stores. Federal and state regulations govern truckers’ driving hours, equipment maintenance and load sizes, but enforcement of those rules through surprise roadside inspections has been falling nationally and in Minnesota. Some truckers avoid weigh stations; the ones that drive in, “those are the ones we probably don’t need to be looking at” said a former inspector. Even the weigh stations that dot the highway system are equipped to inspect just a fraction of the trucks that pass through. Last year, for instance, 433,078 vehicles went through the Minnesota weigh station on Interstate 94 near Moorhead while it was open. About 3,800 were inspected.
The trucking industry argues that inspections take time and cut into productivity, especially for carriers already investing heavily in training and safety. Inspections should target carriers with a history of problems, they argue. Over the long haul, they say, the rate of fatal truck crashes has declined (despite a recent uptick), and most collisions involving trucks are caused by the driver of a car or other passenger vehicle. But of the trucks inspected on Minnesota’s highways last year, 24 percent of vehicles and 7 percent of drivers should not have been on the road, with safety violations so dangerous that they were temporarily declared out of service. Nationally, about 21 percent of inspected trucks were placed out of service. “Think of that: One in every five trucks … shouldn’t be on the road,” “What would you do if the FAA said … 20 percent of these suckers shouldn’t have been flying?”
Truck traffic is surging across the country, and so too are truck crashes. In Minnesota, by one measure, there were more than 5,000 crashes involving commercial trucks in 2014, an increase of 32 percent since 2012. Even factoring in vehicle miles traveled, the national rate of fatal truck crashes has been rising in recent years.
Each state has its own roadside inspection program, partly funded through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is charged with reducing crashes involving large trucks and buses. In Minnesota, that task falls mostly to the State Patrol’s commercial vehicle division, which conducted most of the state’s nearly 31,000 inspections last year on the roads and at weigh stations. It employs about 100 inspectors; about 15 local law enforcement officers around the state are also certified inspectors.
In Minnesota, nearly two-thirds to three-quarters of inspections in recent years have been done on vehicles that law enforcement pulls over in traffic, sometimes for probable cause, sometimes randomly and sometimes during enforcement campaigns, officials said. It’s a strategy used to catch problem vehicles avoiding weigh stations by using back roads, as well as inspect more that travel only inside state borders. Those stops typically result in more out-of-service violations for either the truck, the driver, or both, a State Patrol spokeswoman said. While any state trooper can stop a truck or bus for traffic infractions or basic industry violations, the State Patrol recently increased the number who are certified inspectors by 19, to 44 not including supervisors. Inspectors go through extensive training and have to stay current on a long list of often-changing federal regulations for trucks, drivers and hazardous materials, as well as state laws.
Studies vary on who is typically at fault when trucks and other vehicles collide. Trucking industry leaders point to studies showing that passenger vehicles are overwhelmingly responsible for crashes. But in a national Large Truck Crash Causation study, looking at fatal and injury crashes in the early 2000s, trucks were assigned the “critical reason” — why something happened to make a crash inevitable — in 44 percent of such collisions. And in those crashes, 87 percent were attributed to driver error and 10 percent to a vehicle defect.
Brakes are among the most common commercial vehicle violations nationally and in Minnesota. Last year, brake problems made up 41 percent of out-of-service truck violations issued in the state. Even with fully functioning brakes, it can take the length of a football field for a semi to stop from highway speeds. The laws of physics weigh heavily against people in passenger vehicles colliding with large trucks; 97 percent of those killed in such crashes were occupants of the passenger vehicle in 2013, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Companies won’t explicitly tell drivers to ignore federal rules, he said, but if a load is late because of a traffic jam or long lines at a loading dock, the driver is the one in trouble.
“You can’t just say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be a day late on that delivery.’ You don’t do that. You won’t have a job if you don’t push it.” The pressures of truck driving are worn on the haggard faces of the drivers. Maintaining equipment is expensive and time consuming, too, and many drivers are paid by the mile, an incentive to cover as much ground as quickly as possible.
While most drivers are careful about safety, some cut corners, the truckers acknowledged.
In general, safety advocates say, commercial vehicles deserve a high level of scrutiny. “These carriers are allowed to perform their business on publicly funded roads that are paid for by the American people,” said Shaun Kildare, director of research for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “I think we should hold them to a good standard.”
CAR HIT BY SEMI ACCIDENT LAWYERS MINNESOTA
If you are in a car and injured by a semitrailer truck in MN, call our office and speak with an attorney for a free consultation. Our best semitruck accident lawyers are tough, experienced and get results. We always provide personal attention to your case. The primary focus of our car accident with semi truck lawyer is to make sure you are fully compensated for your injuries. You can meet with a car accident lawyer at our offices in Edina, Minneapolis, and Woodbury MN. Our auto – truck accident attorneys also meet people at their homes in St. Paul, Roseville, Forest Lake, White Bear Lake MN, Brooklyn Park, Anoka MN, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Rogers MN, Chanhassen, Chaska, Albert Lea, Mankato, Burnsville, and other cities throughout the entire state of Minnesota.