It is quite common to hear drivers say how they were involved in truck accidents during the winter. Accidents in the winter happen very frequently, sometimes even when the road seemed to have little traffic.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA) statistics, truck accidents increase exponentially during the winter season. The low temperatures, the snowfall, and the rain cause the wheels of these heavy vehicles to skid, often producing multiple accidents.
Automobiles get the worst part in truck accident cases
Although in a crash involving a truck, the driver of the car has the greater risk of becoming seriously injured, the number of truck driver deaths increased by 7% in 2017 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The characteristics and the weight of trucks, added to the high speed and/or mechanical or human failures, can cause these types of accidents to result in a fatality.
Truck driver involvement
A truck driver can always refuse to drive when there is bad weather. That is, when the weather makes it unsafe or dangerous to drive a commercial vehicle on the road.
However, when a truck driver refuses to drive, he must have reasonable grounds to do so. First, the decision should be based on the truck driver’s personal observations, as well as based on weather reports.
Each truck driver should keep in mind that when caught in bad weather, he could always call the Transportation Department and the Highway Patrol. Truck drivers should not be afraid to refuse to drive in adverse weather conditions, as the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) protects them.
The creation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits trucking companies from retaliating against truck drivers if they refuse to drive in adverse weather conditions. Every truck driver who has a reasonable concern cannot be sanctioned or fired for not working during such conditions.
Trucking companies mostly at fault
Truckers’ rights have been recognized by the United States Government and by all the major truckers’ associations as well. Trucking is the leading mode of freight transportation in the U.S. The trucking industry employs close to 3.5 million registered truck drivers and 70 percent of goods are shipped by road in the United States.
However, most of the times, trucking companies promote driving in unsafe conditions, and this creates a hazard, not only for truck drivers, but also for the people on the road.
Here are some factors that increase the accident rate for truck drivers during the winter season:
1.Unsafe vehicles: Unfortunately, truck drivers receive job offers from trucking companies that do not follow the rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Still, each truck driver must file a safety complaint and refuse to drive an unsafe vehicle if he/she believes that is the case. STAA also focuses on many other activities, such as Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, control of working time or driving in bad weather.
2. Driving under bad weather conditions: Truck drivers have a unique lifestyle that requires them to be constantly on the road.
When the winter is in full swing, the truckers face roads covered with snow and ice. When weather conditions are extreme, truck drivers have the full right to refuse to drive, with the exception of “Ice Road Truckers”, who deliver fuel, food, equipment and supplies across frozen waterways during the winter months. This is one of the truckers’ rights that is supported by the United States Code of Federal Regulations.
3. Exposure to different hazards: Exposure to different risks has led truck drivers to experience one of the highest death rates of all workers in all industries. According to the latest report from the Department of Labor (DOL), transportation was the second-most deadly industry last year, with 957 deaths.
Therefore the rights of truck drivers, such as the right to claim exposure to different risks are really important. In order to make truck drivers more prepared and educated, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established stricter regulations, as well as references to the dangers inherent to the main activities of drivers.
4. Too much time on the road: Normally, the lifestyle of any type of truck driver requires a certain amount of time on the road; some truck drivers can spend 2 weeks away from home, while others could be away for months.
5. Longer working hours: Having the ticking of the clock over someone’s head is the worst thing that can happen to any employee.
Therefore, trucking companies should be aware that driving on the road non-stop is dangerous, and they should not give truck drivers unrealistic load times since truck drivers put themselves at higher risk for crashes because of unexpected wait times on loading docks, according the latest report from the DOT.
It is the best and a safer way for everyone on the road, if a tired truck driver takes a break instead of rolling on because he/she is at a greater risk of causing a truck accident.
Truck drivers’ recourse
Almost everyone involved in the transportation industry is familiar with the fact that truck drivers have the right to file official complaints, as well as legal proceedings, if they find themselves in any unwanted situation.
Truck drivers today can enjoy the benefits that the Surface Transportation Assistance Act provides to them. Then, truckers can easily find attorneys specializing in the transportation industry, who are able to help and prevent any kind of retaliation from trucking companies. These lawyers can also help them with workplace injuries that resulted from road accidents.
Therefore, when reporting a problem, drivers should take all the data and figures to their employer. Being specific in these situations is crucial. For example, if the driver believes there is a violation of DOT regulations then, his account statement should be clear as to what that violation is.
Having a witness when filing any type of complaint is an important point to consider. The truck driver should keep in mind that documenting a problem with a camera or cell phone can help if he does not have a witness at the time.
Fortunately, many people can escape from a crash against a heavy truck, but sometimes they are not so lucky. An accident is usually traumatic for all parties involved.
Affected in a truck accident in the Houston Metro Area?
If you were injured in an accident with a large truck or other commercial vehicle, it is important that you understand your legal rights. Even if you were partially at fault, you may still be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Our team of attorneys at P&M Law has extensive experience with truck accident claims and will be able to consult with you about your legal rights and open an investigation into the cause of the accident to help determine true liability. Fill out the form on our website or call us at 832-844-6428 so we can evaluate your case for free.