When Chicago drivers take to the roads, they put an immense amount of trust in the other motorists with whom they are driving. A negligent individual can make a choice that results in serious injury for those around them at any moment. This is especially true for the drivers of large commercial vehicles. Due to their enormous size, commercial trucks are among the most deadly vehicles on the roads. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created specific regulations to which commercial drivers must adhere. Failure to do so could cause a serious accident in which other motorists are killed and negligent drivers face severe civil and criminal penalties.
Proper maintenance of a commercial fleet is one of the most basic tenets of maintaining roadway safety. If a vehicle does not undergo routine maintenance, motor carriers are unable to fix broken or improperly maintained parts before they cause or contribute to a truck accident. The FMCSA requires that every commercial vehicle pass an inspection at least once every year. The requirements for inspections can be met over time through periodic inspection programs offered and administered by individual states, roadside inspections performed at weighing stations in which inspectors adhere to Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection standards, at commercial garages that adhere to federal standards, or through self-inspection performed by the motor carrier or driver.
In order for an inspection to be considered valid, it must provide the following information:
- The name of the person who performed the inspection
- The motor carrier
- Inspection date
- VIN of the vehicle being inspected
- All components included in the inspection
A sworn statement certifying the accuracy and integrity of the inspection is required, and all reports must be kept on file for a minimum of 14 months.
Detailed regulations are also in place dictating the types of equipment that trucks must use and how they are to be used. Parts included in maintenance regulations include headlights, reflectors, hazard warning signals, lighting devices, power supplies, fog lamps, wiring systems, brake systems, window construction, and nearly any other part on a truck, whether seemingly minor in importance or essential for successful operation of the vehicle.
Consequences of an improperly maintained vehicle
When trucks are not properly maintained, serious accidents often occur. NBC Chicago reports that an Illinois man who was recently traveling with a friend in Wisconsin on a fishing trip was killed when a tire flew off of an oncoming commercial vehicle and crashed through the man’s windshield. He was a passenger in the vehicle, and his friend, who was driving, was not injured in the accident. The victim’s family stated that he was likely killed instantly from severe blunt force trauma. Law enforcement officers know that the tire came from a large utility truck or trailer, but are still searching for the vehicle to which it belongs.
Improper loading and securement
Improper loading can also present unique dangers to those on the nation’s roads. The FMCSA details cargo securement rules for all commercial vehicle drivers. Securement systems must be capable of meeting performance requirements when a vehicle applies the brakes, when it is turning, and when it is speeding up. When these actions take place, large amounts of force are placed on the cargo and it has the potential to come free from its constraints if not properly secured. This could cause the load or its components to spill over onto the roadway, which could be disastrous for the motorists around the truck. If a load comes free from its constraints, it may also shift its position on the truck, leading to a dangerous imbalance. This imbalance could cause the truck to easily tip over or jackknife when a driver makes an overzealous course correction, suddenly turns, or even when passing through an area of high wind.
An area of particular concern for trucking companies is ensuring that their drivers are rested while on the road. The FMCSA has issued detailed guidelines which limit the number of hours a driver can spend in service. Truckers are prohibited from working more than 14 hours each day, and no more than 11 of those hours are to be spent behind the wheel. Drivers cannot work more than 70 hours a week unless they prove that they have rested for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights of rest from 1-5 a.m. Truckers are also required to take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of each shift.
Many truck drivers are paid by the load, so they can potentially increase their earnings by increasing speed and the amount of time they spend hauling freight. Additionally, many motor carriers pressure their drivers to make certain deadlines that would require an unsafe amount of time behind the wheel or unsafe speeds. These incredibly detailed regulations are necessary to keep truckers and their motor carriers from placing profits above safety.
Effects of sleep deprived drivers
The consequences of what can happen when drivers do not adhere to FMCSA rest regulations have never been more publicly known due to the recent trucking accident involving comedian and actor Tracy Morgan. The well-known entertainer was traveling in his limo on the New Jersey Turnpike when it was hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer. The collision crushed the back of the limo, killing Morgan’s friend and colleague James McNair and sending Morgan to the hospital with critical injuries. Investigators discovered that the driver of the truck had been awake for more than 24 hours prior to the incident. He is currently facing vehicular homicide and assault charges.
Those who have sustained injuries due to the negligence of a truck driver should contact a personal injury attorney in Chicago immediately. An experienced trucking company liability attorney can help victims receive the compensation and closure they need in order to reclaim their lives.