Scales of Justice

Common Questions about Trucking Accidents

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Accidents involving large commercial vehicles or semi-trucks are dangerous due to their size and weight.

But in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, some trucking regulations are being lifted or even changed, which may increase the risk of trucking accidents.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, call Scott Carr Law Firm at 415-799-2229 or contact us online. Our team of truck accident lawyers serve clients throughout San Francisco.

We’re dedicated to helping truck accident victims and providing accurate, up to date information on trucking accidents. We’ve put together answers to frequently asked questions on trucking accidents below.

How many trucking accidents are there in the United States?

Out of the approximately 450,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2017, there were 4,237 fatal crashes (one percent ) and 344,000 injury crashes (23 percent), according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

From 2016 to 2017, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased 10 percent. The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by five percent, while the number involved in property damage only crashes increased by three percent.

Why do trucking accidents happen?

Distracted driving and driver error often play a part in most motor vehicle accidents, including trucking accidents.

Other factors in trucking accidents include:

  • Driver-related factors such as impairment due to fatigue or illness
  • Speeding
  • Another vehicle, person, animal, or object in the truck’s lane, leading to loss of control
  • Vehicle-related factors such as tire issues, faulty parts, or inadequate maintenance

Where do crashes involving large trucks usually occur?

The majority of all fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2017 occurred in rural areas (57 percent). The second most common location for trucking accidents was interstate highways (27 percent), followed by rural interstate highways (13 percent).

When do trucking accidents usually occur?

Nighttime, from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, was the most common time of day for trucking accidents. The vast majority of both fatal crashes (83 percent) and nonfatal crashes (88 percent) occurred on weekdays, from Monday through Friday.

Why are trucking accidents so dangerous?

Because of their size and weight, the consequences of a truck crashing can be much more severe than a smaller vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a “large truck” as any truck with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds, excluding buses and motorhomes.

When a vehicle of this size and weight loses control on the road, collides with another vehicle, or collides with a stationary object, the damage can be serious.

Furthermore, large trucks sometimes carry cargo like flammable liquids and hazardous materials. When this cargo spills in an accident, it can be even more dangerous for those involved or bystanders present.

 In fact, hazardous materials cargo was present on three percent of large trucks involved in fatal crashes, and two percent of those in nonfatal crashes in 2017.

Are truck regulations changing due to COVID-19?

Yes. On March 13, 2020, the US Department of Transportation issued a national emergency declaration for commercial vehicles delivering relief in response to COVID-19, or the coronavirus. It’s the first time the FMCSA has issued nationwide relief. The national emergency declaration is in effect until April 12 or until it is terminated.

The declaration provides “hours-of-service regulatory relief” to drivers, meaning they’ll be exempt from hours of service rules if they’re transporting freight to provide relief of the virus.

What cargo is covered under the emergency declaration?

Relief supplies transported by truck drivers may include:

  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectant, and other supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Livestock and food for emergency restocking of stores
  • Equipment and supplies needed to establish and manage temporary housing and quarantine facilities
  • Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services
  • Persons for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes

If a driver is transporting a load of relief supplies mixed with other, unrelated materials, they’re generally still covered under the declaration’s new rules.

What does the emergency declaration mean for truck drivers?

The national emergency declaration stipulates that once a truck driver has completed their delivery, they must receive a minimum of 10 hours of off duty time if transporting property. If transporting passengers, they must receive a minimum of 8 hours of off time.

Prior to this national emergency declaration, drivers were only permitted to work 14 hour days, and could spend only 11 of those hours actually driving. These regulations no longer apply.

What are some of the risks due to the changing regulations?

Because of COVID-19, truckers are needed more than ever to transport emergency supplies. The national emergency declaration is meant to meet demand for supplies, but it can also increase the risk of trucking accidents.

Shelter-in-place is in effect, leaving roads mostly clear of traffic without people commuting to work. That frees up roads for truck drivers, but there are other dangers present. With less strict rules on driving time and breaks, drivers may be driving while exhausted or distracted from working long hours. And if they become infected with COVID-19 while on the road, it may spread unknowingly if drivers aren’t taking proper precautions.

How can an attorney help after a trucking accident?

If you or a loved one are involved in a trucking accident, our injury attorneys at Scott Carr Law Firm based in San Francisco can help. It’s not always clear who is at-fault in a truck accident, and changing regulations due to COVID-19 can complicate matters even further.

A truck accident lawyer at Scott Carr Law Firm can help you understand your options and fight for the compensation you deserve.  Call Scott Carr Law Firm today at 419-799-2229 to get started today. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to clients throughout San Francisco.

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