How Commercial Deadlines and Waiting Times Could Lead to a Truck Crash
Truck drivers face pressures from the federal regulators, shippers, trucking companies and receivers. With large truck crash fatalities typically reaching over 4,500 a year, commercial operators are also under scrutiny by highway law enforcement trying to keep the roads safe. Understanding what creates a workplace hazard for drivers is important in understanding the context for driver fatigue, speeding and driving during the most unsafe hours of the morning.
Shipping Deadlines, HOS and Loading Delays Lead to Roadway Risks
The terminology involved in managing a truck driver’s route is critical for understanding why drivers might engage in risky behavior. For example, even if an independent contractor accepts a route, the deadline is usually set by the agent, and this leaves little to no room for negotiation. The pressure to make the delivery on time is consistent. This means that the delivery time doesn’t adjust to any conditions faced by the driver. To make the delivery on time, many of the existing conditions would have to be ideal instead of realistic. Because of this, drivers are put under pressure to make their deliveries regardless of how long it takes to load the truck, what kind of weather or road conditions are occurring, terrain or other obstacles beyond their control.
In addition to these obstacles to making a timely delivery, waiting times create delays that put pressure on drivers. The driver is under strict hours-of-service rules, which limit the amount of total driving that can be performed within a certain time period. However, when a variety of pressures are placed on the driver, it can create a situation where the delivery can’t be made within the available driving hours. This pressures drivers to attempt to travel at unsafe speeds in order to make up for the time spent at the warehouse docks waiting to be loaded. The waiting times can be longer than the time that was allotted. For example, the driver might be told that the truck can be loaded within a few hours, but it could end up taking five or more hours to load.
Hours-of-service rules are often ignored by warehouse shippers who go home at the same time every day while making drivers wait until the last minute. This is one example of a situation where the driver is forced to drive later than expected into the night to make up the time that was spent waiting at the docks. If the delivery is scheduled the next morning, the driver will be forced to choose between getting sleep and making the delivery within the promised window of time. The trucking company often puts pressure on the driver to deliver on time no matter the road conditions or how long the driver was waiting at the docks to be loaded.
A Variety of Pressures Force Drivers Into Risky Situations
Not every driver faces the same situation. Some drivers might be making a delivery the next morning, and the waiting times force the driver into driving past the point of fatigue and into the hours of the morning when accidents are most likely to occur. Other drivers may be taking a single load across the country, but a deadline is still set regardless of conditions faced on the road. This means that the route planners are under no obligation to take into account whether the driver must pass through steep mountainous areas carrying heavy loads, which require more gas.
In fact, some drivers aren’t given adequate fuel to make it to the end of the run, and every extra stop along the way pushes the driver behind the planned schedule. The additional stress of being behind a delivery schedule creates a situation where the driver feels pressure to drive as fast as possible for as many hours as possible. This disregard of the driver’s need for rest and adequate sleep is only compounded by the actual conditions faced out on the road. To make matters worse, the driver has almost no control over any aspect of this situation. Nevertheless, he or she is often the first to get blamed whenever something goes wrong.
Truck Crash Lawyers, Liability Claims
Liability is generally shared by all parties who are found to have contributed to the events leading up to the accident. However, the court system tends to assign different levels of liability between different parties. This includes truck drivers, companies and carriers. However, all of this deliberation happens from the safe confines of the courthouse. Powerful interests represented in legal cases are in the habit of deflecting blame, which often falls on the weakest part of the chain. This just happens to be the truck driver.
Transportation companies usually find a way to pressure drivers into violating HOS rules while also shifting the liability away from themselves. No matter how it happens, these intense deadline pressures create unsafe driving conditions for truckers. Since commercial big rigs are so large, they can cause catastrophic damage in a crash. A truck accident lawyer can help an accident victim navigate through issues of liability and obtain fair compensation.
Cases involving commercial trucks can be complicated because there are many factors at play when determining who’s at fault. The main issue is the level of responsibility, and drivers have only direct control over the vehicle itself. The condition of the vehicle, maintenance, reliability of the parts and other factors can contribute to the truck crash. These are not easy to detect, so it can require an experienced legal professional to determine the degree of liability present in each of these areas. After the investigation is completed, the case must also be successfully made during the negotiation process or in front of a judge. The combination of factors that could be present in any given case makes it critical to have competent legal representation.
Internal Pressures, Driver Classification
To make matters even more complicated, each accident case will be evaluated depending on the individual’s relationship with the employer. For example, there are different classes of truck drivers, and this factor can determine whether the driver is directly liable for making decisions that created a truck crash. Company drivers operate under the strict supervision of the trucking company, and this is a more straightforward way of determining how much liability belongs to each party. However, many owner-operators are classified as independent contractors even though the terms of their working conditions don’t allow real independence.
Legal Enforcement, Lobbies and Power
Public interest is best represented when commercial drivers can get enough rest and operate safely without extreme pressures coming from entities whose primary interest is driven by profits. Unfortunately, pro-business lobbies do not always act with safety as their No. 1 concern. Also, many truckers feel alienated by stifling regulations that get in the way of their jobs.
Ultimately, these issues are peripheral to the victim of a truck accident. Someone who has been hurt by a fatigued trucker simply wants adequate compensation, no matter who was to blame. Our legal team can help to build a case that fairly represents the plaintiff while tackling the specific issues of the case aggressively. Contact our New Jersey office at (732) 247-3600 if you’re located in New Brunswick. Alternatively, you can contact a truck accident lawyer at our Somerville, NJ office at (908) 448-2560.