When a tractor-trailer with an overall length of over 60 feet is carrying a load of 80,000 pounds and rolls over, it endangers anybody else on or near the roadway. When that vehicle is out of control, it’s a virtual street sweeper. It is likely that anybody in a passenger vehicle that is impacted by that gigantic machine will suffer serious injuries or possibly even lose their life.
Many times, an experienced Phoenix accident lawyer is familiar with the issue that truck rollovers can be close to 100 percent preventable. Here is how most of them occur.
Failing to reduce speed
The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, examined 239 large truck rollover accidents that were investigated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Nearly half of those crashes involved the failure of drivers to reduce their speed when encountering curves in a roadway. More frequently than not, this occurred at on-ramps and off-ramps.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a distraction as “anything that diverts a driver’s attention from the primary tasks of navigating the vehicle and responding to critical events.” The driver of a tractor-trailer operates that vehicle while using three brain functions. Those are visual, manual and cognitive functions. When the driver is distracted by using one or more of those functions to perform another task, the risk of a crash increases dramatically. Distracted driving can include but not be limited to:
- Talking on a cellular device
- Using a navigational device
- Eating and drinking
Other truck driver behavior
Bad driving coupled with an improperly loaded trailer can result in a rollover. A driver might accelerate or brake abruptly, and a load can shift and cause a rollover. The laws of physics coupled with speeding, curves and corners also combine to cause rollovers. A driver should inspect a truck and its load both before it goes on the road and while in transit. If a driver fails to make periodic inspections, a condition like worn brakes or low tire pressure can contribute to a rollover crash.
Unlike drugs or alcohol, there is no scientific test for fatigue. Although it is a cause of many tractor-trailer accidents, it probably isn’t represented accurately in statistics. It might even overlap with other accident causes like speed. Fatigue can cause the following:
- Decreased reaction time, judgment and vision
- Issues with the brain processing information
- A decrease in performance and awareness
- An increase a moody and aggressive demeanor
Fatigued driving might be shown by circumstantial evidence. Fatigued driving accidents often involve only the tractor-trailer and its driver and no other vehicles. These crashes usually result in severe injuries or the death of the driver. Skid marks or other evidence of attempting to avoid an accident are usually absent at the scene.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a new rule was implemented to stop fatigued driving by changing the hours of service rules for drivers of large trucks. The new rule requires scheduled breaks and rest periods that are intended to keep truck drivers alert on the road. The result of these rule changes was the reduction of an average work week for a driver from 82 hours a week to 70 hours.
Loading is a center of gravity issue. Although the responsibility for loading a truck might be on the shoulders of another company like a shipper, the driver and the trucking company that employs him are ultimately responsible for ensuring that a truck is properly loaded, and that the load is properly secured. When a trailer being pulled by a truck is not properly loaded and secured, the cargo or load can shift and cause severe tractor-trailer instability that results in a rollover accident, particularly on curves, when turning or during emergency maneuvering.
Another center of gravity issue can arise with trucks pulling tanks filled with liquids. A tank that is not sufficiently filled can result in liquid sloshing and moving from side to side inside of it. A rollover accident involving a truck that is carrying flammable liquid can create an immediate and very dangerous hazard.
What you or your family should do about a serious or fatal truck accident
If you were injured or a family member was killed in a truck accident that was the fault of a truck driver or his employer, protect your rights by contacting a knowledgeable and experienced Phoenix injury lawyer right away. Do not delay. Don’t give the opposing insurer a statement without an attorney present. The law does not require you to. Witnesses and evidence can disappear.
The trucker’s insurer will have a team of investigators on the scene shortly after the accident. They will make a record of evidence favorable to them but ignore all of the evidence against them. You need to place your own team at the scene too. You want all evidence in your favor preserved so you have a fair chance in a lawsuit. Time limits apply to filing a lawsuit, so do not delay.