A truck-car collision is not a fair fight. A car weighing 3500 pounds does not stand a chance in a collision against a tractor-trailer weighing upwards of 80,000 pounds.
Because commercial trucks can be so deadly in a collision, the trucking industry is highly regulated. In order to drive a commercial truck, the driver must first obtain specialized training leading to study and testing for a state’s Commercial Driving License (CDL). Operating vehicles of this size and complexity require knowledge in special areas. Before a CDL will be issued, the driver must show knowledge and operational skill in:
- Brake systems, including air-brakes, jake brakes, and adjustment of brake systems
- Load distribution and securement
- Coupling and uncoupling procedures (including making sure all lights are connected to the trailer)
- Speed and space management
- Hazard perception
- Night operations
- Extreme weather driving conditions
- Emergency maneuvers
- Skid control and recovery
Once employed as a truck driver, the carrier must ensure that its drivers are alert, awake, and sober to operate this dangerous machinery on the highway mix with passenger cars. Safe carriers require drug and alcohol-free driving from their drivers. This means that employees may be randomly (and frequently) tested for any potential substance that may affect their driving. Federal regulations for interstate truck drivers limit the amount of time on duty driving the truck. Drivers must keep a record in their possession of all time driving and resting for the previous 7 consecutive days. Most carriers use an automatic on-board recording device to accurately record hours of service of a driver. Many carriers limit the speed allowed on highways—often to a maximum of 70 mph. All commercial trucks carry computers that collect and transmit information about the truck and its operation, including its location, its speed, braking, hours of service an operation. When this system data is immediately transmitted to the dispatch office of the truck company, a system monitor can quickly determine whether the company speed limit has been violated. Some companies, especially those hauling hazardous materials, will terminate a truck driver on the spot for a speed infraction.
Different government regulations apply to the truck driver depending on whether he is driving inter-state (across state lines) or intra-state (all pick-ups and deliveries are within one state, such as Colorado). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) apply to companies, and drivers, who operate across state lines. Most states have adopted most or all of the FMCSR for trucking operations within their states, with a few exceptions. For example, in Colorado, 18-year-olds are allowed to obtain a CDL and drive trucks within the state, while a driver must be 21 years old to drive trucks across state lines.
Catastrophic injuries, including death, often result from a car-truck collision. It would not be wise to handle this kind of claim on your own. The complexity of ownership of trucks and truck companies, determining the cause of the collision, issues of whether the truck driver was an employee or a “contractor” and the complexity of applicable state and federal regulations require the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney in a truck accident case. The Colorado Springs personal injury attorneys at Clawson & Clawson LLP offer free initial consultations to discuss the issues, and options, for handling a truck injury claim.