FMCSA Begins Annual Motor Carriers’ Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey

urine specimen jarAlcohol and drugs make for a deadly combination—especially when behind the wheel. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes.

In 2009, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug. This included illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs. That same year close to 4,000 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is doing its part to keep those numbers low—particularly when it involves commercial vehicles. In an effort to do this, the FMCSA recently began notifying selected truck and bus companies, requesting that they submit their annual DOT drug and alcohol testing program results to the agency.

This annual survey measures the percentage of drivers with commercial driver’s licenses who test positive for controlled substances or drugs and/or alcohol, as a result of random and nonrandom testing.

Motor carriers that employ CDL drivers are required to implement drug and alcohol testing programs, pursuant to Part 382 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Currently, the FMCSA requires these carriers to randomly test 10 percent of their CDL drivers for alcohol and 50 percent of their CDL drivers for drugs each year.

Since the early 1990s, the FMCSA and its predecessor agency has defined drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Results for FMCSA’s 2012 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey of approximately 2,000 carriers revealed the following information:

  • Positive test rates following an initial positive result increased by 4.1 percent from 2011 to 2012.
  • Reasonable suspicion positive test rates continued to rise sharply from 5.6 percent in 2010, to 15.7 percent in 2011 and 37.2 percent in 2012, marking a five-fold increase over the 3-year period.
  • The rate of total positive drug test results reported to DOT from independent Health and Human Services-certified laboratories increased from 95,427 positives in 2011 to 97,332 positives in 2012.  FMCSA-regulated industries comprise approximately 80 percent of the reported tests.
  • Serious controlled substance and alcohol testing violations were identified in 24 percent of recent compliance investigations.
  • A two-week 2014 Strike Force focusing on the identification of drivers who tested positive resulted in 205 driver enforcement cases, and 138 enforcement cases against carriers for violations relating to drivers with positive test results operating a commercial motor vehicle.  These include drivers operating passenger carrying vehicles and transporting hazardous materials.

The selected motor carriers for this latest survey must submit their calendar year 2014 results by May 15, 2015.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates applaud the FMCSA’s efforts to continue keeping America’s roadways safe. These surveys help the agency do just that. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Home Page | Leave a comment

Trucker Found Guilty Of Fatigued Driving, Faces Up To Three Years In Prison

Courtesy: NBC Chicago

Courtesy: NBC Chicago

When truckers do not get enough sleep, the results can be deadly. In fact, fatigued driving is considered one of the top ten causes of truck accidents in the United States with 65 percent of them occurring on long-haul trips.

Believe it or not, sleep loss impacts performance similar to alcohol. Your ability to perform becomes impaired if your sleep is limited to five hours for more than two nights. After 24 hours awake, the effect is the equivalent to a BAC 0.10 percent.

For one longtime trucker, he’s learning the hard way just how devastating a lack of sleep can be. Recently, an Illinois judge found 47-year-old Renato Velasquez guilty of fatigued driving and for violating safety laws in the January 2014 crash that claimed the life of a toll worker and left a state trooper badly injured.

Prosecutors alleged that Velasquez had been working for 36 hours on only 3-1/2 hours of sleep prior to the crash, a run that took him to Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa before heading back to Chicago. The 2014 collision ruptured the officer car’s gas tank, sparking flames and explosions which badly injured Trooper Douglas Balder. A 14,000-pound roll of steel, one of three on Velasquez’s flatbed trailer, also came free and struck a tollway aid vehicle. The driver, Illinois Tollway Authority employee Vince Petrella, was killed.

In the end, the judge found Velasquez guilty of operating a commercial motor vehicle in a fatigued state, failure to comply with hours of service requirements, driving too fast for condition and failure to yield to emergency vehicles.

Current laws limit commercial operators to 11 hours behind the wheel over a 14-hour shift and requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. It also limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours.

According to authorities, Valasquez clearly violated those federally mandated guidelines, drastically changing his life and the lives of those impacted by that fatal crash forever. His decision to get behind the wheel is a reminder of what can horribly go wrong when you are not well-rested. Had Velasquez gotten the proper amount of sleep before driving, Petrella, the toll worker, would be alive today and the trooper would not be subjected to a life of pain and suffering.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates have experience holding fatigued truck drivers and their companies responsible when they injure or kill an innocent victim. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Home Page, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska | Leave a comment

Semi Driver Distracted By Chihuahua, Flips 18-Wheeler Over

Courtesy: WVUE

Courtesy: WVUE

In 2012, there were 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks—an increase of 18 percent from 88,000 in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

You can bet that some of those accidents were due to distracted driving. According to Louisiana State Police, that seemed to be the case on Tuesday when a big rig driver overturned his 18-wheeler while driving along the interstate.

Investigators say the accident happened after the driver got distracted by his Chihuahua. When firefighters responded to the scene, they reportedly found the 18-wheeler on its side on an I-12 exit ramp. The driver was able to get out on his own, but the dog died in the accident.

Troopers say they did not cite the driver, Gary Edmond Bessant of Rutledge, Tennessee. The truck was said to be hauling coffee for Folgers when it overturned while exiting a foggy I-12 west at Louisiana 434.

Luckily, there were no other vehicles involved in this accident; otherwise, the outcome likely would have been far worse. When an 18-wheeler or other heavy truck collides with passenger vehicles on the road, the consequences can be not only horrific but often fatal.

According to the FMCSA, more than 30 percent of fatal crashes involve some sort of driver error or negligence due largely to either speeding, distracted driving or failure to yield right of way.

We often associate texting or talking on the phone with distracted driving; however, it involves so much more than that. A pet, as in this case, can also be a distraction. Even taking your eyes off the road for only a second can have dire consequences.

While this driver lost his dog, it could have been much worse. Had the driver of this 18-wheeler injured another person on the highway, he and his trucking company would have very likely been the subject of a civil lawsuit. Depending on the extent of the other person’s injuries, the semi driver could have also faced criminal charges.

Law enforcement and safety advocates can’t stress it enough: distractions can kill. They have no place on the roadways when you’re behind the wheel driving. It’s so vital that a person’s full attention and eyes are devoted to the road at all times.

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman and Associates LLC today to learn how we may be able to help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Home Page, Louisiana | Leave a comment

FMCSA Shares Details Of Its Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Restart Study

Courtesy: marksontok via Flickr

Courtesy: marksontok via Flickr

Fatigue and long driving hours have been implicated in many commercial truck crashes over the years. Some studies have reported that roughly 30 percent of them were due to driver fatigue.

Under federal regulations, commercial drivers are permitted to drive no more than 10 hours before having an 8-hour break and cannot work more than 70 hours over an 8-day period.

Several studies have suggested that violations of these rules are common. In fact, in a Journal of Public Health Policy article, titled “Long Hours and Fatigue: A Survey of Tractor-Trailer Drivers,” investigators talked to 1,249 semi drivers.

What they found was rather alarming. Thirty-one percent of the drivers admitted to having driven more than the weekly hours-of-service limit of 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days.

Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released details of a congressionally mandated study that started earlier this month. The study measures and compares the fatigue and safety performance levels of truck drivers who take at least two nighttime rest periods during their 34-hour restart break and those drivers who use one nighttime rest period during their restart break.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study is comparing five-month work schedules and assessing crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant conflicts, operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes of the two groups of CMV drivers.

According to FMCSA officials, the sample of drivers will be large enough to produce statistically significant results. The study will be comprised of drivers from small, medium, and large fleets across a variety of operations (long-haul, short-haul, and regional). The study plans to include different sectors of the industry such as flat-bed, refrigerated, tank, and dry-van.

Data for this study started being collected this month and will end in July. Participants of this study can earn up to $2,166. They will also be equipped with a camera facing inward and a camera facing the road to monitor driving patterns. They will also be required to complete a five minute health background survey, sleep diary, caffeine log and perform smartphone based assessments. The data collected will remain confidential.

Share
Posted in Home Page | Leave a comment

FMCSA Releases New Smartphone App Containing Safety Data On Commercial Truck and Bus Companies

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tractor trailer accident statistics show that the roads of the United States witness over 500,000 accidents each year. That’s why the FMCSA is always looking for ways make the roadways safer and reduce traffic fatalities. An estimated 85 percent of those killed in commercial vehicle collisions are drivers and/or passengers.

This week the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a new smartphone app that will make it easier to access safety performance information for interstate truck and bus companies.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox, he hopes by making safety information more easily accessible to both law enforcement personnel and the general public, America’s highways will become safer.

“Safety is our highest priority, so we are committed to using every resource available at our finger tips to ensure the safety of travelers,” he said.

The app is called “QCMobile,” which stands for “Query Central Mobile,” and is expected to be a particularly valuable tool for state and federal law enforcement personnel, as well as insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders, and others interested in reviewing the USDOT registration and safety performance information of motor carriers.

“FMCSA will continue to use all the tools, resources, and partnerships available to further strengthen commercial vehicle safety across the country,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling.  “Aggressive safety enforcement, research, and technology development and deployment, combined with strong stakeholder participation, will continue to be directed toward removing unsafe trucks and buses from our roadways and protecting every traveler from needless harm.”

Law enforcement officers and commercial motor vehicle safety inspectors use customized software at the roadside to log-into national safety databases to obtain highly detailed safety information on all interstate truck and bus companies.

The new QCMobile app, which requires no log-in, immediately reveals whether the federal operating status of the carrier is authorized while helping to expedite an “inspect/pass” decision by a certified commercial vehicle safety inspector.

QCMobile retrieves data from a number of FMCSA sources and provides a clear summary of the results.  Law enforcement officers and safety inspectors then have the option of retrieving more detailed information on carriers covering their seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that are a part of FMCSA’s cornerstone safety program, Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA).

The free QCMobile app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play to download QCMobile.

Share
Posted in Home Page | Leave a comment

Authorities: 18-Wheeler Crosses Center Line, Kills Pickup Driver

Courtesy: KNOE-TV

Courtesy: KNOE-TV

A Louisiana man lost his life Tuesday after the vehicle he was driving was struck by an 18-wheeler, authorities stated. According to Louisiana State Police, shortly before 4:30 p.m. officers were called to investigate a two-vehicle fatal crash that occurred on U.S. 425 approximately 2 miles north of the city of Wisner. Investigators say that 61-year-old Alex Brown Jr. was driving a 2000 Chevrolet pickup north on US Highway 425 just as a 2006 Freightliner 18-wheeler, driven by 71-year-old David Minor of Natchez, Mississippi was traveling south on US Hwy 425.

For unknown reasons at this time, police stated that the 18-wheeler crossed the median and struck the vehicle Brown was driving. Brown was reportedly wearing his seat belt, but sustained fatal injuries due to the severity of the crash and was pronounced dead on scene by the Franklin Parish Coroner’s Office.

Minor was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries; however, he was cited for careless operation.

Of course, there are still several unanswered questions relating to this case with the main one being: what caused the semi driver to cross the center line to begin with? Was he not paying attention to the road? If not, why not?

Interestingly enough, after releasing details of the case, authorities took the liberty to stress that “distracted and inattentive driving continue to be leading causes of crashes in Louisiana.”

“In 2015, Troop F has investigated 11 fatal crashes resulting in 11 deaths,” stated Sgt. Michael Reichardt with Louisiana State Police.

Distracted driving can include the following:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

The numbers don’t lie. Distracted driving can have life changing consequences. Just don’t do it. If you have the urge to text, talk on the phone, adjust the radio, etc.—pull over on the side of the road. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Every year, the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates represent dozens of clients injured by commercial vehicle drivers who were negligent on the road. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Louisiana | Leave a comment

Trucking Co. Ordered To Pay Arizona Family $19.25M In Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A jury has ordered trucking company Landstar System Inc. to pay an Arizona family $19.25 million following a week-long civil trial. Courtroom View Network was first to report the verdict.

According to the original lawsuit, Michael Bruno drove his 2003 Chevrolet Silverado in July 2011 southbound along U.S. Highway 93 in Mohave County, Arizona when the right, front tire suffered a blowout, causing Bruno to lose control of his car.

As his car exited the roadway to the right, it collided into the rear of a parked commercial tractor-trailer operated by Landstar System, Inc., a company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

The lawsuit alleged that two factors played a part in causing the deadly highway accident. The plaintiffs’ lawyer stated that the first problem was that the semi was equipped with an inadequate and substandard rear-protection guard manufactured by Hyundai. Despite properly wearing his seat belt, Bruno lost his life the accident. His wife and daughter also suffered severe and permanent injuries in the accident. Several other passengers inside the car were also badly injured as well, according to the lawsuit.

Prior to the deadly accident, William Gray, the driver of the semi, pulled the vehicle into a pull-over area adjacent to U.S. Highway 93. The lawsuit alleges that instead of parking his commercial vehicle as far from the roadway as feasibly possible, Gray parked his tractor-trailer 12 feet from the roadway, eliminating any “recovery zone” for Bruno.

Lawyers for the Bruno family stated that Gray likely violated company policy when he parked his truck less than 15 feet from the fog-line. In turn, the family’s attorney’s argued that Gray and his company’s “unreasonable actions” caused the accident.

On Friday, it only took a jury a day following a one-week trial to find the trucking company at fault. The attorney who represented the Bruno family told Courtroom View Network that the verdict sends a warning to Landstar and other trucking companies about the safety consequences of parking an 80,000-pound vehicle too close to a busy highway.

According to the news outlet, Friday’s verdict is the second multi-million loss this year for Landstar at a trial over an accident involving the company’s trucks. In January a California state court jury returned a verdict of $34.5 million to a bicycle rider who had his leg amputated after being hit by a Landstar tractor-trailer.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman and Associates LLC firmly believe that negligent commercial drivers and companies should always be held accountable for using poor judgment. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to help families who’ve suffered a loss at their expense.

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we may be able to help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Arizona, Home Page | Leave a comment

FMCSA Establishes New Committee, Will Explore Improving Training Requirements For Entry-Level Drivers

Image courtesy of marksontok at Flickr.com

Image courtesy of marksontok at Flickr.com

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are more than 1.5 million tractor trailer drivers who are employed in this country. Every day, tens of thousands of them travel America’s highways. Many of them are experienced; however, some of them are not.

Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that inexperienced drivers increase the odds of highways accidents. In fact, every year about 5,000 people die in semi-truck wrecks in the United States.

In an effort to protect lives and keep America’s roads safe, the FMCSA wants to reduce those numbers as much as possible. To do that, the agency recently announced plans to create new rules that would raise the minimum training standards for entry-level commercial drivers.

“Over the next 30 years, we’re going to be relying on trucks – and truckers – to move more than 40 percent more freight than they currently do,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Occupational Health and Safety. “With more people and freight crossing our country than ever before, this committee’s work will be critical to ensuring that commercial drivers are fully capable of operating their vehicles safely.”

A negotiated rulemaking committee, composed of 26 members, will examine minimum training requirements, including length of classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel experience, accreditation versus certification of CDL training programs and schools, curricula for passenger, property and hazardous materials carriers, instructor qualifications, as well as other areas.

“Ensuring roadway safety starts with the driver,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “Finalizing new training requirements for truck and bus operators is one of my top priorities and we have tapped a group of uniquely qualified stakeholders to help us work through the details and meet this goal.”

The new training rules and committee are part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) which directs FMCSA to establish minimum training requirements for individuals seeking to obtain an intrastate or interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and become a professional truck or bus operator.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman and Associates LLC commend the FMCSA’s effort to put more experienced commercial drivers on the road.  Horror stories about accidents involving poorly trained truck drivers appear in the news far too often than not. Creating stronger training requirements for commercial drivers will greatly reduce the number of accidents we see regularly making headlines.

 

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in Home Page | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 Tips For Sharing The Road With Big Rig Drivers

Driving next to an 18-wheeler can be a bit intimidating—not to mention even frightening. After all, semis are generally five times the size of a car, pickup truck or SUV and up to 20 times or more the weight. Because of their massive sizes and heavy weights, trucks have the ability to cause serious damage and death if involved in an accident. Here’s a look at some of the stats:

  • Fatal tractor trailer accidents cost Americans more than $20 billion each year, $13.1 billion of which is the cost associated with loss of quality of life
  • For every 100 million miles driven on U.S. road ways, there are 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries caused by big rigs.

Sharing the road with a big rig doesn’t have to be a nightmare, though. There are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and the semi driver next to you.

  • TAKE NO CHANCES When a truck’s about to move into your lane, your first instinct might be to speed up and cut the vehicle off so you don’t get stuck behind it. But this type of move puts you in danger. A truck can’t stop as fast as your car, so if you suddenly cut in front of a truck and then hit the brakes, you’re asking for a serious accident.
  • PASS WITH CARE Many car drivers assume that truckers can see them at all times. After all, rigs are big and cars are small. That smallness, however, can leave you outside the trucker’s range of vision and put you both at risk.
  • AVOID CUTTING OFF A SEMI Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck or get in front of a truck and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car, and you’re only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then slowing down in front of it.
  • BE PATIENT WITH REVERSING TRUCKS It takes a lot of time and concentration for a truck driver to back up a 48-foot trailer without hitting anyone or anything. Often times, it takes a few attempts to safely reverse a truck. Just stay calm and allow the truck driver to do his/her job.
  • NEVER TAILGATE Because truck drivers sit much higher than the normal passenger car, they see things before you do. Stay back at least 100 feet or more, in case the truck driver has to brake suddenly, so you can react in time to avoid rear-ending the truck. In addition, debris from a blown-out tire is less likely to smash through your windshield.

The cases that I handle are catastrophic cases in which the truck driver is at fault, so I see a disproportionate amount of bad drivers. Most truck-car collisions are the fault of the car driver. It is important for “4 wheelers” (which is what truck drivers call cars, pickups and SUVs) and large trucks to have a mutual respect for each other. This includes 4 wheel drivers understanding that the stopping distance and maneuverability of tractor trailers and other large trucks is much different than cars.

If you have ever lost a loved one or have been the victim of a trucking accident, we may be able to help. It is our job to ensure that truck drivers, trucking companies and any other liable party are held accountable for their actions. Call us today at 1-800-628-4500 for a free consultation.

Share
Posted in Home Page, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Train Hits 18-Wheeler Lingering Too Long On Tracks

Courtesy: WRAL-TV

Courtesy: WRAL-TV

According to WRAL-TV, an Amtrak train hit a tractor-trailer that stalled on railroad tracks in North Carolina, toppling the engine onto its side Monday and sending 55 of the 212 passengers aboard the train to the hospital.

This collision was the third serious commuter train crash in less than two months. The Associated Press reported that deadly crashes in New York and California in February killed a total of seven people and injured 30.

An eye-witness told several media outlets that the driver of the big rig was lingering on the tracks in an attempt to make a difficult right-hand turn on the other side. The 18-wheeler backed up several times in order to make the turn but did not succeed in time.

A few minutes later, the witness stated that she heard the sound of the oncoming train and saw the cross bars hit the tractor-trailer. The driver then jumped out of the truck. He is said to be doing okay, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The tractor-trailer, owned by Guy M. Turner Inc. in Greensboro, had a permit to carry an overweight load of 80,000 pounds, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott. It wasn’t immediately clear what the tractor-trailer was carrying at the time of the crash.

At this time, there are still quite a few questions unanswered about this particular case. For example, did the semi driver have any advance warnings that the train was approaching? Did the semi driver believe he was able to safely make the turn? How long did the driver attempt to make the turn?

Under the law, before a semi driver can cross a railroad track, he or she must stop the vehicle within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail. Then while stopped, the semi driver must listen and look in both directions for an approaching train, and for signals indicating the approach of a train. He or she cannot proceed until it is safe to do so.

Based on FMCSA regulations, CDL holders convicted of violating state traffic laws concerning the failure to have sufficient space to clear the tracks completely without stopping must be disqualified for at least:

  • 60 days for a first offense
  • 120 days for the second offense in a 3-year period
  • 1 year for a third offense in a 3-year period.

We’re sure that over the next several days, there will be new information that sheds light on this unfortunate accident. We are just glad that no lives were lost in the crash.

Every year, the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates represents dozens of clients injured by commercial vehicle drivers who were negligent on the road. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

Share
Posted in California, Home Page, New York, North Carolina | Leave a comment