Safety Groups Urge NHTSA To Mandate Collision Avoidance Technology For Large Trucks

Courtesy: Flickr

Courtesy: Flickr

Every year, approximately 4,000 people are killed and nearly 100,000 are injured in crashes involving large trucks.

Research shows that many of these collisions actually occur from the rear. NHTSA data backs this. From 2003-2008, it revealed that there were 32,000 crashes involving a truck striking the rear of a vehicle resulting in at least 300 fatalities and injuring over 15,000 people annually.

Because of those numbers, several safety groups and individuals are on a mission to change that. They recently petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mandate collision avoidance and mitigation braking systems for new heavy trucks and buses.

“The safety technology is available to reduce the carnage on America’s roads resulting from rear-end crashes by large trucks,” said Henry Jasny, Senior Vice President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The NHTSA can take action to improve safety and reduce preventable losses by requiring F-CAM technology on all large commercial motor vehicles.”

The Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety and Road Safe America has also joined forces with Highway and Auto Safety to demand these new safety measures.

Steve Owings, Road Safe America Co-Founder and past Chairman of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, lost his son, Cullum, when the car Cullum was driving was barreled into from behind, in stopped traffic, by a tractor-trailer.

That big-rig’s driver was speeding 8 mph over the posted speed limit using cruise control and didn’t touch his brakes until his truck was within 100 feet of the stopped traffic.

“There is little doubt that Cullum would still be alive today if only that truck had F-CAM technology,” Owings said.

The basic technology that these safety groups want utilized is something called ‘Forward Collision Warning (FCW).” It’s a vehicle-based safety system that generates a visual, audible, or haptic (vibration) warning for the driver in the event the driver’s vehicle comes within a predefined distance and closing rate with a vehicle traveling in front of it, known as the target vehicle.

In situations where the driver does not respond to the FCW alert signals, Collision Mitigation Braking (CMB) automatically applies the foundation brakes through the electronic stability control (ESC) system to reduce the impact speed or entirely prevent the collision with the target vehicle.

“Many hundreds of lives could be saved each year if trucks are equipped with automatic braking systems,” said Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. “The NHTSA should move quickly to require this safety technology on all trucks.”

NHTSA reportedly recently completed an evaluation of F-CAM systems in medium and heavy commercial vehicles that “provides substantial support for this petition.”

To view the petition in its entirety, click here.

The truck accident attorneys at E.J. Leizerman & Associates LLC support the efforts of these safety groups to keep America’s roadways safer, and we hope that in the future the FMCSC makes this technology mandatory for all commercial motor vehicles.

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FMCSA Shuts Down Colorado Trucking Company

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration takes recently forced Aurora, Colorado-based trucking company, Sorbon Transport, to shut down after deeming it an imminent hazard to public safety.

According to the department, a recent federal investigation revealed major safety and maintenance violations at the trucking company. The FMCSA found that Sorbon has “no effective maintenance program” and that it placed a tractor trailer auto hauler on the road that was “in such disrepair that the vehicle was inoperable with the brakes connected.”

“Safety is our highest priority and companies that knowingly put the motoring public at risk will be immediately shut down,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “We will continue to aggressively enforce federal safety regulations and block unsafe commercial drivers, trucks and buses from operating on our roadways.

Earlier this month and without prior notice, FMCSA safety investigators launched an investigation into Sorbon Transport and found that it:

  • Failed to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain its commercial vehicles:  Sorbon Transport reportedly failed to provide vehicle inspection reports or evidence of a maintenance program for the company.  During a roadside inspection of one of the company’s vehicles in early February, eight separate out-of-service violations, and six other maintenance-related violations, were identified.  Days later, a different company vehicle was subjected to a roadside inspection in which two out-of-service violations, and 12 other maintenance-related violations, were identified.
  • Failed to ensure that its drivers complied with hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigue, including limitations on daily driving and maximum on-duty hours:  FMSCA officials stated that Sorbon Transport could only provide limited driver duty records covering a single trip; those records for that single trip reflected multiple hours-of-service violations.
  • Failed to ensure drivers were qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle:  FMSCA officials stated that Sorbon Transport was unable to provide records related to controlled substances and alcohol testing requirements.

Sorbon Transport must cease all commercial motor vehicle operations, including all interstate and intrastate transportation, from all dispatching locations or terminals.  FMCSA also simultaneously revoked the carrier’s federal operating authority and suspended its USDOT number.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order and operating without operating authority and a USDOT number may result in civil penalties up to $60,000 as well as a criminal penalty including a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment not to exceed one year.

“Companies that ignore basic safety maintenance of their equipment, disregard hours of service requirements, and use unqualified drivers have no place on our highways and roads,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling.  “FMCSA staff across the country are dedicated to protecting innocent lives by preventing crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles from ever occurring.”

Transport Topics reporter contacted the trucking company after the story broke. Amazingly, the owner reportedly stated that he was unaware that his company had been placed out of service, which begs the question whether the company still has trucks on the road.

The truck accident attorneys at E.J. Leizerman & Associates LLC commend the FMSCA for shutting down this unsafe trucking company. Allowing it to continue to operate is not fair to the many motor carriers who follow the rules and have to compete with companies like Sorbon.

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

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Big Rig Driver Cited In Fiery Interstate Wreck In Florida

Courtesy: My Fox Tampa

Courtesy: My Fox Tampa

According to a report WFTS-TV, a semi recently crashed into a barrier in Clearwater, Florida which caused a massive fire and then an explosion. The accident backed up traffic for hours. Cleanup took four hours.

Luckily, the driver of the 18-wheeler walked away from the scene unharmed and even turned down medical treatment. FDOT Spokesperson Kris Carson stated that there was minimal destruction and that incredibly no one lost their lives.

The semi driver reportedly told investigators that he got confused by the construction near the intersection of U.S. 19 and Gulf to Bay Boulevard. Carson told My Fox Tampa that he’s actually surprised the driver got confused.

“It’s really not [confusing] as long as you’re paying attention,” she told the station. We have construction going on but it’s been going on for many years and I don’t know how it would have happened in terms of the speeds or the barrier wall was right there,” she said. “We’re lucky that nobody was killed and the damage is actually minimal to the roadway.”

According to FDOT, the driver has been cited for careless driving and all of the repairs will be paid for by his company’s insurance. Under state law, the penalties vary. Depending on the speed, drivers could face up to a $250 fine.

Last year in Florida, there were 6,530 crashes and 238 fatalities involving large trucks. Unfortunately, those numbers have actually increased since 2012. While we would love to see those numbers go down, this serves as a reminder that we must always be vigilant when behind the wheel. Crashes can happen within the blink of an eye, changing lives forever.

Here at E.J. Leizerman & Associates LLC we don’t take careless driving lightly.  If you or someone you know have been the victim of a careless driver, 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.

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Four Children Injured After Commercial Truck Rams Into School Bus

Courtesy: WPXI-TV

Courtesy: WPXI-TV

Some students in western Pennsylvania got quite the scare on their way home from school recently after a coal truck slammed into the rear of their school bus. Fifteen students were on the bus. Four of them received minor injuries.

Public Safety Director Randall Brozenick told Philly.com that one student also had to be transported to the hospital after receiving a gash above her right eye. Neither the driver of the school bus or coal truck were injured.

According to TribLive.com, the accident happened after the school bus made a stop with its red lights flashing. However, police stated that the truck driver didn’t immediately see it “due to heavy snowfall.”  The truck ended up hitting the bus from behind, sliding over an embankment and struck a utility pole. The school bus blocked traffic in both directions.

During the time of the accident, witnesses described the snow as blinding, making it nearly impossible to see practically anything. No charges have been filed in the collision.

While we here at E.J. Leizerman & Associates are certainly relieved that no one was seriously injured during this accident, it serves as a reminder that both commercial and non-commercial drivers must be vigilant at all times during hazardous weather.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 25 percent of all traffic accidents in this country are weather-related and occur during conditions such as rain, sleet, snow, or fog. Annually, this equates to:

  • 6,250 fatal crashes
  • Over 480,000 injury crashes
  • Nearly 961,000 in property-damage only crashes

If weather conditions make it nearly impossible to see while driving, pull over and wait for the snow, rain or hail to pass. That goes for not only commercial drivers but for anyone who drives a car, SUV or any other small vehicle. It’s really just all about using common sense.

In addition, it’s the law. Federal regulation 49 CFR 392.14 requires drivers of commercial motor vehicles to reduce their speed during limited visibility and traction. It also requires them to stop when conditional are “sufficiently dangerous,” as they obviously were in this crash.

This rule covers visibility and traction. Even when visibility isn’t a problem, drivers must still practice caution and good judgment. Rain or snow can make the roadways rather slippery, increasing the odds of a driver losing control of his or her vehicle. It’s best to drive under the speed limit during adverse weather conditions.

Our law firm has handled many cases involving victims injured or killed by truck and bus drivers acting negligently when the weather conditions warranted extra caution on the roadways. If you would like to consult with us about a potential case, give us a call today at 1-800-628-4500 for a free consultation.

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NTSB Wants Bigger Emphasis Put On Truck Maintenance

mechanicAccidents involving tractor trailers happen much too often. In fact, for every 100 million miles driven on U.S. highways, there are 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries caused by semis. Sadly, about 98 percent of all big rig accidents result in at least one fatality.

Just yesterday an accident shut down a highly-traveled Texas interstate for several hours after troopers say an 18-wheeler and pickup truck collided. The collision left one person dead and several others injuries. At this time, the crash remains under investigation.

Poor maintenance is one of the main reasons accidents involving semis occur. When an 18-wheeler’s brakes or tires aren’t regularly checked and replaced, the odds of an accident occurring increases significantly. Brake failure or a tire blowout can put many lives on the road in grave danger—including the driver of the semi.

That’s why the National Transportation Safety Board is urging drivers, government regulators and carriers to make routine maintenance a number one priority, paying extra attention to brake systems.

“We see issues regarding vehicles that aren’t well-maintained,” Acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart told Transport Topics recently in an exclusive interview.

Hart stated that the uptick in truck-involved fatalities since 2009 caught NTSB members’ attention as they made up their annual “10 Most Wanted List” of critical transportation safety issues. The list was released last month.

While implementing additional safety measures won’t obviously happen overnight, Hart says he would like to see:

  • More advanced safety systems on heavy-duty trucks installed: NTSB authorities would like to see in-cab reporting of brake inspections done with sensors
  • Hands-free devices while driving banned: The NTSB consensus is that even though they are supposed to reduce distracted driving, they really don’t.
  • Commercial drivers educated on the dangers of taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs while behind the wheel: NTSB officials say there is still a lack of knowledge in this area in the trucking industry.
  • FMCSA act more quickly to place poorly performing carriers and drivers out of service: NTSB officials say FMCSA is often slow to take action against drivers and vehicles carriers with low ratings

The truck accident attorneys here at E.J. Leizerman & Associates stand by the NTSB’s efforts to promote safety on America’s highways. Over the years, we’ve represented far too many families in court who’ve experienced unimaginable tragedy due to a trucking crash.

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18-Wheeler Crashes Into Wisconsin House, Startles Homeowner From Nap

Wisconsin crash into home

Courtesy: The Journal Sentinel Online

A Wisconsin man may not have a place to currently call home, but he is definitely lucky to be alive.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was recently enjoying a nap inside his house when he was awakened by a loud noise. According to fire officials on scene, a semi crashed into the man’s bedroom, knocking the house off of its foundation. Fortunately, the homeowner was not injured.

According to WXOX-TV, the semi was headed east on I-94 when it crossed through a ditch and smashed into the home, spilling about 60-65 gallons of diesel fuel into the soil.

Authorities say the driver of the semi was able to get out of the cab following the crash and was transported to a nearby hospital for minor injuries.

Because the crash caused extensive structural damage to the house, officials say it can no longer be occupied. The Red Cross has been kind enough to provide the homeowner with shelter and financial assistance.

Currently, The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin State Patrol are investigating the crash. The big question that remains is: What caused the semi to crash into the house to begin with? We can only speculate at this point.

Driving too fast for conditions, not fully paying attention to the roadways, a mechanical malfunction, etc.—these are all possibilities.

No matter what the actual cause may be, the incident has without a doubt impacted one man’s way of life at no fault of his own.

Similar cases have, in fact, ended up in civil court. In 2007, Frank Gasca, a retired Vietnam veteran was sitting on his front porch, when he told WOIA-TV a Schwan delivery truck crashed into his garage, causing a wall to collapse. The truck narrowly missed the war hero.

Even though Gasca escaped the crash without any injuries, he eventually filed a lawsuit against the truck driver, Samuel Ellis, claiming that he failed to put on the parking brake of his delivery truck which, in turn, caused the crash. The company and the driver were both sued for negligence.

If you have ever lost a loved one or have been the victim of a trucking accident, we offer our condolences. As lawyers who handle trucking negligence cases, 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.

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New Study Shows Americans Adamantly Oppose Bigger Trucks On The Road

long truckAs major trucking companies across the country continue to pressure lawmakers on Capitol Hill to allow longer and heavier semitrailers on America’s highways, a newly-released poll found that three out of four Americans are totally against it.

The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, a nonprofit advocacy group opposing truck size and weight increases, surveyed 1,000 people across the country last month. The study found that a whopping 76 percent of respondents opposed longer and heavier semitrailer trucks on the highway, while 15 percent supported them and 9 percent were unsure. The survey was spearheaded by Harper Polling, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based company.

Currently, some of the nation’s largest and most powerful trucking and shipping ‘big wigs’ are wanting Congress to lift the 1991 federal freeze on longer combination vehicles (LCVs)—triple-trailer trucks and long double-trailer trucks. Other proposals include heavier single-trailer trucks that are up to 97,000 pounds—more than 8 tons heavier than today’s 80,000-pound weight limit.

On top of that, large trucking companies like Con-Way Freight, Old Dominion Freight Line and FedEx are pushing for legislation that would require every state to permit even longer double trailer trucks. Their proposal would lengthen current double 28-foot trucks by 10 feet to double 33-foot trucks. Often referred to as “Twin 33s,” double 33-foot trucks are 17-feet longer than the standard 53-foot trucks on many roads today.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation reviewed 30 years of research and found that gross vehicle weight appeared to be associated with higher crash rates. The Department’s 2000 study also found that multi-trailer trucks are already more dangerous than single-trailer trucks, and have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate.

Aware of the dangers, opponents of heavier and longer trucks, including law enforcement and first responder organizations, are asking voters to call their respective U.S. Representatives and Senators and urge them to vote against any increase in truck size or weight limits.

The truck accident attorneys here at E.J. Leizerman & Associates also encourage constituents to do the same. We believe heavier and longer trucks do, indeed, put drivers at risk and, therefore, have no business on the road.

Knowing this, for lawmakers to ever consider allowing bigger trucks on America’s roadways would just be plain irresponsible. 

Let lawmakers know exactly how you feel about this very important issue. We encourage you to call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to say “no” to bigger trucks. Remember. How they vote on this important issue could either save lives or cost them.

 

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FMCSA Finalizing New Rules To Target Bad Commercial Drivers, Fleets

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a detailed study involving large trucks and buses.

Courtesy: Wikimedia/Raunet

Courtesy: Wikimedia/Raunet

The latest data revealed that in 2012, there were 30,800 fatal crashes on the nation’s roadways. Of that number, 12 percent (3,702) involved at least one large truck or bus.

In addition, there were an estimated 5,584,000 nonfatal crashes with 6.6 percent (367,000) involving at least one large truck or bus.

The numbers revealed an alarming trend. Over a four-year period, the number of fatalities and accidents steadily increased.

In an effort to prevent those numbers from further climbing, FMCSA officials have announced several plans to beef up safety initiatives and outreach programs for 2015 by aggressively targeting commercial drivers who have no business on America’s roadways.

The plans include the following:

  • Drafting new rules for adopting safety fitness guidelines to help determine whether a carrier is fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. The revamped fitness-determination rule would include CSA data in fitness determinations.
  • Selecting a research firm to conduct a congressionally mandated study on the controversial hours-of-service restart rule. The firm awarded the contract will compare fatigue and performance levels of drivers who take a two-night rest period during a 34- hour restart with those who take less than a two-night period.
  • Making available $30 million for states looking to modernize their safety data technologies. The Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) grant program focuses enforcement on high-risk operators, improves efficiency through electronic screening of commercial vehicles, and enables online application and issuance of registration and fuel tax credentials.
  • Projecting what the nation’s transportation system will look like for the next 30 years in order to better prepare for the future. Scheduled to be released in the coming weeks, the document, Beyond Traffic, will lay out trends in everything from population shifts and growth to infrastructure decline and technology.

As an attorney whose mission is to hold reckless drivers accountable for their actions when behind the wheel, I applaud FMCSA’s efforts to make our country’s highways safer by strengthening the guidelines for anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle such as an 18-wheeler, moving van, motor coach, etc.

While many of these commercial operators do, in fact, drive responsibly, for the few who choose to drive carelessly, the FMCSA must do everything in its power to weed out those “bad apples.” I believe the agency’s aggressive safety initiatives will help do just that.

Consider this. When innocent people are injured in a crash involving a commercial vehicle, such as a large truck or bus, obviously, lives are changed forever. But what many people may not realize is the hefty price tag that also comes with such accidents. Crashes or collisions with only injuries cost approximately $331,000.  That number jumps significantly to $7,200,000 for fatal wrecks. With so much at stake, no one can fault the FMSCA for doing everything possible to keep all drivers safe. You can only commend them for their actions.

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Federal Regulations in Place To Prevent Tragedies Similar to Metro-North

Pictured: Metro-North train crash involving SUV (Courtesy: CBS New York/YouTube)

Pictured: Metro-North train crash involving SUV (Courtesy: CBS New York/YouTube)

Federal investigators are currently investigating the deadliest accident in the 32-year history of the Metro-North system, which carries about 285,000 passengers a day along NYC’s northern suburbs.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, last week an SUV stopped on the tracks in suburban New York when a railroad crossing gate came down on top of it. Ellen Brody, the SUV driver, then got out, checked the vehicle’s rear, got back in and started to drive forward when the train slammed into her vehicle at 58 miles per hour, the agency said.

That fatal collision then sparked a deadly eruption of flames and twisted metal that claimed the lives of six people. This included five passengers aboard the train and the driver of the car. Fifteen people were also treated for injuries—some serious.

Nearly a week after the collision, the circumstances of the accident remains under investigation. A lot of questions are still unanswered—including why the driver of the SUV parked on the tracks to begin with.

Of course, train collisions are without a doubt horrible for everyone involved. However, what is often overlooked is the danger to the train crew. I have represented many engineers and conductors who were injured when a truck or car, like in the Metro-North case, stupidly pulled in front of a train.

That’s why there are rules in place to prevent these tragedies from happening. Under federal regulation, commercial motor vehicle drivers cannot pass a railroad grade crossing without first stopping within 50 feet (no closer than 15 feet) of the track.

Once stopped, the driver is then required to listen and look for an approaching train. When it is safe to do so, the driver can proceed over the tracks but without shifting gears.

It’s important to note that certain categories of trucks, such as hazardous materials and school buses, must stop at ALL railroad crossings—no matter what.

According to the National Transportation Safety Bureau, about every 115 minutes, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in this country. Remember. Trains have the right of way over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians 100 percent of the time. So when approaching railroad crossings, always use caution. It could not only save your life but the lives of those around you, too.

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Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable Winter Meeting Includes Discussions You’re Never Supposed to Have with Friends

roundtable trial bunker photoThe founding members of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable met in my Swanton, Ohio “trial bunker” to roundtable cases. Joe Fried, Steve Gursten and I discussed cutting edge legal strategies in trucking cases as we compared notes and shared lessons that we each had learned from record settlements and verdicts across the country in the past three months.

The Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable was founded, in part, as a response to the large number of injury lawyers who aggressively advertise and market for truck accident cases, but who have little experience or real qualifications to handle these cases. We believe that handling truck accidents cases in which people have been killed or catastrophically injured requires knowledge and experience to fully achieve justice. We also believe that handling these cases in the right way can help the trucking industry become safer. We do this by holding negligent and reckless truck drivers and companies fully accountable for their actions and by working locally and nationally to educate, legislate and influence trucking safety.

Admittedly, our conversation did stray from trucking after a glass of wine or two during and after dinner Thursday night. I very much enjoyed our discussion that included issues of faith, religion and spirituality. I know I have been warned not to discuss these issues with friends, but the fact that we were able to delve fairly deep, find areas of agreement and at times disagreement–but very respectfully expressed– is a testament to our great friendship and mutual respect. It is also a testament to our ability to bring the best of many viewpoints together in our personal lives and when handling truck accident cases.

When working on cases together, we have all learned from each other and each bring a unique perspective to litigating truck accident cases that melds together well to give our clients the best of all worlds and maximize the value in their cases.

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