The statistics on truck accidents in Massachusetts reveal the extent of the danger to motorists of the Boston area. An alarming number of unsafe trucks operate in the Bay State.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has reported that during a recent five year period, the rate of safety violations related to truck maintenance in Massachusetts was 41 percent higher than the national average. Driver violations were reported as being 32 percent higher, and violations involving hazardous material were reported as being 212 percent higher.
This is particularly unnerving if you consider the damage that an 80,000-pound commercial truck can cause. Accidents involving tractor-trailers, semis, and tanker trucks can cause death and catastrophic injury as well as significant property damage, including environmental damage in cases of hazardous material spills.
Speak with an aggressive litigator from Kelly & Soto Law if you or a loved one is seeking a truck accident claim in Massachusetts. You may be eligible to obtain compensation for your injuries, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case.
How Do Large Commercial Truck Accidents in Massachusetts Happen?
Thirty people were killed in highway accidents involving large commercial trucks in Massachusetts in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Of the 30 fatalities, only four were truck occupants. Eighteen of those killed were occupants of other vehicles, and eight were pedestrians, bicyclists or other innocent bystanders.
There are many reasons a large commercial truck might crash. Some of the more common causes of truck accidents include:
- Fatigued truck drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) describes truck driver fatigue as a recognized crash risk. Under federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, drivers of large trucks are allowed to be behind the wheel for as long as 11 hours at a time. IIHS surveys indicate that many drivers disregard the driving restrictions and work longer than permitted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says there were 56 fatal truck crashes in 2013 in which the truck driver was asleep at the wheel or fatigued.
- Distracted driving. A FMCSA study entitled Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations said 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something other than driving the truck. The FMCSA says truckers are distracted by dialing cell phones, texting, using dispatching devices, eating, reading, or adjusting the radio, as well as by looking at passing buildings, billboards, and people. Federal rules specifically prohibit interstate truck and bus drivers from texting or using hand-held mobile phones while operating their vehicles.
- Impaired driving. Because of routine testing required by the FMCSA, abuse of alcohol and use of illegal drugs by truck drivers is relatively rare, though not unheard of. But the FMCSA only tests truckers for illicit amphetamines and methamphetamines, as well as drugs like marijuana, cocaine and opiates, and alcohol. Use of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs is more common among truckers. A number of prescription drugs and widely used OTC drugs cause drowsiness or have a stimulant effect and can cause a disorienting “high” if taken in large doses.
- Unsecured cargo. If cargo being hauled by a commercial truck is not properly secured, it can move as its weight shifts and cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. It can even cause a rollover accident. If unsecured cargo falls or is spilled from a commercial motor vehicle, it can hit other vehicles on the roadway or cause them to crash as they swerve to avoid spilled cargo. A hazardous material spill may lead to environmental damage as well as personal injury.
- Jackknife accidents. A cargo shift may also cause a truck’s and trailer to fold together. Jackknife accidents typically occur when the rear wheels of a tractor-trailer lock up, sending the entire rig spinning out of control. Worn tires, excessive speed and sudden braking can contribute to a jackknife accident.
- Faulty truck or truck components. If an operating component or safety system of a commercial truck fails, the truck may simply break down or suddenly be out of control. The FMCSA has specific regulations addressing systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance of trucks and numerous truck parts and systems. If a truck’s brakes, tire, steering, or suspension fails, it could be because of neglected maintenance or a faulty product.
- Truck driver error. Recognition and decision errors by trucker drivers are the types of mistakes often identified by crash investigators or law enforcement officials.
- Truck driver error may include one or more factors such as:
- Unsafe following distance (tailgating)
- Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions
- Unsafe lane changes
- Making illegal maneuvers, e.g., unsafe turns
- Inadequate surveillance, i.e., not looking or not recognizing a potential hazard.
Passenger cars and large trucks are structurally incompatible because of their differences in height. The occupants of passenger vehicles may suffer serious injuries in a truck accident. In such an accident, a passenger vehicle slides underneath the trailer of a tractor-trailer rig, which damages or even sheers off the upper portion of the car. Though underride guards are required on the rear of most large commercial trucks, many fail, according to the IIHS.
Contact Our Boston Auto Accident Attorneys
If you have been in an accident that involved a large commercial truck and are ready to file a personal injury lawsuit, the lawyers at Kelly & Soto Law in Boston are ready to help you obtain compensation for your losses from those who caused the accident. We can investigate every aspect of your truck accident to document its cause, as well as what settlement is appropriate to compensate you for your medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Commercial truck accidents require specialized investigations that are often complex and time-consuming. We make it a point to keep our clients informed throughout the claims process, and work to ensure that every claim progresses toward a successful conclusion. Our aim is to allow our clients to focus on their physical and emotional recovery from the accident while we deal with insurance companies.
For a free review of your case and a realistic evaluation of your legal options after a commercial truck accident, call the Law Guys at Kelly & Soto Law today. Contact us at 1.800.LAW.GUYS (519.4897) or fill out our free consultation form to have one of our truck accident lawyers contact you!
- CBS News Boston:Unsafe Trucks on Mass Roadways
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts – Large Trucks
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Large Trucks
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2013 (Tables 29 and 30)
- FMCSA: CMV Driving Tips: Driver Distraction
- FMCSA: Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study
- FMCSA: Drug & Alcohol Testing – Which Substances are Tested?