Commercial freight trucks, also called big rigs or 18-wheelers, extend to 70 feet in length and weigh 80,000 lbs. (40 tons), making them 20-30 times heavier than cars. Their enormous size and weight require a much longer stopping distance, heavier duty tires, and a more powerful braking system, than smaller vehicles.
Many see trucks as threats on the road due to the damage they can cause in the event of an accident. A collision with a smaller vehicle can easily result to major damage to properties and severe injuries or death to people, enough to make the federal government decide to intervene in matters concerning commercial vehicles. In 2013 alone, a non-profit research organization, called the Highway Loss Data Institute, received more than 3,500 reports of large truck accidents that killed 540 motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, and 2400 passengers of cars and other smaller vehicles. Thus, with the intent of reducing or preventing truck accidents, injuries and fatalities, the 99th Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act in September of 1986. This Act mandates that a commercial driver’s license should be issued only to qualified drivers and that drivers who operate trucks (as well as buses) in an unsafe manner should be removed from the highway. To be issued a commercial driver’s license though, the Act requires that a person applying for it should: first, undergo a special training which will allow him/her to develop the knowledge and the skills necessary in operating a truck safely; and, second, pass a three-part skills test on basic control, vehicle inspection, and road test. Other requirements for qualification include having a state-issued copy of a Commercial Driver’s Licensing (CDL) Manual, medical tests, proof of residency, and a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP).
No matter how well trained a driver is in operating a truck, though, fatigue and/or drowsiness will always render him/her incapable of performing his/her tasks efficiently, especially since most jobs require long hours of cross-county driving. Therefore, to make sure that truck drivers are always alert and focused on driving, other laws have been passed, like the maximum number hours of service (HOS) and the required length of rest between duties, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level limit, and the use of a Bluetooth headset, which will end drivers’ use of a cellphone whenever behind the wheel.
Enforcement of the Act and the other laws is the task of the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, despite the laws and their implementation, truck accidents still occur simply because some truck operators are either just too adamant to obey the mandates or are too greedy, choosing profit rather than the safety of everyone else on the road. This is the clear message whenever they hire unqualified drivers during peak season, when they force their drivers to work beyond the HOS limit, and when they have their trucks operated until the tires are totally worn out or some parts actually break down.
On their website, the Tuscon personal injury attorneys of Russo, Russo & Slania, P.C. clearly explain the importance of regularly maintaining trucks and operating these safely until these reach their destination, and the possible tragic consequences of failing to do so. There is nothing wrong with seeking profit, but not to the point of compromising the safety of others. Choosing to act irresponsibly or recklessly will never be acceptable.