Rear underride crash test

Death by decapitation due to trailer underride  can  result when tractor trailers park on the roadside.

The kneejerk response of most people seeing pictures of these incidents is to simply blame the dead person. But it’s not that simple. When an innocent passenger is killed or maimed, some portion of fault is normally apportioned to the driver who departed from the traffic lane for whatever reason. But it is necessary to also examine a trucking company’s decision to violate safety standards by parking a big rig on the side of the road.

An approaching driver’s view of a tractor trailer pulling from breakdown lane into traffic in the dark

A tractor-trailer pulled from the highway shoulder in front of an approaching SUV on I-95 in Jasper County, SC, just north of Savannah, about 9:30 PM Wednesday night, August 8, 2018. The impact killed Raymond Jackson, Jr., driver of the approaching vehicle, a 1999 Ford Expedition. This happened about 3 miles north of the Georgia-South Carolina line, between the Savannah River and Hardeeville.

Initial news reports  of this crash involving vehicles emerging from Georgia do not identify

A chain reaction crash involving four big rig tractor trailers on I-285 near Camp Creek Parkway in south Fulton County, GA, killed a woman in a passenger car on June 19, 2018.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, A tractor-trailer was traveling northbound when it struck three other big rigs and the rear of a car, pushing the car underneath another tractor-trailer.

News photos showed that at least one truck’s cab was badly crushed and the roof of the passenger car was caved in.

In addition to the one fatality, five others were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. It


A fiery crash on I-95 at Richmond Hill near Savannah in Chatham County on July 26th caused the wrongful death of a woman and sent her husband to a specialized burn unit in Augusta. It appears all too typical of other truck accident cases we have handled throughout Georgia, including those in the Savannah area and along I-95 and I-16.

According to news reports, as a southbound tractor trailer approached the exit the driver moved from the center lane to the right lane. Approaching a line of cars slowed in traffic, the truck driver then tried to get

As a trucking accident lawyer in Atlanta, I have been following developments in rule changes on truck driver hours of service for several years. There has been quite a history of the administration proposing longer driving hours, with trucking industry backing, only to have the rules struck down by courts as arbitrary, capricious, etc.  However, the regulators have persevered in repeatedly reissuing controversial temporary rules extending driving time from 10 driving time to 11 hours driving out of 14 hours on duty, after 10 continuous hours off duty.

Yesterday the  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its final rule on truck drivers’ hours of service. It seeks to make permanent the extension of  hours truckers can drive from 10 hours to 11 hours.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, this is part of a broad-ranging last-minute push to enact regulations supported by business and in numerous instances opposed by consumer, safety and environmental groups. Also included are new rules that open the way for commercial development of oil shale on federal land and add restrictions on employee time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first isued the hours-of-service rule in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can legally drive. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.

FMCSA issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2005, proposing a rule that was essentially the same as  the 2003 rule that had been struck down.  On July 24, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the second time threw out the rule that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and allowed drivers to go back to work after being off duty for only 34 hours. In a 39-page opinion, Judge Merrick Garland called the rule "arbitrary and capricious."

The Teamsters Union called yesterday’s action "a dangerous midnight move" and vowed to fight it. 

Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen was quoted saying, “This rule will continue to force truck drivers to continue enduring sweatshop-like working conditions. This puts the health and safety of drivers at risk, along with the public who must share the road with tired truckers.”

 

As a Georgia attorney focused on representing folks hurt in trucking accidents, I hear a lot of stories about driver fatigue issues, and how the practices of dispatchers and shippers affect fatigue, from truckers from across the U.S. and Canada. That’s why I try to keep up with trucking industry news from all over North America.

The North American Fatigue Management Program, which was launched in Alberta, Canada, is designed to determine when truckers should be driving or whether they need to pull over, based on personal differences.  Recognizing some people have sleep disorders that are treatable, the program seeks to put an emphasis on individuals by analyzing the trucker’s own circadian rhythm, his scheduling, and lifestyle differences.  For example, some drivers are morning people, while others are not.  Some have sleep disorders; others do not.

The program was conceived in Alberta as a partnership between Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation and the province’s trucking association. It was inspired by a joint study on driver fatigue by Transport Canada and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 1999.

The study could provide new insights about nighttime driving, napping and sleep debt, and serve as a framework for modifying hours of service rules in the U.S. and Canada.

"We had a concept and there are all kinds of research out there regarding napping, circadian rhythm and sleep apnea. We put all the known aspects of fatigue together and built a comprehensive fatigue management program.  It includes dispatch guidelines, screening for sleep disorders, medical intervention [so a driver won’t lose their job due to treatment], and training," according to Roger Clarke, executive director of Vehicle Safety and Carrier Services with Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation.