Whenever you see a tractor-trailer or other large commercial vehicle out on the road, most people take for granted that the vehicle is in proper working order, the driver is experienced and the company works hard to maintain a good safety record. Unfortunately, history has repeatedly shown that making positive assumptions can be dangerous when it comes to commercial trucking operations.
Consider the June 20th truck accident that occurred in Ithaca. A fully-loaded car-carrier truck crashed into a restaurant, killing one person and injuring seven others. An investigation into the crash and the trucking company involved reveals that neither the company's drivers nor its vehicles should have been allowed to operate on roads in New York or anywhere else.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry nationwide. Unfortunately, it suffers from limited resources and often fails to take dangerous trucking companies out of service before they cause a major accident.
The FMCSA investigated the Washington State-based company more thoroughly after the fatal crash in Ithaca. It issued 29 violations against the company and eventually issued an out-of-service order. The FMCSA's investigation revealed that the company:
- Had one of the worst safety records in the trucking industry even before the crash
- Had never been formally investigated by the FMCSA in its three-year history
- Had previously been cited hundreds of times in roadside inspections
- Hired a driver (the one who caused the crash) who could not read or speak English
- Hired a mechanic who was not qualified to conduct legally required inspections of the company's vehicles
- Had either falsified driver logbooks or hired drivers who falsified their own logbooks
Until or unless the FMCSA is given greater regulatory authority and the funding necessary to exercise it, regulation in the trucking industry will be limited at best. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck accident, however, you do have options. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you pursue compensation from negligent trucking companies and the drivers they hire.
Source: The Star Gazette, "Weak regulators? Death by truck on New York's roads," Steve Reilly, Oct. 10, 2014