Utah Truck Accident Legal Information
It’s a typical January morning as Sally leaves her home in Murray and enters I-15 headed for work at a law firm in downtown Salt Lake City. It is 7:30 a.m.
At the same time a large semi loaded with steel windows is approaching from the South. The driver, a long-haul veteran of 20 years over-the-road service for a major national trucking company has been up since 3:30 a.m.
Suddenly the driver slumps forward, lack of sleep from week-long road trip have caught up with him. His truck drifts slowly to the right, into the adjacent lane.
“BANG!” The trucker’s right-side mirror has just clipped the mirror of a flat bed truck in the adjacent lane.
The noise and accompanying jolt are enough to wake the trucker but his hasty response now imperils other drivers. He overcorrects into the left-lane where Sally is motoring peacefully to work.
The sudden impact abruptly changes Sally’s direction and she veers sharply across the media into southbound I-15 traffic. The head-on collision ends Sally’s life and that of the southbound driver.
UTAH INJURY ATTORNEY DESCRIBES THE LAWSUIT
In the Utah truck accident legal case that followed, the lawyer for Sally’s family requested the driver’s logbook.
The logbook showed that the driver had been on the road for only two hours. Suspicious, the family’s lawyer, requested bills of lading, fuel receipts, and electronic data from the Global Positioning System used by the driver’s company to track his whereabouts.
The GPS data showed what the lawyer had suspected–the logbooks were falsified.
“The trucking industry appears to spend more time doctoring reports, falsifying logs and covering up fault than they do screening and training drivers,” says Frank B. a prominent Texas personal injury lawyer.
Federal law requires interstate drivers to record, either in written or digital “logbook” how they spend their workday. An interstate trucker is limited to 11 hours over a fourteen hour period. And once that eleven hours are up he must take a rest break lasting for at least ten straight hours.
Truck driver fatigue is a major safety problem in Utah truck accident legal cases. Some studies, including two by the National Transportation Safety Board, indicate that truck driver fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40% of severe crashes.
With driver fatigue and logbook falsification both being serious problems, the development and of electronic technology for the trucking industry has become a subject of considerable controversy.
UTAH INJURY ATTORNEY EXPLAINS ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGY
Kenny Wogomon sits in the driver's seat of his truck in the parking lot behind Werner Enterprises Inc., a Fortune 1000 trucking firm in Omaha. In his lap is a clunky gray keyboard with a built-in screen. It's a controversial little device that keeps track of how much time Wogomon spends driving, and he swivels in his seat to show how it works.
"When you want to know how many hours you have left," explains the burly 42-year-old driver, "you hit macro 49." He punches the number, types his password, and his screen displays the hours he has driven that day, and that week, subtracted from the maximum the law allows.
Like virtually all the big carriers, Werner uses satellite technology and wireless communication to track vehicles and communicate with drivers. But unlike most, Werner also uses electronics to keep tired drivers off the roads, by recording their driving and resting time.
Proponents believe that these onboard recorders or "black boxes," as they are often called, are the only way to enforce work rules that can save lives. Yet few companies use them -- concerned about their cost, unpopularity with drivers, and potential use in litigation -- which is why public safety groups insist they must be mandatory.
Current rules, critics say, have a built-in incentive for drivers to cheat. Long-haul drivers are paid by the mile, and the rules limiting their time behind the wheel keep some from earning as much as they'd like. So some drivers fudge the logs; in fact, paper logs are so easily falsified that drivers call them "comic books.
"Some companies cheat, too. Last December an Oregon carrier pleaded guilty in a Fresno, Calif., federal court to felony charges of falsifying logs and agreed to pay more than $1 million in fines and penalties. Four other companies were also charged in Fresno with similar violations following a lengthy investigation spurred by a carrier's worst nightmare: a fatal accident caused by a trucker asleep at the wheel.
"You're probably going to see those onboard recorders standard within the next two to three years," says Peter Smith, who follows the industry for Morningstar Inc. "The paper logs are too easy to fudge."
Perhaps the greatest concern that company executives have about the technology is that the data will be used against them in court. For example, if a black box showed a driver involved in an accident exceeding the hourly limits, it would be introduced as irrefutable evidence in court of company liability (in a Utah truck accident legal case). Trucking companies "are very worried about liabilities and lawsuits," says Jim Mele, editor in chief of the monthly magazine Fleet Owner.
Despite industry anxiety, there's reason to believe that the compulsory use of black boxes is inevitable. (And this will be helpful in proving negligence of the driver in many Utah truck accident legal cases.)
From "Rules of the Road" by David Hechler published in Corporate Counsel magazine June 21, 2005.
UTAH INJURY ATTORNEY EXPLAINS WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF A TRUCK CRASH
Here are some tips to follow if you are involved in a Utah truck accident legal matter:
Ask for help from people you can trust;
Never sign anything under pressure;
Take photographs and/or video of the crash site and the vehicles involved in the Utah truck accident legal matter;
Do not sell or otherwise dispose of the vehicle involved in the crash;
Collect and preserve evidence after the crash;
Contact investigating authorities immediately;
UTAH INJURY ATTORNEY PROVIDES UTAH TRUCK ACCIDENT LEGAL RESOURCES
Truck Safety Advocate Newsletter
Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways
Washington, DC 20044-4380
Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation