Semi-truck accidents are an unfortunate and relatively frequent occurrence in the Benton and Little Rock thanks in part to Benton’s location along with Interstate 30 and Little Rock’s position amid a network of bypassing interstates and state highways, all of which bear heavy commercial truck traffic.
Because Arkansas relies on its freight economy, it’s important to understand both the rewards and risks of our state’s trucking industry.
The Little Rock truck accident lawyers at the Minton Law Firm understand the costly, life-changing injuries often caused by tractor-trailer accidents.
Our attorneys also understand that initial insurance company settlement offers are rarely adequate to cover medical expenses and other damages. That’s why we’re dedicated to fighting on behalf of truck accident victims and their families.
If you were hurt or a loved one was killed in an accident involving a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle, please call us at 501-794-0001 for a free consultation to help you understand your legal options. You can also contact us online to tell us your story now.
The Deadly Risks of Semi-Truck Crashes
Due to their size, weight and high center of gravity, large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) like semis pose a high risk of injury or death to those in passenger vehicles in the event of a collision.
In 2016, nearly 4,000 people died in crashes that involved large trucks; most victims were passenger vehicle occupants.
Arkansas experiences more than its fair share of semi-truck accidents and fatalities. According to one report, “nearly half of the 40,000 vehicles that travel daily between Little Rock and Memphis … are 18-wheelers.”
In 2014, the last full year for which complete state accident data is available, 75 Arkansans died as a result of large truck accidents.
In an effort to reduce semi-truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established numerous regulations regarding vehicle weight limits, cargo securement standards, speed limits, driver hours of operation, drug and alcohol testing, etc.
In an effort to accelerate transit times and increase profits, however, some trucking companies and drivers don’t follow the rules, which puts the lives of innocent people at risk.
Contributing Factors in Large Truck Accidents
In a large-truck crash causation study, the FMCSA detailed some of the predominant factors in semi-truck accidents. These factors include but are not limited to:
- Mechanical problems: These issues are sometimes due to negligent vehicle maintenance or faulty equipment.
- Alcohol and/or the use of other drugs: Commercial truck drivers often face strict deadlines, and they may take drugs to stay alert behind the wheel. In one global study, “Almost 20 percent of [U.S.] drivers reported they used marijuana and 3 percent said they used cocaine.”
- Traveling too fast for the conditions: Tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles require longer stopping distances, and speeding can diminish a driver’s ability to stop in time in the event of an obstacle or emergency.
- Driver fatigue: Drivers sometimes ignore hours of operation rules in order to meet their delivery deadlines, but drivers who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to doze off behind the wheel.
- Distracted driving: The FMCSA restricts texting and the use of hand-held phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle, but the regulation is often ignored. In 2016, more than 20,000 citations were given to drivers using a mobile device while operating a CMV.
- Improperly loaded cargo: Trucks that are overloaded or that carry unbalanced loads may be prone to tip during sharp turns or in adverse road conditions.
- Illegal maneuvers: These include unsignaled lane changes and illegal turns.
Roadside inspections at the state level are intended to enforce FMCSA regulations, and they catch many—though not all—potentially dangerous infractions.
In 2016, there were just over 1 million full inspections performed on large commercial vehicles, and nearly a quarter of those inspections resulted in out-of-service (OOS) violations. The most common violations reported by FMCSA in 2016 include:
- Missing or inaccurate driving log: Commercial motor vehicle drivers are required to log daily hours and any incidents relating to the vehicle in a driver vehicle report. Altering or fabricating these reports is prohibited, although drivers sometimes do in order to manipulate their hours behind the wheel or cover up mechanical problems that could increase the risk of an accident.
- Hours of service violations: Hours of service requirements stipulate how long a driver can operate a commercial vehicle in a 24-hour period. Drivers must include all hours worked, even if the work doesn’t involve driving. Mandatory 30-minute breaks must be included in daily driving hours. Drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles are limited to 11 hours behind the wheel after 10 consecutive hours off duty; these drivers can drive no more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period.
- Traffic enforcement: There were more than 65,000 commercial motor vehicle speeding violations issued in 2016.
- Non-English-Speaking Driver: All CMV drivers must be able to read and speak English proficiently in order to operate these large trucks.
- Medical certification violations: All commercial truck drivers must have a valid medical certificate.
Commercial Driver’s License Qualifications and Regulations
Commercial motor vehicle drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which is issued after drivers complete mandatory training and meet other qualifications.
All CMV drivers must be at least 21 years old, and they must pass a physical exam and provide medical history to a certified medical examiner listed on the FMCSA’s national registry.
Truck drivers must also obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and undergo training before being allowed to drive alone. To obtain a CLP, drivers are subject to a 10-year driving record check in all 50 states.
Finally, drivers must pass a skill test that includes a vehicle inspection, basic controls, and a road test.
In addition to specific qualifications, CMV drivers must obey safety regulations enforced by the FMCSA. For example, CMV drivers are limited by the number of daily and weekly hours they may drive, the roads and highways they drive upon, and a reduced legal tolerance for drinking and driving (a blood-alcohol content threshold of .04 percent compared to .08 percent for non-CMV drivers).
Specific types of CMVs also require special endorsements. For example, large trucks transporting hazardous materials require a Class C license, whereas a delivery truck driver must obtain a Class B license.
States can also impose specific driving regulations for CMVs as well. In Arkansas, for example, the maximum speed limit a CMV can travel is 70 mph on rural interstates and 65 mph on urban interstates.
Experienced Legal Help for Truck Accident Victims
Accidents involving tractor-trailers and other CMVs are different from passenger vehicle collisions for many reasons, including liability.
CMV crashes may involve multiple responsible parties, including the driver, the trucking company, cargo loaders, maintenance personnel, and even parts manufacturers.
At the Minton Law Firm, our truck accident lawyers understand the complexities of truck accident cases as well as the financial needs faced by injury victims and their families.
As a former insurance adjuster, attorney Justin Minton also knows the tricks insurance companies use to attempt to limit what they pay to injury victims.
If you were hurt or a family member was killed in an Arkansas truck accident, please call the Minton Law Firm today at 501-794-0001 to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can help you. You can also contact us online to get started now. We are proud to serve clients from the greater Little Rock and Benton areas.