Causes of Truck Accidents in Michigan
Truck drivers have a legal and professional obligation to exercise caution and due care in the operation of their vehicles. Because of the potential danger that commercial vehicles pose to others on the road, trucking is regulated at both the federal and state levels to ensure public safety.
For example, the federal government regulates the number of hours a truck driver may be on the road in a day and the hours a driver must be off the road between shifts. Truck drivers must also keep daily logs of their activities, including the number of hours they drive and number of hours they rest, and must properly inspect and maintain their vehicles. These federal rules not only help make sure semi-trucks are in good operating condition, but also help prevent semi-truck driver fatigue and help maintain the overall health of truck drivers, which is important to keep drivers and other motorists on the roadways safe.
If a truck driver violates any of the federal rules and regulations, it may result in the driver being negligent and causing an accident. The following are some common causes of truck accidents in Michigan, and across the United States.
Reckless driving and speeding
Speeding Michigan semi-trucks and truckers who do not drive based on road conditions are a particular danger to other motorists on the roadway. Because of their sheer size, large commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks, are more difficult for a driver to control.
For example, it can be difficult for semi-truck drivers to brake suddenly. They must begin the braking process from a distance much further than a passenger vehicle. This braking distance must be considered when roads are not otherwise clear (i.e., snow, ice or rain). Given the limitations of larger trucks, it may be prudent for other drivers on the road to give extra space or otherwise adjust their driving behavior to accommodate them.
Given the size of large commercial trucks, the difficulties controlling them and the visibility limitations, truck drivers should also be sure they are operating their vehicles in a way that is proper for the conditions, keeping in mind they are sharing the road with smaller vehicles.
Failure to maintain truck, resulting in tire failure, brake failure and other serious problems
Drivers of large trucks are required to conduct inspections of their vehicles before embarking on their journeys. Maintenance records are also required to be kept by the motor carrier/employer for a certain period of time provided. Failing to keep semi-trucks in proper working order is not only illegal, but may also result in an accident causing substantial property damage, serious personal injury or even death.
It should be noted that sometimes the failure to maintain a semi-truck can be due to truck driver inexperience, which also contributes to trucking accidents. Although trucking companies are responsible for properly screening and training their drivers, training and testing is governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). USDOT regulations make it clear that trucking companies must make sure all federal rules are followed by their drivers.
Driver fatigue and sleepiness
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has promulgated numerous rules and regulations to help decrease levels of truck driver fatigue, which causes a large number of semi-truck accidents in Michigan and across the nation. Some of these regulations provide that:
- drivers not drive without first taking ten (10) consecutive hours off duty;
- drivers only drive during a fourteen (14) consecutive hour period after coming on duty following ten (10) consecutive hours off duty;
- drivers not drive after the end of a 14-consecutive hour period without taking 10 consecutive hours off;
- drivers drive a total of 11 hours during the 14 hour period;
- with specific exceptions provided within the regulations, no driving is permitted if more than eight (8) hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes;
- motor carriers neither permit nor require their drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles to drive after:
- having been on duty 60 hours in any period of seven (7) consecutive days if the employing motor carrier does not operate commercial motor vehicles every day of the week, or
- having been on duty 70 hours in any period of eight (8) consecutive days if the employing motor carrier operates commercial motor vehicles every day of the week;
- drivers keep detailed logs noting the following:
- whether the driver is on or off duty,
- for each change of duty status, noting the name of the location where the change of status took place,
- the date,
- total miles driven on a particular day,
- truck or tractor and trailer number,
- name of carrier,
- driver’s signature/certification,
- 24-hour period starting time,
- main office address,
- name of co-driver,
- total hours, and
- shipping document number(s), or name of shipper and commodity.
The above information only highlights some of the causes of truck accidents in Michigan and the rules that exist. It is by no means an exhaustive list.
Given the many federal rules and regulations that govern trucking cases, in addition to the applicable Michigan no-fault law, pursuing a claim against a trucking company after an accident can quickly become overwhelming. For this reason, it is helpful for trucking accident victims to consult an experienced Michigan trucking accident attorney who can help you navigate the ins-and-outs of the state and federal systems.