Articles Posted in Truck Accident Injury

Federal safety regulators have shut down a troubled trucking company in Iowa that owned the semitrailer involved in a human trafficking case in which 10 immigrants died in Texas. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration placed Pyle Transportation under an “out-of-service order” after a review found the company’s safety rating so unsatisfactory that it was unfit to remain in business. In July, dozens of immigrants were found packed inside a Pyle-branded semitrailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio, Texas, Walmart. Eight people were found dead inside, and two more died after being hospitalized. The driver, James “Bear” Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida; and Pedro Silva-Segura, 47, of Laredo, Texas, are charged with several offenses, including conspiring to transport and harbor immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. for financial gain. Brian Pyle, who owns Pyle Transportation, has denied knowledge of the alleged smuggling conspiracy. He has said that he sold the trailer and hired Bradley, who had worked previously for the firm, as a contractor to drive it to Brownsville, Texas, to deliver it to the buyer.

Although the company has not been directly implicated in the deaths of the occupants of the truck, the case drew attention to Pyle’s history of safety violations and failure to pay taxes and wages owed to some employees. Several former employees said they were pressured to drive too many hours without rest, to falsify their logs to conceal those violations and to transport overweight loads on unrealistic deadlines. Federal regulators launched a compliance review into Pyle, which had been operating with a “conditional” safety rating due to prior violations, after the human trafficking case.

Information released this week shows the company was cited for knowingly allowing an employee to drive with a disqualified commercial driver’s license and permitting a driver to make a false report regarding his duty status. It’s unclear whether those violations were tied to Bradley, whose commercial driving privileges had been disqualified by Florida for failing to file updated medical information. Federal data also shows that enforcement officers conducting inspections on Pyle trucks found numerous safety violations nationwide. In August and September, drivers were found to have been working beyond the number of allowed hours, failing to log their hours, carrying overweight loads and driving with tires and brakes that weren’t properly maintained.

Automobile accidents of any kind can have devastating consequences, but trucking accidents are particularly dangerous due to the larger size of the vehicle involved. Truck accidents are more common in large metropolitan areas like Atlanta simply due to the presence of more of them on the roadways and more traffic bogging them down. While truck drivers are trained professionals who are generally safer drivers than regular motorists, accidents can and do happen.

Driver negligence plays a large role in trucking accidents, but they can also be caused by a variety of of other circumstances, including weather, road hazards, or the poor driving of others on the road. As with almost all types of automobile accidents, the most popular legal theory underlying liability in a trucking accident is negligence. A plaintiff in a trucking accident suit must show:

  1. That the defendant truck driver owed the plaintiff a duty of care—in this case, they would owe the plaintiff the degree of care to avoid injury under the circumstances

Any type of car accident can be potentially deadly, but vehicle rollovers are among the most dangerous. While they are relatively rare, accounting for only about three percent of all crashes, they account for about 30% of people who are killed while riding a vehicle. Many people believe that rollovers only affect SUVs and large vans, but a rollover can happen in any vehicle under the right circumstances.

How it Happens

As we said above, any vehicle can roll over but these types of crashes are much more common to tall, narrow vehicles like SUVs, vans, and trucks because these vehicles have higher centers of gravity than sedans and coupes. Rollovers are most common in turns because what happens when a car rolls over is essentially a pendulum effect. When a car makes a turn, sideways forces shift the center of gravity to one side. The faster you’re driving, the stronger these forces are. If these forces become too strong, they can cause a vehicle to roll over.

Georgia CMV trucking regultionsObservations

The specific requirements for an alcohol or controlled substance test are carefully described in the regulations. A written record describing these “contemporaneous, articulatable observations” must be prepared before the test results are reported. If reasonable suspicion testing occurred on the subject driver, review not only the results, but the document describing the basis for requiring the test. If a driver acts or appears to have consumed alcohol or used drugs but tests negative, this could mean the driver has a medical issue. Further, the documentation could provide a basis for arguing the driver should have been subject to more frequent than annual review. (See subsection I.A.6).

The reasonable suspicion subsection requires that the decision to order testing be made by a supervisor or company official who has been trained as required by § 382.607. In the right case, probe this aspect of the motor carrier’s operations: Who has been trained? Have they ordered any driver to be tested? How often did the subject driver interact with a supervisor who was trained? Did the motor carrier create interaction points between the driver and trained supervisor on any kind of a reoccurring or systematic basis? Does the motor carrier require that a supervisor with training be at each location/terminal and on duty at all times while the terminal is operating? If the motor carrier has not made certain it has trained supervisors at logical contact points, and you have an intoxicated driver accident, you may have an argument of individual negligence on the part of the motor carrier for failing to make certain someone was monitoring for reasonable suspicion purposes.

Reasonable Suspicion (382.307): Overview

The implications of reasonable suspicion testing are significant. It shows that a supervisory employee trained to recognize signs of alcohol or drug use was concerned enough to order the driver to undergo testing. This presents an expense to the employer, in the test itself, lost time and productivity, and administrative activities. Should the test be administered and found positive the motor carrier must make a written record of the observations which prompted the test, but there is no requirement that the record of the reason for the test, or the result, be placed in the DQ file. Discovery should be considered with this gap in record keeping requirements in mind.

Reasonable Suspicion Requirements

Random Testing: Overview

All motor carriers must participate in a random testing program that tests for alcohol and drugs. The regulations set out detailed requirements of the percent of employees performing safety-sensitive functions who must be tested. No reported case involving a personal injury claim against the motor carrier, and dealing with this regulation, was noted during research. This suggests that attorneys might be missing an opportunity to reveal a violation that would be especially relevant in a case involving intoxication.

While the random nature of the testing required by the regulations makes it difficult to say a driver would have been randomly tested, a failure to comply at least gives rise to the possibility that he could have been tested, and thus possibly prevented from causing the accident in question. Random drug testing logically acts as a deterrent to alchohol and drug use, a point which may not be lost on an attentive juror.

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