The 21st century, with its ubiquitous internet usage, is all about having things delivered, from pet food to pizza to . . . a dirt sample where a UFO supposedly crashed (no kidding). Delivery vehicles are everywhere, bringing flowers, meals, groceries, appliances, lumber—you name it, it can be brought to your home or place of business. These vehicles range from tiny autos with signs on the roof to panel vans to large trucks that can barely make it up the hill of your cul-de-sac.
With our “must have it now” mentality, more delivery trucks are roaming the roads than ever before—trying to meet the sometimes impossible promise to have it there tomorrow, today, this afternoon, in 30 minutes. Holiday shopping exacerbates the problem. Now that millions shop on Cyber Monday, FedEx, UPS, and other delivery trucks are hustling around our neighborhoods by the dozens between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Considering the long hours they work, the traffic they face, and the pressure they are under to deliver items on time, it’s amazing that delivery truck drivers do as well as they do. But accidents do happen.
The Demands Delivery Drivers Face
The pressures to deliver on time can mean speeding, ignoring stop signs, turning right at lights without stopping, trying to beat traffic lights (especially for left turns), not using turn signals, backing up without looking when they realize they’ve missed their destination—the list is practically endless. Once they do stop, drivers may forget to secure other parcels they’ve moved around, to close the cargo area’s doors, or even forget to set their truck’s brakes when hand-carrying a package to its destination, leaving the vehicle to roll and hit anything and anyone in its path.
Other issues? They are myriad:
- The lack of visibility. A big, boxy truck can partially block a driver’s line of sight, despite mirrors and other aids. Simply put, often drivers can’t see you, and a momentary mistake on their part can have tragic results.
- Not knowing where they’re going, meaning GPS or cell phone distraction. Drivers may have their eyes glued to their GPS systems, sometimes meaning their phones. That’s distracted driving, and it’s frighteningly widespread, as an investigation in Massachusetts involving trucker texting discovered recently.
- Bad weather, especially during the busy holiday season, can play havoc with a driver’s ability to control the truck. They are sometimes badly-loaded and often top-heavy.
- Compensation systems that encourage drivers to hurry. The faster they are done, the more they make, and in less time.
- Workload expectations that can exceed what is realistic for the average human being. Putting in long hours day after day can mean serious driver fatigue that spawns accidents.
- Inadequate training of the driver, especially with regard to defensive driving and safety practices.
- Finally, the weight of delivery trucks—some are in the tens of thousands of pounds—means that, because of the laws of physics, the larger truck is going to come out better in any tangle with an automobile that weighs 2,000 to 3,000 pounds.
Accidents and fatalities are going up. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in South Carolina during 2013, there were 2,324 crashes involving trucks of all kinds, with 64 fatalities and 1,424 injuries. During 2014, those numbers rose to 2,571 crashes, 73 fatalities, and 1,577 injuries. Nationally, these numbers showed similar increases.
Driver fatigue, stress, terrible weather, badly-loaded trucks, distraction due to GPS systems or cell phones, even the occasional problem with a driver being under the influence — is it any wonder that accidents happen?
Several factors can be involved when it comes to determining liability for an accident:
- The truck driver’s record and behavior. Most accidents are caused by driver error, which can be complicated by drugs (legal or illegal), alcohol, fatigue, or distraction. Sometimes the driver has a record of reckless driving or DUI that can influence the case.
- The truck’s maintenance and records. The owner of the truck can be held liable if it has not been properly maintained. Likewise, if the party responsible for the maintenance did not do so properly, they may be held liable.
- The loading process. If a truck is poorly loaded, the weight imbalance can cause the driver to lose control, resulting in accidents.
- The truck’s manufacturer. More rarely, fault may lie with the vehicle itself, such as an accident caused by a defective part.
These days, a number of trucking companies hire “owner-operators,” meaning the company does not own the truck, and the driver is an independent contractor who often owns the truck. In the past, trucking companies would give the operator a placard with the company’s permit number on it, allowing it to operate. Doing this was one way to create a legal distance that protected the trucking company from liability. But under current federal law, if the truck is carrying a permit naming the trucking company, the company is legally responsible, regardless of what the agreement with the owner-operator says.
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Truck accidents can be extremely complicated both because of the large amounts of money often involved and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified South Carolina vehicle accident lawyer to make sure your rights are protected. If you’ve been in an accident with a delivery truck, the Louthian Law Firm can help make things right. We’ll deal with the insurance companies on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, repair bills, lost income and any other financial costs that the accident caused. Where appropriate, we’ll also seek compensation on your behalf for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses. With our hands-on approach, you’ll get exceptional results.
For a free evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today toll free at (803) 454-1200, or use our online form for a free review of your case. Louthian Law Firm. Justice. Delivered.