Florida Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog
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A current debate about hours of service regulation rules is really a long-standing argument about how to best reduce the number of fatigued drivers on Fort Lauderdale roads and other roadways across the country. Earlier this year, new federal hours of service rules were passed which reduced the weekly hours long-haul truck drivers worked. The same changes also requires truck drivers to take nighttime rest breaks.

Some safety advocates say that the nighttime breaks are crucial to help prevent fatigued driving and resulting traffic crashes in Fort Lauderdale and other cities. They point to research that has shown shift work can lead to sleep issues and greater fatigue when compared with work that allows employees to sleep during regular night hours.

Critics Slam New Hours of Service Rules

Opponents of the hours of service changes, however, say that the mandatory nighttime rest breaks put too many commercial truck drivers on the road during rush hour – an increase in traffic that could contribute to roadway accidents in Fort Lauderdale and other cities. They also say that drivers should ultimately decide when they should rest.

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Fatigued driving leads to traffic crashes

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There are far fewer school bus accidents in Homestead and other communities than car accidents. One reason for that is that most drivers are much more careful around school buses than around average cars. In fact, there are laws in place to ensure that drivers use extra caution around vehicles transporting school children.

Now, a new law may help prevent waste truck accidents in Homestead and other Florida cities by getting motorists to slow down and show more caution around waste and recycling trucks. The new Florida law covers waste and recycling trucks under the same law that covers emergency vehicles.

Across the country, more than 135,000 men and women work with waste and recycling trucks, keeping streets and communities clean. These workers are especially vulnerable to workplace accidents in Homestead and other communities across the country, and one of the big risks in this industry has to do with pedestrian accidents. Waste and recycling trucks make frequent stops and when they do, trucking collisions can occur. In addition, workers from these trucks need to approach the curb and cross the street in order to pick up items from the curb. This puts these workers at risk, especially if drivers around them are distracted or try to drive around a stopped waste or recycling truck. The new law aims to address this common cause of injury.

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New Florida laws intended to prevent waste truck collisions

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Trade groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have spoken out against the new Hours of Service rules, saying that the new rules will not help fight fatigued driving and may actually contribute to the problem.

The new rules, among other things, limit commercial truck drivers to working no more than 14 hours per workday and also set limits on weekly work hours. On the surface, this seems like a good way to prevent fatigued driving in Davie and in communities across the country. The problem, according to OOIDA and other groups, is that the new rules are less flexible than previous regulations, which allowed drivers to take breaks when they needed to. Under the new rules, the groups say, drivers may have to max out their workday in bad weather or heavy traffic, preventing them from taking rests as needed because the 14-hour day cannot be extended.

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According to transportation officials, however, the problem is not with the new Hours of Service regulations, but rather with commercial drivers and transportation companies. When truck carriers create strict deadlines that no not allow for any breaks within 14 hour days or do not account for situations such as traffic or weather, they create problems because drivers do not have time to rest if they want to make their deadlines. Federal officials, however, have given no statements as to how this problem might be dealt with.

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Determining whether you have a personal injury claim in Miami or your Florida community often stems from understanding what caused your traffic collision in the first place. This is because you need to be able to determine whether negligence played a role in the crash. According to statistics, the most common causes of trucking accidents include:

1) Mechanical failure. Mechanical failure can stem from defective brakes or tires. In these cases, it may be possible to pursue a products liability claim in Miami or your community against the manufacture of the defective truck or truck part. However, not all tire blowouts in Miami and other instances of mechanical failure stem from poor design or from manufacturing flaws. In some cases, poor maintenance leads to roadway accidents. For example, truck carriers and drivers may fail to replace worn tires, may fail to load cargo correctly, or may fail to act on warning signs of maintenance issues. In these situations, the truck carrier or driver may be held partly liable if their recklessness leads to a roadway collision.

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2) Driver error. A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver error contributes to about 88% of trucking collisions, with fatigued driving being a leading cause of error.

3) Cargo problems. Incorrectly loaded or secured cargo may fall from the truck, leading to chain reaction collisions in Miami or other communities. Incorrectly balanced or inadequately secured loads can shift during transport, putting big rigs and tractor trailers at risk for rollovers.

4) Bad weather. Adverse weather conditions can make it harder for truck drivers to stop in time to avoid a collision and poor weather can also affect visibility, which can contribute to a collision. Even in these cases, however, it is important to ask questions. For example, did poor road design contribute to the collision? Did the truck’s wipers and other systems function correctly to compensate for the weather? In some cases, an investigation shows that even trucking collisions seemingly caused by weather conditions were in fact preventable.

5) Other motorists. Some statistics show that negligent drivers in passenger cars contribute to trucking collisions. In fact, some safety experts note that drivers of passenger cars are more likely to cause roadway crashes than truck drivers, who do have more extensive training and often more driving experience.

If you have been in a trucking collision, it is important to get answers about what caused your collision and about who the liable parties may be. You may wish to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options and to get answers. A personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case and may also launch an investigation into the collision to find out what led to the crash.

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Waste truck collisions in Miami, Homestead, and other Florida cities are a cause for concern. Although often low-speed crashes, these accidents pose a high risk for injury, since waste trucks are so heavy and large. These collisions especially tend to affect pedestrians who may be trying to get around the truck. In many cases, motorists and pedestrians may not notice the frequent stops waste trucks make.

Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 7005 into law. The transportation bill includes rules that will hopefully help prevent recycling and waste truck collisions. One part of the bill includes waste and recycling trucks in the state’s “Move Over Act.” The “Move Over Act” has been in Florida for some time and requires drivers to move over one lane or slow down to 20 mph under the posted speed limit when approaching a tow truck or emergency vehicle. The law was aimed at reducing pedestrian accidents in Miami and other cities caused by drivers passing too close to emergency workers and tow truck drivers who were assisting people on the side of the road. Thanks to the passage of House Bill 7005 into law, recycling and waste trucks will now be included, potentially preventing Florida and Miami roadway collisions involving recycling and sanitation workers.

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The National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA) has praised the new law and has also continued its own efforts to pass “Slow Down to Get Around” laws in other states. The organization also has a “Slow Down to Get Around” campaign to alert drivers of the importance of slowing down and driving with more caution when driving near or around sanitation trucks. The campaign is meant to help reduce traffic accidents as well as sanitation worker workplace accidents in Miami and other cities.

Safety experts and the National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA) have a few tips for drivers to help them avoid car collisions in Miami and other cities:

1) Keep in mind that waste and recycling collection trucks make frequent stops and have larger blind spots. Driving near these vehicles is not like driving near other cars – or even near commercial trucks. Drivers need to be more alert and prepared to stop.

2) Be aware of pedestrian traffic around sanitation trucks. Workers need to move from the truck to the sidewalk to pick up recyclables and other items. This makes them vulnerable to collisions. When you see a sanitation truck stopped or parked, keep alert for any workers in the area.

3) On your own waste and recycling collection day, use extra caution when leaving your driveway for work. When backing up, make sure that there are no city workers in your blind spots. On collection day, place your recycling and any other items for pick-up at the appropriate place on the curb.

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There is no doubt that fatigued driving in Hollywood and across the country leads to trucking collisions. Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in trucking collisions in Hollywood and across the nation because big rig drivers and tractor trailer drivers get behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive safely.

Even though the risks of fatigued driving are well-known, there is much disagreement as to how to address the issue. Earlier this year, new hours of service regulations were passed which would require different rests breaks and would lower maximum hours driven per week from 82 to 70. Safety advocates claimed that the hours of service rules did not go far enough and still allowed long-haul truckers to stay on the roads for much longer than may be safe.

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The trucking industry did not agree with the changes either, stating that the new rules require two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. each week, which would put truck drivers back on the roads during morning rush hour, potentially creating the risk for more collisions. Some legislators are seeking an amendment through Senate that would freeze the new hours of service rules until more research could be done to determine the rules’ effect on roadway safety.

Trucking industry officials have also stated that giving long-haul drivers more flexibility about rest periods would be more conducive to sleep and rest between driving times. They have further argued that simply cutting back hours would lower productivity and put more trucks on the roads, which could increase the risk of motor vehicle collisions in Hollywood and other cities.

Even doing research about fatigued driving is difficult, in part because fatigue is challenging to measure and problematic to prove after the fact. A 1990 study by the Transportation Safety Board concluded that fatigued driving played a role in 182 commercial truck crashes studies. In a 2006 study, however, the Department of Transportation concluded that fatigued driving plays a role in 13% of trucking accidents.

While many experts focus on passing laws that would reduce fatigued driving and crashes, part of the problem with fatigued driving is that it can be so hard to legislate. A driver can technically obey the hours of service rules and still be a danger on the road. Drivers may be unable to sleep during their rest periods, for example, or may suffer from sleep disorders or health conditions that leave them fatigued even when they get the mandated number of rest breaks.

Clearly, passing new laws is not enough. What needs to change are attitudes. Rather than trying to simply state how many hours a driver must rest, more needs to be done to give drivers the tools needed to stay safe on the roads. This may mean providing more health services so that truck drivers can address any symptoms or problems before they become a hazard. It can also mean paying truck drivers well, even if they need to make a safer decision to take an unscheduled rest break due to fatigue. The way trucking is set up is that truck drivers are paid by cargo delivered and miles driven. There is a financial incentive to push past fatigue and keep driving.

What do you think? What needs to be done to help prevent fatigued driving from claiming more lives?

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Trucking and traffic collisions in Homestead and other communities are a major concern, especially since big rigs and tractor trailers have the potential to cause massive devastation in crashes. A commercial truck carrying flammable materials, for example, can cause an explosion or a fire that can damage businesses and can injure bystanders over a large area. A truck rollover in Homestead or anywhere in Florida can be a multiple vehicle crash, resulting in lives lost and multiple injuries.

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So what can we do to prevent trucking and multiple vehicle accidents in Homestead and other cities? According to industry experts, some of the solutions are already here and they include:

1) Electronic logging. Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to keep track of miles driven and rests taken, but personal injury attorneys in Homestead and other cities know that these logs are far from reliable and can even be falsified (or forgotten). Electronic logs rely on an onboard computer linked to the engine to keep tabs on driving time and rest breaks. So far, about 25 percent of trucks use these devices but safety experts say that making e-logging devices universal could potentially cut down on fatigued driving in Homestead and other communities.

2) Better pay. Some industry advocates say that paying truckers more and especially paying them for time spent waiting while a truck is loaded would result in a safer and more professional workforce. Other safety experts say that currently drivers have a financial incentive to drive more and to meet deadlines at any cost, while a safer pay structure would financially reward drivers for driving without traffic violations or accidents.

3) Changing hours of service rules. While many agree that hours of service rules should change, there is much debate about how they should be changed. A current change in rules has meant that drivers can work no more than 14 hours a day, with up to 11 hours of that on the road. The new rules also require drivers to get 10 consecutive hours of rest between shifts and get at least one half an hour break during the first eight hours of a new shift. Long-distance truck drivers can have work weeks of up to 70 hours every eight days and must re-set their week by being off duty for at least 34 hours, with at least two blocks of time occurring consecutively between one in the morning and five in the morning. Safety experts say that these hours of work still put drivers at risk of fatigued driving, especially given how stressful and deadline-focused long-haul trucking is. The trucking industry, however, says that cutting hours of service rules does not make for safer drivers. Even with longer rest times, there is often no way to ensure that drivers manage their break times well to get maximum amounts of sleep. A driver can potentially obey all the rules and still be sleep deprived.

4) Giving drivers better access to health care. Driver health can have a big impact on collision rates. Drivers with heart conditions, sleep disorders, and other health conditions can be a danger on the roads, and trucking itself can put drivers at risk for a number of health issues, including obesity, heart disease, and some cancers. Giving drivers access to free screenings and offering more preventative medical advice could help address some of these concerns, although what is really needed is a change in attitudes about how the industry as a whole and how individual drivers address health risks.

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Trucking collisions in Hollywood and other cities are expensive, not just for injured parties but also for entire communities. In fact, according to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway collisions across the country cost about $871 billion annually in community harm and financial costs.

The NHTSA study looked at truck and car accidents in 2010. That year, there were 24 million damaged trucks and cars, 32,999 deaths, and 3.9 million injuries attributed to roadway collisions. From this, the researchers concluded that the accidents caused $594 billion in societal costs and $277 billion in economic losses. The costs included the costs of decreased quality of life, decreased productivity, loss of life, and other losses.

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The same study found that three specific driving behaviors contributed a total of 62% of the societal costs and 56% of the economic costs. These three behaviors were drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. Speeding accounted for about 24% or $210 billion of societal harm and 21% or $59 billion in economic costs. Drunk driving was linked to 23% or $199 billion of societal harm and 18% or $49 billion in economic costs. Distracted driving was said to cost 17% or $46 billion of total economic costs as well as $129 billion in societal harm.

This last may actually be good news. Since speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving in Hollywood and other communities is so preventable, it is possible that focusing on just these three causes of tragic crashes could have a huge impact on the total number of accidents and the losses caused by these accidents.

The study did not examine individual costs of trucking and automobile collisions in Hollywood and other cities, but the fact is that individual costs can be an even larger problem. While total collision costs of $871 billion annually are very large, an entire country can absorb these costs. When individuals are injured and incur tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, however, it can be almost impossible to deal with this financial challenge.

In fact, unexpected medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy in Hollywood and across the country. When people are injured in car or truck accidents, they often face severe financial losses, including:

•Income loss
•Long-term wage loss
•Car repair bills
•Property damage
•Vehicle replacement costs
•Medical bills
•Long-term medical expenses
These expenses can add up very quickly. Even diagnostic screening can add up to thousands of dollars. While insurance is meant to help protect motorists from these costs, it does not always provide the coverage that patients need. In some cases, insurance adjusters undervalue a claim or allege that a patient is not covered for certain benefits or procedures. A patient who has very good medical and car insurance coverage can still be left with bills that end up causing severe financial distress. In some cases, patients face bankruptcy due to these costs.

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In the past, roads were basically surfaces for vehicles. Today, however, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) mean that communications technology can be combined with road and vehicle technology so that infrastructure and vehicles can communicate. According to some safety experts, ITS and related technology can be an important step towards reducing truck accidents in Homestead and other communities.

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Already, there are ITS and other technology solutions in place that can help prevent accidents. This technology includes:

1) Mobile weigh stations.
Overweight trucks in Homestead and other communities are a leading cause of trucking accidents and are also very detrimental to roads. Despite weigh stations and federal weight limits, however, enforcing overloaded trucks has always been difficult. Some companies have developed mobile weigh stations, which allow weigh stations to be moved, making it harder for commercial trucks to avoid weigh stations.

2) Interactive roads. Most roads are static, but some companies have developed roads that can actually change line markings with the press of a button, can automatically melt ice and snow, and can even warn cars and trucks about upcoming road hazards (such as debris or wildlife in a lane).

3) Weigh station pre-screening. Some companies produce scales that allow trucks to be weighed before they even get to weigh stations. The way these scales work is that they are embedded into the road surface. As a truck rolls over the pavement, the truck’s registration information and weight are recorded – all without the truck having to stop. If the truck is found to be overweight, it can be directed to the nearest weigh station for more evaluation. Not only does this technology promise to find more overloaded trucks, but it can also improve traffic flow by ensuring that only trucks that may exceed weight limits need to stop at weigh stations.

4) Rollover prevention strategies. The same technology that is used in weigh station pre-screening scales can also be used to prevent rollover accidents. Some steep inclines and high-collision ramps across the country already use this technology. Basically, the same under-pavement scales used in weigh scale prescreening can be installed before a steep incline or other high-risk area. The system can automatically note the type and weight of the vehicle approaching the area and flash a message on a road sign about the safest speed limit for the truck. This can help prevent rollovers in Homestead and other communities by ensuring that drivers slow down to a safer speed.

5) Fleet and driver management. Technology is also being used to monitor drivers and fleets more effectively. This can give motor carriers the tools needed to note whether specific drivers or trucks have a higher instance of collisions or whether a driver is speeding or taking other risks on the road.

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Big rigs and tractor trailers are used to transport a variety of products across the state and across the country each day, but some trucks carry hazardous materials. One type of cargo that can be especially deadly is fuel. Fuel tankers are involved in devastating trucking accidents in Miami and other cities each year. These types of accidents have a high rate of fatalities and cause environmental devastation as well.

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There are many things that can make fuel tank traffic accidents in Miami and other cities so deadly:

1) Fuel tanks carry hazardous material in a less stable format. Fuel and natural gas are already flammable and hazardous but any hazardous material in liquid form can be even more deadly as it can slosh around inside a tanker and can be harder to stabilize, creating a larger risk of rollovers and accidents.

2) Fuel tank collisions are likely to lead to fires and explosions. Since the cargo is so unstable in a motor vehicle crash in Miami or another city, a fuel tank can catch fire or even explode. In this situation, the fuel inside the tank can feed the flames, causing an inferno that is strong enough to melt the road and cause severe damage to the traffic around the trucks and traffic.

3) Fuel tank crashes can be a challenge for emergency response teams. Due to the fire and explosions these collisions can cause, fire fighters and other emergency responders can have a hard time getting close to the source of the blaze. This can mean that it takes some time to put the fire out, leading to more serious fire damage. Since emergency responders may not be able to get too close, they may also have a hard time offering life-saving treatment to those who were at the center of the accident and blaze.

4) Fuel tank accidents can result in environmental and secondary damage. When emergency responders are sent to a fuel tanker accident, they often send HAZMAT teams. The bystanders, homeowners, and motorists who are near the crash, though, do not have the layers of protection that HAZMAT suits and equipment offer. These bystanders may be exposed to smoke, hazardous materials, and toxins. Although authorities may try to clean up spilled fuel and may try to absorb some of the fuel spilled on the road, some of the toxins may seep into water sources or may continue to be present in the area for some time, possibly leading to health concerns for local residents as well as risks of secondary road accidents.

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