Many motor vehicle collisions are the result of failure to pay attention, to obey the speed limit, to obey traffic control signs and markings, or other similar negligent behavior that causes a crash.
For most regular car drivers, crashes primarily arise as a result of poor decisions or mistakes made immediately prior to the wreck. This is not the case for crashes caused by professional drivers operating tractor-trailers. Often, the direct cause of a tractor-trailer crash is a failure to maintain and operate the truck in a safe manner over the long term. But the root cause of that driver’s behavior is a corporate indifference to well-established commercial motor carrier safety rules.
While it is important to identify any of the truck driver’s immediate failures that were a direct cause of a trucking crash, it can be just as essential to determine the root causes that led a professional driver to operate the tractor-trailer in that way.
What are signs of a trucking company’s indifference to regulations?
One way to explore those root causes is to investigate whether or not the trucking company:
- Hires unsafe drivers
- Provides poor training
- Lacks or does not enforce safety policies and procedures
- Encourages its drivers to cut corners either directly or through financial incentives to complete trips faster
One way to identify these failures is to gather data on the trucking company, collected by government regulatory enforcement agencies. The federal government manages our interstate commercial motor transportation system through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
What are FMSCA’s responsibilities?
Its responsibilities include the promotion of commercial motor carrier and driver safety through:
- Data analysis
- Regulatory enforcement
- Roadside inspections
- Research and development of new safety technology
The FMCSA issues regulations that govern the conduct of commercial motor carriers and drivers to ensure that they meet bare minimum safety standards when transporting goods and people across state lines. These are published in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and are known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMSCR). All interstate motor carriers and drivers must adhere to these safety regulations, or face financial penalties and being placed out-of-service.
What other information does FMSCA keep on the trucking industry?
In the process of enforcing the FMCSRs, the agency collects a tremendous amount of data about the operations of every interstate motor carrier, including:
- The number of trucks owned
- Drivers employed
- Miles driven per year
- Roadside inspections
- Regulation violations
- Traffic infractions
- Reportable crashes
- Compliance review
- Safety audits
The above list is only a portion of the data collected. For many motor carriers, the FMCSA issues a safety rating based on that company’s safety performance. The FMCSA compiles this information in a database called the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).
The FMCSA makes some of this information publicly available through a system called Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER), which is a website that allows database searches by motor carrier name or Department of Transportation number.
This data is crucial to properly investigating a trucking accident. A motor carrier is responsible to adhere to safety standards in the management of its entire fleet of trucks and drivers. This includes federal mandated procedures for hiring drivers who are qualified and who do not have an unreasonable history of safety violations.
What should potential truck drivers be screened for, prior to being hired?
A motor carrier that hires a driver who has a history of:
- Traffic violations
- Preventable collisions
- Illicit drug or alcohol abuse
- Regulation violations designed to prevent driver fatigue
- A disqualifying medical condition
…or some other alarming background knows or should know that they are subjecting the motoring public to potentially fatal danger by placing an unsafe driver behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle.
Some motor carriers will create a culture of placing profits ahead of safety by encouraging drivers to speed or cut corners to complete trips. Often, one can identify a trucking company that demonstrates a systemic disregard of the safety regulations by pulling the data collected by the FMCSA that shows repeated FMCSR violations, trucks and drivers being put out-of-service, high rates of crashes compared with similar sized operations, and a lack of safety policies and procedures or enforcement.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a trucking accident, it is important to begin an investigation early. Part of that investigation should include evaluating the trucking company’s safety profile maintained by the FMCSA to determine whether the incident was not caused by a one-off moment of inattention, but rather the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture of loose safety standards and driver accountability.
Call the compassionate tractor-trailer attorneys at Allen & Allen today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.