Last week I received an excellent blog comment from a local trucker following a post about a wrongful death truck accident I handled. He wrote that too may truckers get a bad rap because of a minority of unfit or careless truck drivers. But our truck accident lawyers realize that the majority of semi-truck drivers are good people, who care about safety and follow the rules. Sadly, good truckers are sometimes put under a lot of pressure from bad truck companies or safety directors who put profit over public safety. The concerned trucker’s remarks epitomize my point.
Here’s what the trucker, J. Forbis, had to say:
“There are many companies out there that run their trucks at the edge of being illegal, many put their drivers at risk for the money that has become harder to make in this industry. Many trucking laws go unchecked, tires and brakes are under great stress with the loads that Michigan allows on its highways, and with 42 tires to check, some drivers may not check all. It just takes one to kill someone. But there are good drivers out there that know this and drive their trucks responsibly. They pre-trip their trucks and get what they can fixed. But the owners are the ones who decide if it gets fixed or not. I drive train and have never lost a steer, I have had load tires go and that is what you mostly see on the highways. Tires are generally lost due to improper inflation which leads to excessive heat. Most tires are recaps (load tires) due to cost of virgin tires. If drivers reject the trucks due to defects, some of these companies will just get another driver, which is why we have a lot of inexperienced drivers out there in these trucks. (The Department of Transportation) is out there doing what it can, but they can’t find everyone. If you drive a train in Michigan you should be licensed for it, there is a lot more to it then just driving a truck with a double endorsement. Wake up Lansing.”
J. Forbis was responding to a blog about one of my clients, Patrick Nunez, who was killed in a truck accident when an epileptic trucker driving a dangerous, out-of-service gravel truck his his vehicle. In the Nunez case, the truck driver admitted he had received no formal training or supervision from his employer. He also had a seizure disorder and was on powerful epilepsy medication that causes drowsiness and delayed reaction time. Although the truck driver was negligent, his employer never should have put him behind he wheel. Moreover, the truck company never should have allowed that defective and dangerous truck on Michigan roads.
In handling hundreds of Michigan truck accident cases, and as past president of the American Association for Justice Interstate Truck Litigation Group and an executive member of the board of governors representing Michigan for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, I see this type of blatant disregard for safety from truck companies time after time. Some knowingly let unfit, alcoholic truck drivers operate lethal trucks. Many let drivers with felonies drive trucks. Others fail to complete even the most basic safety maintenance checks, don’t verify drivers’ past employment to see if they caused other trucking accidents, and allow drivers to drive past regulated hours.
As gas prices soared last year and the Michigan economy continues to collapse, attorneys who litigate serious truck accident cases are seeing more and more cash-strapped trucking companies, especially independent contractors, cutting back even further on maintenance and safety programs. Temptation to take shortcuts and undercut trucking competitors is steadily growing. And truck safety and maintenance are the first to be sacrificed.
Like J. Forbis said, it’s up to lawmakers to push more stringent trucking safety guidelines to protect Michigan drivers. Until then, it’s sometimes only the threat of litigation that will force some trucking companies to do the right thing, and ultimately protect good truckers.
If you are a truck driver who has been injured in a truck accident in Michigan, please call one of our truck accident lawyers directly for a free consultation, (800) 777-0028. You can also use our contact form. There is absolutely no fee or obligation.
— Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Leonard John Matthews
Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious truck accident injury cases. He is on the executive board of governors representing Michigan for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America and is immediate past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Litigation Group. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008. The largest Michigan settlement was the Nunez truck accident case.
Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Southfield, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. For more information, please read our law firm quick facts.