Understanding the basics of truck driver negligence in Ohio

The number of large truck accidents continues to increase in Ohio and across the nation, resulting in severe injuries, damage and death.

Commercial trucks navigate Ohio roadways alongside passenger vehicles every day. These massive tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and have no federal limit on length, according to the Federal Department of Transportation. Due to sheer size alone, tractor trailers should be operated by trained and competent commercial truck drivers. Unfortunately, there are some large truck operators in Ohio and across the nation that drive while drowsy, impaired or distracted. Some trucks are in operation even though they fail federal equipment guidelines or have not been properly maintained. As a result, 3,802 people lost their lives in large truck accidents in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and over 400,000 people received serious injuries.

Who is responsible?

Although truck drivers should be held accountable for their negligent actions behind the wheel, in some situations, trucking companies can be held responsible for violating federal regulations as well. In the high profile truck accident case involving comedian and actor Tracy Morgan, Businessweek reports how Morgan, and the other surviving passengers of the accident, have filed a third-party lawsuit against the trucking company that hired, trained and scheduled the reckless truck driver who rear-ended their limousine in June. The truck driver had been awake for 24 hours just prior to the accident, and had driven over 700 miles to pick up his truck earlier that day.

Federal Hours of Service regulations

Truck drivers are paid for every mile they drive, which entices many to stay behind the wheel rather than comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Hours of Service regulations. These regulations limit the time truck drivers can spend operating a truck to 11 hours each day, and were recently revised in an attempt to curb drowsy truckers. The regulations require drivers to take periodic breaks, including a long break of 34 consecutive hours following a full 70-hour work week.

A growing problem

Not only has the U.S. large truck accident fatality rate increased substantially from its low of 3,211 in 2009, Ohio's death rate due to large truck accidents has also increased from 113 deaths in 2011, to 146 fatalities in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The FMCSA reports that approximately 20 percent, or 2.1 million, of the over 10.6 million commercial trucks in operation in 2012, were taken out of service due to equipment violations.

As the U.S. economy continues to improve, the American Trucking Association predicts that even more trucks will be needed in the coming years, further increasing the risk for devastating truck accidents caused by truck driver fatigue and other problems.

Contact an attorney

People who have been in an accident involving a tractor trailer may suffer from severe injuries, emotional trauma and extensive property damage. Some people may have lost a loved one as a result of truck driver negligence. A personal injury attorney can help victims of commercial truck accidents collect the compensation they deserve for injuries, lost wages from work, property damage and emotional suffering.

Keywords: truck, accident, injury