Accidents involving large trucks are among the most serious and most deadly in the United States. At LeBell, Dobroski, Morgan & Meylink, LLP, we recognize that handling these cases requires a thorough understanding of commercial vehicle regulations on both the federal and state level. Trucking companies are required to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations concerning their equipment and their drivers' hours of service. In Wisconsin, the Department of Transportation is also charged with the task of adopting regulations regarding the safety of motor carriers. Wis. Stat. § 348.02. Driver fatigue is a common problem, as hours of service regulations are routinely violated. Careful examination of records after an accident often shows serious and even fraudulent violations of those safety regulations. However, trucking companies are only required to maintain many of those records for six months. Without obtaining those records before they are destroyed, the injured person or survivors of a person killed in a truck wreck has a much more difficult time proving the trucking company's negligence.
The following represents facts and figures regarding large truck accidents and the serious damages they inflict on our roadways every year. In 2010 11% of all traffic fatalities resulted from a collision involving a large truck. In 2010, 276,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States. A total of 3,675 people died (8 percent of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2010) and an additional 80,000 were injured in those crashes. In 2010, large trucks accounted for 8 percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 3 percent of all vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only crashes. Seventy-six percent (76%) of fatalities in large truck crashes were occupants of other vehicles involved in the crash. Only 14% of fatalities involved drivers or occupants of large trucks.
Large trucks were much more likely to be involved in a fatal multiple-vehicle crash – as opposed to a fatal single-vehicle crash – than were passenger vehicles (82 percent (82%) of all large trucks involved in fatal crashes, compared with 58 percent (58%) of all passenger vehicles). Most of the fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred in rural areas (65%), during the daytime (66%), and on weekdays (79%). The percentage of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher was 2 percent (2%) in 2010. The BAC level for all commercial vehicle operators in every state in the U.S. is .04 g/dL, half of the legal limit of .08 for all other drivers.