Trucking accident verdict leads to change in cruise control policy

The American Trucking Association estimates there is growing shortage of truck drivers nationwide. The retirements of experienced truck drivers and growth in the oil and gas industries are factors behind the shortage.

Some seasoned drivers worry that new driver training is not always adequate and does not prepare newcomers for inclement weather. A recent jury verdict after a deadly truck accident illustrates why they have cause for concern.

An Indiana-based trucking company had a policy that encouraged the use of cruise control to save money on fuel. In 2011, a company truck was travelling on cruise control along I-94 in Michigan. The weather conditions had created slick, icy roads. One vehicle spun out of control and a second stopped to avoid the first. The semi truck then crashed into the stopped passenger vehicle killing two men inside.

The widows of the two men brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck drivers and the trucking company. They argued that it was negligent and reckless to use cruise control at a high speed under the conditions. At trial, evidence from an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) showed the truck was driving 65 m.p.h. before the crash.

The jury found that the truck driver was 60 percent at fault and the trucking company was 40 percent at fault. They awarded a substantial damage award that was apportioned based on the fault determination.

Investigating the cause of a crash and a change in policy

Following the verdict, the trucking company announced it would change its policy. Drivers at the trucking company can no longer use cruise control during inclement weather. Updates to the training program now reflect the policy change.

This case shows that sometimes cost savings take precedence over safety. Investigating the cause of the truck accident found a serious flaw in a company policy.

Regulations on interstate trucking make access to some information easier. Drivers must record the number of hours they spend behind the wheel. This may help in proving a driver was too tired to be behind the wheel. In other cases, it may take an accident investigator to determine a cause. Uncovering the cause an accident is the first step toward determining liability. In an accident caused by negligence, monetary damages might be available.

Accidents between semi trucks and passenger vehicles often result in catastrophic injuries and even death. Following this type of crash, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Remedies could be available to cover pain and suffering as well as medical bills and lost wages. A lawsuit could also prompt a change that may stop similar accidents from happening.

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