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Must truck safety be motivated by financial pressure?

Is a trucking company potentially liable when one of its fleet drivers is involved in trucking accident? A recent lawsuit alleged just that.

According to the claims, a trucking company may have been negligent in its safety oversight. A truck driver was accused of falling asleep behind the wheel. He crashed into a state trooper on Interstate 88 and also killed a toll worker.

What’s particularly tragic about this case is that is seems to have been preventable. The driver had previously been flagged as high-risk, apparently for falsifying his logbook entries regarding hours-of-service. In this case, the trucker was allegedly operating on less than five hours of sleep in the 37-hour time period before the crash.

However, the driver is not the only one with a history of non-compliance. Regulators from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had also classified the driver's employer, DND International Inc., as high-risk. In the wake of the accident, the FMCSA ordered the trucking company to shut down its operations. However, the company fought back with an appeal and managed to stay open. It went out of operation only after its insurance company cancelled its policy coverage. 

After reviewing this case, the National Transportation Safety Board has called for a corrective action: that FMCSA regulators automatically contact insurers when a company is found to be high-risk. As a law firm that focuses on motor vehicle accidents, we understand that financial pressure can be effective in holding a driver accountable for his or her negligent behaviors on the road. Personal injury awards can send a strong message to drivers -- and their insurance companies -- about the need for safer practices. 

Source: Insurance Journal, “NTSB Blames Poor Oversight in Deadly Illinois Truck Crash,” Feb. 11, 2016

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