The two major shipping routes that cross in Pennsylvania, I-80 and I-81, represent a major investment for shipping companies. Over 80% of all freight in Pennsylvania ships by truck, and Pennsylvania is one of the top 10 states of origin for freight in the United States. Over 247 million tons of freight, valued at just under $150 billion, ships on Pennsylvania highways every year. Trucking companies get paid to deliver their cargo on time, and they bid against each other based on who can ship the freight fastest and cheapest. Unfortunately, this leads to the creation of unrealistic delivery schedules that put drivers in a bind. To deliver their cargo on time, they must drive fast and aggressively, no matter what the weather, making for very dangerous conditions on the highway and in your community.
I-80 carries freight east-west across the continent, passing by Williamsport, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Stroudsburg, while I-81 connects the major commercial border crossings in New York, increasingly busy since the inception of NAFTA, to markets all down the East Coast. I-81 passes nearby Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, Frackville, and Scranton. If you live in these communities, the odds are that you have come up against an aggressive driver of a semi truck. And if you were unlucky, the result of that confrontation was a dangerous or even deadly accident.
Why Drivers Speed
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulations about how long drivers can be on the road at a stretch, called Hours of Service (HOS) that have been in place since 1937. The trucking companies have constantly lobbied to have these hours increased, but they are resisted by a number of consumer watchdog groups, and recently the courts determined that the HOS guidelines proposed by the FMCSA were unrealistic and dangerous due to the likelihood of driver fatigue.
With drivers forced to be on the road less, trucking companies and truckers were faced with the prospect of a real drop in profits, a drop which trucking companies counter by encouraging speeding in their drivers, sometimes even giving them under-the-table, tax-free cash bonuses for getting their cargo in early, then forging log books to make the delivery seem legal.
When a trucker wants to speed, he often illegally changes over to the left lane and tailgates in an attempt to force other vehicles to move out of the way. This style of driving often leads to an accident when traffic bunches up, making an unexpected stop necessary.
Rain Falls on the Just and Unjust Alike
The schedules set up by trucking companies for their drivers often don't allow for weather, so when the weather turns bad, driver have two options. They can either slow down and face penalties for not making their deliveries on time, or they can keep driving as fast as they can manage, and keep to their schedule. Far too often they choose the latter, and since out-of-service guidelines for vehicle maintenance are lax on testing visibility in bad weather, they are more likely to get in an accident on the road.
Dangers of Speeding
When a truck speeds, its kinetic energy increases exponentially. This kinetic energy makes it harder for the truck to stop, and it makes any accident exponentially more dangerous. The truck also travels farther before a trucker even has time to respond to a change in road conditions by pressing down the brake. All these factors are worsened by bad weather. When visibility is low, truckers cannot see as far in front of them, and when they try to stop the slick roads mean it can take them as much as nine times the distance to stop at the same speed. The stopping distance is also lengthened when a truck is overloaded or underloaded.
If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of the aggressive driving of a trucker, do not let the trucking companies and drivers enjoy their ill-gotten gains. The team at Michael J. O'Connor & Associates stands ready to tackle your legal problem today. Email us or call our toll free number 1.800.518.4LAW for a free initial consultation and case review.