Victims of Tractor Trailer Crashes Require Additional Legal Recourse

Written by Atlee Hall

Recent Local Tractor Trailer Accidents

Recently, local newspapers have reported on a series of fatal trucking crashes.  Just last week, three people including a toddler were tragically killed and numerous individuals seriously injured when a tractor trailer being driven on Route 83 in Dauphin County plowed into the back of slowing/stopped traffic near a construction zone. Newspaper reports indicate that the driver of the truck was charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence. To date, it is not clear whether the driver was alleged to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when he maimed and killed these innocent people.

The incomprehensible nature of such a tragedy raises many questions, but how a tractor-trailer would become entrusted to a reckless driver must be one of the primary concerns addressed by those concerned for the safety of the motoring public.

Lack of National Safety Standards for Hiring Drivers

Most people think that tractor-trailer drivers are highly regulated since the dangers presented by a loaded tractor trailer barreling down a roadway are obvious. Yet, there is no uniform national safety standard for hiring truck drivers and carriers.  A recently proposed amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994 (the Duncan Amendment) did not go beyond establishing superficial guidelines, and thus, was not passed into law before the legislature recessed.  In fact, one of the proposed changes to the amendment would have only required insurance coverage in the amount of $750,000.00; an amount that would likely be insufficient in most tractor-trailer crashes. Further, the proposed legislation did not focus on implementing processes for promoting safety.  There was no requirement that the history of driver crash rates and other driver violations be reviewed, which would seemingly be an obvious first-step measure in promoting safe driving.

The Need for Increased Safety Standards

Perhaps most egregious was the immunity that the legislation would have provided to brokers and shippers responsible for hiring drivers.  Under the proposed amendment, as long as the company responsible for the hiring of the driver ensured that the driver is insured and does not have an “unsatisfactory” rating (only .03 percent of carriers have this rating), a broker or shipper would be immune from liability under any circumstance.  That means that even where the trucking broker was aware of driver safety violations, as long as the driver had the minimum insurance and did not have an unsatisfactory rating, the broker or shipper would not be required to compensate those killed or injured by an unsafe driver.

The recent tragedy on Route 83 breaks our hearts.  We might never really know the full extent of the damage caused by this reckless driver.  The motoring public deserves additional safety standards be imposed on brokers and hiring agents.  No one deserves a free pass.  Isn’t it time to take a stand and demand that common sense safety measures be enacted to protect innocent lives?