Safety costs money. Theres simply no way around that and many trucking companies try to save money at the risk of public safety as a recent sting operation by the Tx DPS clearly illustrates. But before we delve too far into the results of this operation lets first provide some context.
The goal of our national and state legislatures police and other investigatory and regulating bodies such as the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and indeed the most important goal of personal injury lawyers such as myself is to compel trucking companies to make safety a priority. This is accomplished in a variety of ways. For instance the legislature compels safety policies by way of enacting laws for which there are administrative or criminal penalties if the laws are broken. Alternatively my firm does its part by holding trucking companies financially accountable when they break the law and cause someone to suffer an injury or die. Or another way to look at it some trucking companies take shortcuts on safety because its cheaper in the short run; I sue them on behalf of my clients thereby making them realize that in fact being safe is actually a prudent business decision in the long run.
If left to their own devices many trucking companies would simply put safety on the back burner. For instance if there was no law telling truck drivers that they can only drive for some maximum number of hours in a given day many trucking companies would push their workers too hard and there would be a greater number of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
However in our collective pursuit to ensure that drivers and trucking companies put safety first police officers lawyers and law makers certainly must strike a reasonable balance such that trucking companies are not unfairly burdened while still insisting that they put forth a good faith effort to keep our highways safe. We dont ask trucking companies to do anything that is unreasonable and in most cases we really only ask that they do the bare minimum. As such it is disheartening when trucking companies cant even live up to those obligations.
On that note during the summer of 2010 the Texas Department of Public Safety participated in the multi-state sting operation known as Roadcheck 2010. Essentially Texas DPS officers randomly pulled over nearly 7000 18-wheelers and inspected their safety features in addition to inspecting the drivers and their status and compliance with federal and state laws.
Shockingly (but honestly not a huge surprise) a staggering 25% of the trucks they pulled over were found to have serious enough safety concerns as to warrant taking the vehicles out of service altogether and numerous others were found to be non compliant at least in part. All of this can be read about in the official TX DPS press release attached here.
Therein youll find some particularly infuriating highlights such as Vehicle out-of-service violations included 900 for brakes out of adjustment 702 for brake system problems 283 for tire or wheel issues… I think we can all agree that having functioning brakes is not asking too much from the trucking industry yet nearly 10% of the trucks inspected had brake system problems. Additionally the press release states Overall 27143 violations were documented as a result of the 6906 inspections conducted. This means that on average each tractor trailer/ driver had roughly 3.9 violations under their belt.
But averaging out the number of problems by the total number of trucks inspected is actually downplaying the problem. In fact 2516 of the trucks were found to be fully compliant. As such their drivers were awarded with a decal which exempted them from further inspections for 90 days; sort of a gold star if you will. However 3490 (approximately 64%) of the vehicles that were inspected failed to pass in some capacity. That means that literally most of the trucks that were inspected did not meet basic safety and/ or compliance guidelines. That information combined with the assumption that the trucks which were given a gold star did not share in any of the 27143 infractions (a reasonable assumption) means that the average violation per problem vehicle was actually 6.18 violations per tractor trailer/ driver! Or put another way roughly 36 % of the trucks inspected follow all of the rules but the other roughly 64% (the overwhelming majority) on average were breaking the rules in a profound way.
Excluding some statistical anomaly that would make the trucks randomly chosen for inspection somehow not an accurate representation of trucks in operation (thats hard to believe) it is safe to say that most of the 18-wheelers on Texas highways are not following basic safety requirements. Its staggering to see in black and white that what Ive suspected all along is true. Staggering… but not surprising. As a trial lawyer who represents the victims of 18-wheeler accidents you do everything you can to make a difference but theres always a little part of you that thinks Maybe the worlds not really as dangerous as it seems to me. Maybe Im just seeing the worst because I represent people whove been through the worst. But with sting operations like Roadcheck 2010 it just goes to show that the concerns are indeed real and that many trucking companies are putting profits ahead of public safety.
Texas 18-Wheeler Accident Attorney Michael Grossman