Papantonio: Death On The Highway Increases From Trucking Disasters – America’s Lawyer

Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio discusses why there are 4,000 deaths a year on average from trucking accidents and speaks with attorney, Stewart Guss, about how deregulation has led to more accidents.

Transcript:

Papantonio:

Nearly 4,000 Americans are killed every year in accidents involving 18-wheelers, but we only hear about these accidents if they happen to involve a celebrity. The stories that aren’t told of families that have been killed by truck drivers, children who’ve lost their parents, or parents who lose their children, those stories aren’t told. The problem is that most of these accidents could’ve easily been avoided. In addition to the 4,000 people killed each year, an average of 100,000 people are seriously injured in accidents involving large trucks that often weigh over 40 tons each.

The number of accident deaths and crippling injuries could be reduced if it weren’t for the strain that corporations put on their truck drivers. According to the data, at least 13% of these trucking accidents are due to driver fatigue. To put it simply, the drivers were simply too tired to function properly behind a wheel of a 40-ton vehicle that’s traveling down the highway at speed of 80 miles an hour and more. Most often more than that.

The reason that these drivers are fatigued is because it’s nearly impossible deadlines that they’re put under. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets rules for how long truckers can drive in a day. Before drivers even start a shift, drivers have to take a 10 consecutive hours off of duty totally. Once they get behind the wheel, they can drive for no more than eight straight hours before stopping for at least 30 minutes. All told, within a 14-hour shift, only 11 hours can be spent behind the wheel. But of course the corporations that hire truck drivers want to make as much money as possible, and the longer their good stay on the highway, the longer it takes them to make their profit.

What we’ve learned in the last few years is that many employers are encouraging drivers to work beyond the legally set time limits or to forego their 10-hour restart completely in exchange for financial rewards. For example, drivers might be offered bonus pay if they deliver their loads in a shorter amount of time than projected, which encourages drivers to risk their lives and the lives of everyone else on the road around them. On top of that, even drivers who take the legally required hours off before beginning a shift can fall victim to driver fatigue due to the fact that many drivers are considered contractors and, therefore, not covered under a corporate insurance plan. Disorders can cause disrupted sleep patterns. Often, they go undiagnosed, preventing drivers from giving their bodies the proper rest they need.

For more on the dangers facing American drivers due to the lack of proper regulations of the trucking industry, I’m joined now by attorney Stewart Guss who’s handled trucking and other catastrophic personal injury cases for more than 20 years. Stewart, let’s start by talking about the Tracy Morgan accident. It was one of the most high profile trucking accident cases in recent years, and it helped bring the issue to light as brief as that might have been. Remind viewers what happened in that accident and why it was out front on the newspaper headlines.

Guss:

Good evening, Mike. Thanks for having me. Yeah, in June of 2014, Tracy Morgan was in a limo bus on the New Jersey Turnpike, and at that time, Kevin Roper was driving a truck for Walmart. Mr. Roper driving that truck was about 28 minutes away from the end of a 14-hour shift. To compound that, the driver had actually driven 12 hours, 800 miles in order to start that shift 14 hours ago. So when you do the math on that, that driver had been awake for more than 24 hours when that collision occurred.

Papantonio:

Stewart, let me stop you there. First of all, the parts of what you’ve just described, simply because it was Tracy Morgan, it got some headlines. That type of thing happens every single day across this country where entire families are wiped out, but we don’t hear about the story. In this situation, we know what the factors are. For example, how does trucker pay factor into these trucker accidents? How is that a factor at all?

Guss:

Most truckers are paid by the mile, and this creates sort of a perverse disincentive against safety. Unfortunately, truckers don’t get paid unless they drive, and truckers are really compelled to log as many miles as they can because there are factors that they have to deal with on the road such as mechanical breakdowns or perhaps heavy traffic. They don’t have a reliable source of income. They don’t know what their paycheck’s going to be like next week. So this week, when they’re behind the wheel, they want to log as many hours as they possibly can.

Papantonio:

Stewart, we do have safeguards in place in the form of federal regulations, so why is it so easy for companies to let their drivers bend these rules? How does that happen? Because they’re absolutely bending the rules. It’s not that there aren’t regulations, it’s just that those regulations are ignored. What’s your take?

Guss:

You alluded to that earlier when you talked about the fact that the trucking companies and the corporations that employ these truckers, they’re not able to produce revenue and profit unless and until their goods get to market. So we’re at an all time low in terms of … We’ve got a great shortage of truckers in this country. So the trucking companies aren’t really incentivized very much to make sure that their truckers stay within the federal regulations.

You may know most trucking logs right now are still paper logs despite the fact that electronic logging technology has been available for a number of years. But if you think about it, you’re getting pushback from independent truckers who don’t want the accountability of an electronic log. You’re getting the exact same pushback from the trucking companies because they want to be able to push their drivers as far and as fast as they can to get their goods to market.

Papantonio:

Stewart, there’s a huge amount of industry pushback here. Industry wants to weaken regulations as you’re pointing out. They want to weaken regulations really to where there aren’t regulations. The problem is you have this highly paid lobbying effort taking place, but mom and pop and children on vacation driving from New York to Florida are putting their lives at risk because the lobbyists are winning on this case. The lobbyists are winning. The trucking industry is getting what they want. Did I get that right? Or do you have anything to … A variation of what I just said?

Guss:

No, you’re absolutely right. I’ll tell you the reason I’m so passionate about this is because if you think about it, we’ve got 4,000 deaths a year in this country from trucking accidents. That’s actually the equivalent, think about this, Mike, that’s the equivalent of 20 fully loaded passenger planes falling out of the sky and killing all souls on board. You and I both know that if that were to happen to the airline industry, the public would be up in arms. There would be increased scrutiny and regulation and controls. But we’re not seeing that because the trucking lobbies such as the American Trucking Association are so incredibly strong. I’ve got example after example of the successful efforts that they’ve had in rolling back those very regulations that keep you and I and our families safe on the roads.

Papantonio:

With Republicans currently controlling all three branches of government, is it likely that the current regulations are going to even be reduced further? And what does that mean? I don’t know how you can possibly reduce these regulations even further and keep American drivers safe.

Guss:

If I could, let me give you one example. In addition to the maximum duty hour regulations, there’s also a requirement for a reset period about once a week for truckers. It’s supposed to simulate having a weekend, but that reset period is only 34 hours. If you think about that, that’s like taking Saturday off and going back to work on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning. The prior administration had tweaked that rule to require that reset period required two late night sleep periods. Lo and behold, surprisingly, or I guess unsurprisingly, the lobbyists came out. They pushed hard to have that rule suspended, and lo and behold it was.

Additionally, I referred to electronic trucking logs earlier. That technology is available, and in fact, as it stands now, all trucking logs are supposed to be electronic by the end of 2017. With the current administration and the make up of Congress, however, I think we can probably bet that that enforcement is either going to be suspended or postponed.

Papantonio:

What is the typical pattern that you see? If you were to say “Well, let me give you a typical pattern of how people end up getting killed.” How is it that these truckers are taking entire families out there on the highway. By the way, media is barely talking about this story. What is the pattern that comes to your mind, that you see typically in these cases?

Guss:

There are a couple of factors that we typically see in a great number of the trucking accidents that we work on. A lot of them have to do with equipment failure or a lack of proper equipment maintenance. Again, that cuts into the profits of the truckers and the trucking companies.

Another factor that we see quite a bit is driver fatigue. There’s no way that that driver should’ve driven 12 hours just to start a 14-hour shift for Walmart. If he hadn’t, I think comedian Jimmy Mack who was killed in that accident would probably still be with us today. But again, the perverse incentives are there to push harder, push harder. When you have sleepy drivers on the road, and improperly maintained trucks, and the drive for greater and great profits, what else do you expect?

Papantonio:

Stewart, I’m glad you’re out there. This, for some reason, is one of the most unreported stories that we see coming out of corporate media.

Guss:

Absolutely.

Papantonio:

I think there’s a reason for that because they do count on advertising. They don’t want to go after the companies that are buying ads on their network. But it is hugely underreported, so stay out there. Good luck with this as you continue trying to make sense of the regulatory aspects of these trucking cases.


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Source : https://trofire.com/2017/04/24/papantonio-death-highway-increases-trucking-disasters-americas-lawyer2/

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