Louisiana residents may recall January 2014 media accounts about a fiery accident near Chicago involving an out-of-control semi-tractor trailer and emergency vehicles that had stopped to render assistance to a disabled vehicle. The accident claimed the life of a 39-year-old Illinois Tollway worker and left a state trooper seriously injured, and it was later revealed that the trucking company involved had a long history of safety violations.
An investigation into the truck accident conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board discovered that the driver of the 18-wheeler had fallen asleep behind the wheel and had slept for less than five hours during the previous day and a half. The NTSB investigation also revealed that the driver had routinely doctored his logbook entries to conceal violations of regulations that limit the number of hours truck drivers can be on duty before they are required to rest.
The NTSB was also critical of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The federal safety agency had labelled the company that owned the truck as high-risk due to a lengthy list of violations, but it was not designated as an imminent hazard and ordered to cease operations until two months after the fatal crash. This designation was subsequently overturned on appeal, and the logistics company was eventually forced to close only after being dropped by their insurance provider.
This case demonstrates that safety regulations designed to protect all road users may be of little value when they are not strictly enforced, and it could be the fear of being sued or left without insurance coverage that keeps trucking companies in line. Those hurt in accidents involving semi-tractor trailers often suffer catastrophic injuries, and personal injury attorneys may initiate litigation on their behalf against the truck drivers or the trucking companies responsible.
Source: NBC Chicago, Tollway Worker Killed, Trooper Injured In Crash, Anthony Ponce, Jan. 27, 2014