Last week, an annual campaign dubbed Road Check 2009 was held at more than 1,000 locations across North America. Sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), the inspections took place from Tuesday, June 2 through Thursday, June 4. Over these three days, state law enforcement agencies conducted intensive inspections of safety equipment and practices aboard 18-wheel vehicles. The inspections included seatbelt use, vehicle condition, truck drivers' logbooks (to verify that drivers were getting enough sleep), licenses and insurance documents. Signs of possible drug and/or alcohol use also were investigated. "Our ultimate goal is the safety of everybody on the roadways," said Texas DPS Trooper Gabriel Medrano in a statement. "With these trucks being as large as they are and with I-40 being as packed as it is with trucks, [we want] to ensure that everybody on the roadway [is] safe and taken care of."
In my time as a St. Louis commercial truck accident lawyer, I have seen more than my share of these unnecessary and tragic accidents, so I applaud this campaign wholeheartedly. The amount of potential damage caused by these large vehicles is much higher than that of cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and other conventional vehicles. Let's face it: in a head-on collision with a big rig, a compact car doesn't have a fighting chance. For this reason, commercial truck drivers are held to driving laws significantly more stringent than those of the average motorist.
But as accident statistics show, truck drivers don't always comply with these rules. Commercial drivers are typically paid by the mile and penalized financially for failing to meet deadlines, so they have an incentive to drive longer, even after fatigue has set in. To combat this, some drivers use stimulants to keep themselves alert on the road, but the effects of these drugs can be hard to predict, and often make the driver and other motorists less safe, not more.
As not only a Missouri commercial truck crash attorney but a concerned citizen, I sincerely hope that there will be more checks like these in the coming year. Still, one might argue that these test should be taken a step further. For example, Road Check is announced a year in advance, giving truckers plenty of advance warning so they could be sure to be on their best behavior. To quote a January 1 post on a popular trucking industry blog, "Make your vacation plans in advance this year...No I am joking, it really is not that bad, just make sure you are legal these days."
The comment was made in fun, but it does point to the fact that many drivers who habitually break the law could refrain from doing so on those days, only to return to old habits when the checks were over. I can see why the CVSA might want to conduct the inspections only once a year as a concerted effort, but I would speculate that random vehicle checks would give drivers more incentive to stay clean and sober, and to work realistic shifts that end well before they are too tired to maintain control of their faculties. In addition to making the roads safer, it could help to ensure that law enforcement resources, and your tax dollars, are being used efficiently.
In spite of the advance warning, the CVSA said last year's road checks cited more than 1,400 violations from nearly 200 drivers. That's over just a few days. This goes to show that big rig accidents are still far more common than they should be -- especially when you consider that the law not only holds drivers accountable for commercial truck traffic violations, but often the companies they work for as well.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in a Missouri or southern Illinois trucking accident, don't wait to contact The Lowe Law Firm. With offices in St. Louis and Belleville, Ill., our St. Louis big rig accident lawyers represents people throughout Missouri and southern Illinois who have been seriously hurt in accidents involving large trucks. To learn more about how we can help you in a free, confidential consultation, please contact us online, or call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.