On average, 30 million Americans will hit the roads over the coming Labor Day weekend, but a new analysis of government data demonstrates just how dangerous those roads can be. The American Association for Justice (AAJ) analyzed over a million lines of data not previously available to the public and found that Americans are sharing the roads with trucks that have incurred thousands of safety violations, including defective brakes, bad tires, loads that dangerously exceed weight limits and drivers with little or no training or drug and alcohol dependencies.
Nationwide, more than 28,000 motor carrier companies, operating over 200,000 trucks, are currently in violation of federal safety regulations. The effects of these violations can be deadly. A father of two, Patrick Nunez, of Riverview, Michigan, died in 2007 when his car was struck by a fully-loaded, 75-ton gravel truck whose driver had lost control.
The truck’s driver, who had a seizure disorder and was on the powerful epilepsy drug, Tegretol, swerved into Mr. Nunez’ car while it was traveling on I-75 in Detroit. Not only was the driver on medication known to cause drowsiness and delayed reaction time, but during his deposition, the driver admitted that he had received no formal training from his employer, Utica Transit Mix & Supply Co., and that he had failed to inspect the truck’s tires and brakes. Michigan Auto Law released a report just last year examining dangerous carriers in their state.
This is critical information for the millions of American families that will pack-up and hit the road for the Labor Day holiday, most of whom are completely unaware of the danger posed by these trucks that are rigged for disaster. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 4,000 people die each year in collisions with trucks, and another 80,000 are seriously injured. While trucks make up less than 4 percent of all passenger vehicles on the road, they are involved in 12 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.
These safety violations pose a serious threat to the American public, and require immediate attention. Regulation of the trucking industry must be stepped up to ensure that our roads are safe for commuters. Legislators should also seriously consider increasing the minimum insurance requirements for motor vehicle carriers. The current standard was set nearly three decades ago and has never been raised, leaving those injured by these dangerous rigs with little to protect them from financial ruin.
There are 18 states with operator violation rates above the national average: West Virginia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Vermont, Iowa, Montana, Delaware, Idaho, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Indiana, Mississippi, Wisconsin and South Dakota. The full report, as well as a full list of violating companies is available, searchable by state, at www.justice.org/trucksafetyviolations.