In light of the recent catastrophic tractor-trailer accident in Kentucky, our attorneys wanted to shed light on trucking safety generally. The Chicago Tribune recently published an article on how America’s major trucking companies are dealing with the pressures of the recession, and the corresponding decline in shipping. According to the report, the industry’s response to the recession is to refit older trucks that would otherwise be retired and replaced. This is being done throughout the industry to avoid the cost of purchasing new trucks on the customary replacement schedule.
While the Tribune piece provided the relevant information about this trend from a purely business standpoint, what was lacking was any analysis of the effect on public safety. The Chicago trucking accident attorneys of Passen & Powell, however, are extremely concerned that this short-sighted thinking will lead to a slew of avoidable accidents and injuries.
To counter the effects of the economic recession, trucking companies are “refitting” trucks that previously would have been replaced. Instead of retiring a vehicle at around 400,000 miles, the trucking industry is now hoping to make these trucks last up to 1 million miles. The implications for safety are obvious.
Although these older trucks are undergoing repairs and so-called “refitting,” at a cost of about $19,000, before returning to duty on America’s highways, much of the work is cosmetic or done to enhance the comforts of the driver, with no actual improvement to the safety of the truck. For example, Navistar’s truck refitting includes new curtains for the sleeping cab behind the driver’s seat.
The Illinois truck accident lawyers of Passen & Powell commend the effort to improve the quality of life for America’s hardworking truckdrivers. This is particularly true when the alterations to the trucks improve the chances that a driver will be well-rested during his driving hours. According to the Federal Highway Administration, fatigue is the number one safety issue facing the trucking industry. A recent study also revealed that driving while fatigued or drowsy increases crash risk by four to six times. For these reasons, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will now require recorders in the trucks of those companies found deficient during on-site reviews, to ensure that drivers are not spending too much time behind the wheel.
The fact remains that these alterations, while commendable for other reasons, do nothing to enhance or restore the safety of these older trucks. Our experienced truck accident lawyers know all too well the unspeakable damage that can be done when an unsafe vehicle is kept on the roads. Far too many trucking accidents already occur due to the failure to perform repairs on aging truck components, or the negligent performance of those repairs when they are done. For example, the recent fatal trucking accident in Kentucky involved a company with a safety rating that should have removed it from America’s highways entirely, and a truck that had been cited for safety problems six times since 2008 and indeed broke down and needed repairs immediately prior to the crash. In light of this and other recent crashes, the decision to rely even more heavily on repair for vehicles that would ordinarily be withdrawn from service is troubling, to say the least.
This strategy is also shortsighted. While extending the life of these vehicles may save money in the short-term, the damage that will be done could far outstrip those savings. When drivers and others a re injured, disabled, or even killed by these older vehicles, the trucking companies must be called to account for this decision. Should that occur, the top Chicago personal injury lawyers of Passen & Powell have the necessary experience to obtain justice for the victims of the trucking industry’s cost-cutting. However, we at Passen & Powell sincerely hope that the trucking industry will return to a regular replacement routine before the damage is done – both to the companies’ long term financial interests and to the drivers and innocent motorists whose lives may be destroyed or lost.
For a free consultation with a top-rated Chicago truck accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.