Rule Proposed Requiring Electronic Stability Systems on Large Vehicles

By Amber Stanford

May 17, 2012 – This week, a new federal motor vehicle standard has been proposed by US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time ever. It would require all large vehicles to equip an electronic stability control (ESC) system. Research shows this technology could prevent up to 56 percent of the rollover crashes each year, which are the deadliest, and another 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes.

“The Department of Transportation and NHTSA have long recognized the potential impact of stability control technology in reducing deaths and serious injuries that result from rollover crashes,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The proposal is a major step forward to improving the safety of large commercial trucks, motorcoaches, and other large buses.”

Currently, the ESC Systems are available on typical passenger vehicles and have proven to be very successful in preventing rollovers. This success is a large part of why it is already a requirement on cars and light-duty trucks beginning with model year 2012. NHTSA estimates that a standard requiring ESC on the nation’s large trucks and large buses would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries, and prevent between 49 and 60 fatalities a year.

Are Oil Field Exemptions to Blame for Trucking Fatalities?

By Amber Stanford

May 15, 2012  – As the oil and gas industry gains momentum, there are an increasing number of industrial trucks on the highways. Truck drivers suffering from sleep deprivation is a well-known danger on the road. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.

“Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness all may contribute to these hazardous outcomes.1

“Sleepiness causes auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel. Critical aspects of driving impairment associated with sleepiness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing.2”

In recent times, there have been more than 300 oil and gas workers killed in highway related accidents, in large part due to the oil field industry exemptions from highway safety rules. These exemptions allowed truck drivers to work extended hours, but it is being abused by some employers now pressuring their employees to drive after shifts that frequently extend beyond 20 hours.

One oil service driver, Garr Farrell, complained that his managers had used the oil field exemptions to force him to wait, without anywhere to sleep, for 36 hours at one well site before he could unload his drilling supplies and get back on the highway. “Just because you are on an oil field site does not make you any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue!3”

The most unfortunate part is that these accidents are only expected to increase over the upcoming years as more than 200,000 new oil and gas wells are expected to be drilled nationwide. This will include between 500 and 1500 truck trips per well, far more than what is currently required due to new drilling techniques. Although the wells will create many new jobs and economic benefits, it is coming at a deadly cost.

1. Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic?, CDC
2. Article no longer online: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/drowsy_driving1/Drowsy.html#NCSDR/NHTSA
3. Deadliest Danger Isn’t on the Rig, but on the Road, Trial Lawyer Magazine & A Texas Motor Carrier’s Guide to Highway Safety, TXDPS, from The National Trial Lawyers Online

Who Should Be Responsible for Texting While Driving: The Sender or the Receiver?

By Amber Stanford

May 10, 2012 – In the case of a tragic or severely disabling vehicular crash, should the person sending the text be as responsible for the wreck as the person reading it?

In 2009, Kyle Best was involved in a tragic car accident that resulted in David and Linda Kubert both losing their left legs. Kyle, who was only 19 at the time, was responding to a text message while driving his pick up truck and veered into oncoming traffic. He struck the Kuberts motorcycle and their lives changed forever. David and Linda filed a lawsuit against Kyle for his role in the accident. Since then, the case has taken a bizarre twist to also include Shannon Colonna; she was the other party involved in the texts messages Kyle was engaged in at the time of the accident.

This could be a precedent setting case as both sides argue whether or not Shannon could be held liable as a party to the accident since she was not physically present. Once it has been established whether or not Shannon was aware that the recipient of her text messages was actively driving, the judge must determine whether or not she is responsible for being electronically present and the extent of her duty of care. This has the same basis as a physical passenger in the vehicle having a duty of care to not encourage the driver to speed. Shannons lawyer is arguing that she could not possibly be held liable for Kyles conduct behind the wheel since she was not in the car, and she had no control over when Kyle made the decision to read any text messages she sent. According to depositions, Shannon may or may not have known Kyle was driving at the time she sent the messages, but she was also on the record as stating, that this is what teenagers do.

Text messaging while driving is currently illegal in 38 states. This is likely because of the increasing number of similar incidents involving cell phone use behind the wheel of moving vehicles. Kyle plead guilty to three motor vehicle violations as a direct result of this accident: using a hand-held cellphone while driving, careless driving and failure to maintain a lane. The judge is expected to make his ruling regarding Shannon Colonnas involvement and the duty of care precedent on May 25.

Howard Nations Putting the Brakes on Unsafe Trucking Companies

By Cindy L. Nations

February 20, 2012 – Howard L. Nations was just selected to be the first Regional Director of Litigation for the states of Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. This is a brand new project being launched by the Association (APITLA). Each region will have a director of litigation hand-chosen for their expertise and experience in trucking litigation. The regional directors will be part of an Emergency Response Team comprised of the most highly-respected trucking lawyers in this country.

The purpose of the program is to give lawyers nationwide the immediate guidance, advice, and support they need to effectively prosecute any trucking case. Whether it’s their first case or their hundredth, there’s always more to be learned by these masters of trucking litigation. In turn, this will unite trucking lawyers nationwide in their fight for the rights of those who fall victim to negligent trucking companies.