Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Truck on Boston highwayLarge trucks are a stress for many Massachusetts drivers, especially on busy routes like the Mass Pike. The most challenging situations are when a truck comes up behind you or when one tries to pass you.

There were nearly 415,000 truck crashes in the U.S. in 2015, injuring more than 116,000 people and killing more than 4,060, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

As phones, cars, drones and apps all make our world smarter and faster, the trucking industry must get smarter too. Let’s be clear: We are not advocating for self-driving trucks, but tools that increase video monitoring, expand the driver’s visibility and provide error warnings are all going to help improve safety.

A truck and a motorcycle after a fatal accident in West Bridgewater, MassachusettsAttorney Marc Breakstone recently settled a wrongful death case for the family of a motorcyclist for $3.5 million. The case was settled in March 2016.

The motorcyclist was tragically killed by a waste disposal truck in West Bridgewater in 2013. The truck, which was being operated by a subcontractor, pulled out across the road in the path of the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist applied the brakes and laid down his motorcycle, attempting to avoid the collision and struck the defendant’s truck at less than 5 mph.

The motorcyclist continued to roll under the truck. The truck driver did not see him and ran the rear tires over his body, killing him.

sideguards-graphic2.jpgThe Boston City Council has passed the Truck Side Guard Ordinance, the first of its kind in the nation. The ordinance will require side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals on all city-contracted vehicles over 10,000 pounds (or for tractor-trailer trucks with a combined weight over 26,000 pounds).

This ordinance passed quickly and unanimously last week. Mayor Martin J. Walsh, At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and the Boston Cyclists Union, a non-profit advocacy group, filed the proposed ordinance on September 9th; it was approved by the council on Oct. 29th. It takes effect 180 days after passage and applies to all future contracts.

Side guards are meant to reduce injuries to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians by closing off the space under a truck. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a side guard protocol last April, reporting that large truck side impacts comprised of 15 percent of fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles in 2011. In the United Kingdom, mandated side guards on large trucks reduced cyclist deaths by 61 percent and serious injuries to cyclists by 13 percent, according to a Transport for London study.

Boston’s goal is to protect cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers, but cyclists have faced especially hard road conditions in recent years. Since 2010, 11 cyclists have been killed in Boston, seven in bike accidents which involved a truck or bus, according to city figures. Injuries to cyclists from other causes have also increased, even though the city has developed Boston’s cycling infrastructure dramatically in recent years. The City continues to expand bike lanes and to work on cycle track projects which will put a physical barrier between cyclists and traffic.

Others may soon follow Boston in passing a truck side guard ordinance. Lawmakers in New York have proposed legislation that would mandate side under-ride guards on trucks, tractors, tractor trailers and semi-trailers. In Massachusetts, Somerville, Cambridge and Newton are also considering ordinances. Elsewhere, Portland and Washington D.C. also have proposed legislations or restrictions.

A few additional points:

Pilot Program. Boston began looking at truck side guards in 2013, when the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the city’s Public Works Department undertook a municipal pilot study of truck side guards.

Inspection. Vehicles associated with an awarded city contract will be inspected for side guards by the Inspectional Services Department and issued a permit, certifying the vehicle for 2-years.

Enforcement. Businesses will face a fine for vehicles which are not in compliance. The fines start at $100 for the first offense and rise with repeated violations to potential contract termination. The Boston Police Department will assist with enforcement.

Other City Offices. The Boston Transportation Department and Boston Bikes will assist with education, content expertise on best practice and as the point of contact for constituent reporting.

Exemptions. There are some exemptions, such as for trucks which are used exclusively for snow plowing or emergency vehicles.

Read more about Boston’s new truck ordinance.
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Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing a new safety ordinance for city-contracted trucks in Boston, a measure being widely watched after several cyclists have died in truck crashes. It is believed to be the first such ordinance in the nation.

Walsh, who took office in January, submitted an Ordinance to Protect Vulnerable Road Users to the Boston City Council earlier this week. The City Council was expected to take it up today in session.

If passed, the ordinance will require side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals on all vehicles over 10,000 pounds which are contracted with the city. The goal is to prevent truck accidents by giving drivers a better view around them. When trucks do not comply, fines start at $100 for the first offense and contracts can ultimately be terminated.

The Boston Cyclists Union called for these measures after a cyclist was killed in a Charlestown truck accident in April. It has released a fact sheet, “Safeguards Saves Lives.” According to the fact sheet, 4 percent of vehicles in the U.S. are trucks though they cause 11 percent of all bicyclist fatalities and 7 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Since 2010, 11 cyclists in Boston have died as a result of motor vehicle crashes, according to figures cited by Boston Magazine. Seven cases involved trucks. Here is another concerning figure: From 2009 to 2012, there were 1,700 confirmed cyclist incidents documented by Boston EMS emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

The City of Boston has been working on truck safety. Last year, the city began a pilot program, the largest in the nation. The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the city’s Public Works Department tested three different types of guards on 16 active vehicles driving the streets.

In April, the National Traffic Safety Board made similar recommendations to prevent tractor-trailer accidents.
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dangerousload-200.jpgA Framingham motorist tragically lost her life yesterday when she slowed to avoid an unsecured mattress which flew off a truck on Rte. 128 in Burlington, Mass. Authorities believe the mattress broke free from a dump truck with a white cab occupied by two men. As the car slowed to avoid the mattress on the highway, a second car hit it causing fatal injuries.

The truck operator did not stop at the scene or identify himself afterward. The victim had slowed her car, a Toyota Corolla sedan, and tried to avoid hitting the mattress. She was struck from behind by a Toyota Tundra pick-up truck. The Toyota Tundra pick-up truck driver suffered minor injuries. Police are looking for the driver of the dump truck, which left the scene.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are approximately 25,000 crashes a year in North America related to unsecured loads, resulting in approximately 80-90 deaths. Here in Massachusetts, a 27-year-old Lynn man was killed in a similar accident in September 2011, when a 400-pound tire being hauled by a truck broke loose on Interstate 93 in Somerville.

Drivers have a responsibility to secure loads and operate safely, whether they are commercial or non-commercial drivers. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutes pertaining to unsecured loads and fines, which range from $10 to $5,000, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In 15 states, violations carry the possibility of imprisonment. Drivers may also face civil lawsuits to compensate the injured and their family.

This may be the third serious truck-related accident in Massachusetts this week. On Sunday, a pedestrian in Uxbridge was struck and killed by an unknown driver. The driver of a tractor-trailer truck, who is employed by Gorham Transport, later contacted police and said he was in the area. Police are investigating.

On Monday morning, a tractor-trailer carrying 11,000 gallons of gasoline overturned in Fall River, engulfing in fire and requiring some to be evacuated. The driver was treated for non-life threatening injuries and the crash is still being investigated.
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truck-commercial-200A tractor-trailer overturned and caught fire this morning in Fall River, causing major traffic delays on Route 24 as well as evacuations.

The tractor-trailer, which was transporting 11,000 gallons of gasoline, overturned near Exit 5 northbound. Police report the driver was sent to Rhode Island Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The truck was owned by J.P. Noonan of West Bridgewater. No other vehicles were reportedly involved. At this time, the cause of the truck accident is under investigation.

beverly-200.jpgThe trial lawyers of Breakstone, White & Gluck have extensive experience representing individuals who have been seriously injured in tractor-trailer accidents. Recently, we have obtained $3 million for a woman who was hit head on by an inattentive operator of an 18 wheeler. Below, an online review from another recent client who was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer and seriously injured:

tractortrailer_web.jpgUnsecured truck loads are a growing problem endangering drivers across the country. Massachusetts has seen two of these fatal car accidents in the past two months.

In 2004, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported 25,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused each year by unsecured materials on highways.

The problem is most prevalent in California, which had 32 million registered vehicles in 2007 – more than twice the number of any other state, according to the New York Times. The California state transportation department reported that over a two-year period between 2005 and 2007, 155 people were killed as the result of debris from unsecured truck loads.

In some of these fatal trucking accidents, authorities file criminal charges against drivers and other employees. When these motor vehicle accidents result from negligence, drivers and companies may also face wrongful death lawsuits in civil court.

Some states have strengthened the penalty for accidents involving tractor-trailers carrying unsecured loads such as construction equipment, building supplies, wood and furniture. Several years ago, Washington state passed Maria’s Law, named for Maria Federici, a young woman in her 20s who was blinded and disfigured when a piece of furniture flew off a trailer and smashed her windshield.

Maria’s Law made hauling an unsecured load causing injury a gross misdemeanor, carrying maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

In Massachusetts, a 27-year-old Lynn man died Sept. 19 when a 400-pound tire being hauled by a truck broke loose on Interstate 93 in Somerville. The truck was owned by Ryder Truck in Braintree and leased to Sullivan Tire. The tires spilled across the median and smashed the windshield of the Lynn man’s car, throwing his car toward a retaining wall.

The 2005 Freightliner M2 flatbed truck was carrying tires containing a tire fill. This material made them heavier than standard tires filled with air.

On Aug. 12, a backhoe fell off a National Grid truck traveling on Interstate 495 in Southborough. The backhoe struck a van, killing an elderly passenger and causing serious personal injuries to others in the vehicle.

Click here to read a 2007 New York Times article about unsecured truck loads.
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A deadly motor vehicle crash involving a National Grid truck hauling a backhoe on I-495 has put the focus on the safety measures commercial trucks must take to protect other drivers.

The National Grid dump truck was being taken on a test drive Friday, Aug. 12, 2011 when the 2007 Case backhoe/front-end loader it was hauling rolled off and landed on top of a 2000 Toyota Sienna van. The backhoe and the van were sent down a 20-foot embankment off I-495 in Southborough.

The van was carrying four people. A Westford woman in her 70s was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old, were transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester with serious personal injuries.

The driver of the National Grid truck did not sustain injuries. The Registry of Motor Vehicles has suspended his license indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation of the National Grid backhoe accident. Prior to the truck accident, he had no recent driving violations, but minor infractions in the 1980s, including citations for speeding, failure to stop, an unregistered or improper equipment, reported the Boston Herald.

The Worcester County District Attorney’s Office and State Police are investigating the National Grid truck accident. A National Grid spokesman told the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester that the truck was being taken on a test drive because employees had identified safety considerations with the vehicle.

State Police are investigating whether the vehicle, a 2010 Freightliner truck, had been recalled by Daimler Trucks North America, according to local media reports.

State Police are also investigating whether driver error and mechanical problems were involved, as well as whether the backhoe was properly secured.
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Welcome news today as the Massachusetts Legislature has finally agreed on a new law that will make it illegal to text while driving. Once the bill is signed by the Governor, Massachusetts will be in line with twenty-eight other states that have already outlawed text messaging while driving.

This law comes in the wake of several tragic text message-based accidents. In May 2009, 62 people suffered personal injury after a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trolley collided with another trolley because the driver was texting his girlfriend. In September 2008, a California commuter train engineer missed a stop signal while trading texts with a friend, leading to a train accident resulting in the wrongful death of 25 people. In addition, there have been several high profile motor vehicle wrongful death cases in recent memory which were caused by inattentive drivers who were texting as they drove.

The law has several other public safety improvements. The new law will require that older drivers renew their licenses in person and take an eye exam every five years beginning at age 75. Older drivers were involved in several serious car accidents in 2009 in Massachusetts. Further, the law will forbid anyone under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while driving.

Boston personal injury attorney David White said of the new law, “Distracted driving is a serious safety problem. The use of cell phones and text messaging are two of the biggest distractions for drivers. These new provisions will vastly increase the safety of Massachusetts roadways.”

A recent study found that texting while driving makes a person twenty times more likely to get into a car crash or near-crash. The problem is most severe for inexperienced drivers. It is hoped that this new law will raise awareness to this growing epidemic of serious personal injuries caused by careless texting motorists.

 For more information

Boston Globe

Virgina Tech Transportation Institute Research Project

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A lawsuit over tired truck driving may eliminate an embattled rule that concerns safety advocates about the risk of truck accidents, motor vehicle accidents and wrongful deaths on the nation’s roadways.

Since 2004, advocacy groups have been battling an hours-of-service rule passed by the Bush administration that increased the maximum number of consecutive hours a trucker could work from ten to eleven and decreased the rest and recovery time from fifty hours to thirty-four. Safety advocates claim that the changes are likely to lead to more motor vehicle accidents, serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths.

Twice, advocacy groups have successfully challenged the rule in court just to have the administration reissue the same rule.  In 2004, the court vacated the hours-of-service rule on the grounds that the government did not adequately consider the effects of longer driving hours on individual truck driver welfare and public safety.  In 2007, the court vacated the rule again because the agency did not allow public notice and comment on the new crash risk analysis used as justification to reissue the same rule. 

Advocacy groups brought a third lawsuit in 2009 and will finally see an outcome. As part of a legal settlement, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have agreed to redraft the existing hours-of-service rule. In January, the agencies held several sessions around the country to gather public comment.

As they start work, safety advocates hope that the new rule will reflect the dangerous reality of tired truckers.  The deaths and personal injuries caused by drivers falling asleep in the cab can be catastrophic for truck drivers and people on the road. 

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board points to driver fatigue as a likely factor in twenty to forty percent of truck crashes.  Safety advocates, including members of Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, applaud the settlement as a step in the right direction towards safe roads.

There are typically over 1,000 Massachusetts truck accidents every year, nearly half of which involve out-of-state motor carriers. In 2006, 34 people were killed in Massachusetts trucking accidents.

For more information on the regulations, see the FMCSA website.  For an overview of what information FMSCA is considering in formulating a new rule, see this presentation. The Truck Safety Coalition has a collection of stories and press releases on the hours-of-service rule and trucker fatigue.     

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