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Mistakes made by truck drivers are the cause of a certain percentage of trucking accidents. These accidents, more the exception than the rule, are most often caused by truck drivers who are in one sense or another, impaired, whether by alcohol, prescription drugs, or the most frequent cause, driver fatigue.

Although truckers are under strict regulations to control their rest periods, they are sometimes influenced by economic factors to ignore the law, and drive well beyond their legal limits.

One problem stems from the fact that many truckers are paid by the mile rather than having a steady salary. This pressures them to rush, which can result in them ignoring safety in order to make a delivery.

All of these facors can result in an impaired driver, and unfortunately I have seen what happens when a tired driver stays behind the wheel of his big rig.

A 2006 crash on an Indiana highway killed five students from Taylor University. One of those who died was Laurel Erb, a 20-year-old St. Charles native who attended the school in Upland, Ind.

Laura rode in a van with others that night when a semi-trailer crossed over the center line, causing a head-on collision described by some emergency personnel as one of the worst crashes they had ever seen. It was soon learned that the semi driver, Robert Spencer, had fallen asleep at the wheel – in part because he had failed to take required rest breaks while on the road.

Spencer eventually received a four year prison sentence after pleading guilty to several counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness.

(The truck driver and his employer were insured by a policy that had liability limits of two million dollars. The van that was transporting Laurel and her fellow students was owned by Taylor University, and insured by Indiana Insurance Company.

I, along with Peter Flowers filed suit against Indiana Insurance to compel them to pay damages pursuant to the Underinsured Motorist Provision of its policy. The court agreed that Indiana's insurance did apply, and a global settlement of over 9 million dollars was reached on behalf of all five victims.)

Another case that comes to mind is that of an accident involving an 80-year old woman, a passenger in her adult daughter's car, who was seriously injured when a trucker abrubtly turned into their path. Full details of that case can be found on my firm profile

(Peter Flowers and I secured a 1.32 million the day before jury selection)

If you are in an accident where you suspect that the driver fell asleep or failed to react properly, you should determine whether there was a violation of the hours of service rules. Because of the intracacies of the trucking industry, getting the proper information may require some industry knowledge. For instance, it is critical to make sure data contained on a truck's tech equipment is preserved, otherwise it could be erased as part of the normal routine of the trucking company. In any case, you may want to get advice or representation from an attorney.


  1. Gravatar for Dennis Laffan

    Very often articles of this nature point out the results of fatigue when drivers drive illegally. The truth of the matter it's that even following the letter of the law results in tired drivers. 14 hour days, up to 11 hours behind the wheel, no exercise, bad diet, companies providing the cheapest seats, mattresses, and cab environment they can get away with. All this for up to seven days straight before they are mandated to take an extended break.......often in there trucks at a truck stop. All this is LEGAL! Time to do away with milage pay and put drivers under the law governing the 40 hour work week. The technology is there. Of course those who profit the most from up to 30 hours a week of non overtime labor will throw a fit.

    20+ years as a driver

  2. Gravatar for Michelle

    What are some accident statistics?

    Estimates of 41,000 to 45,000 traffic deaths occur every year within the U.S.. Fewer than 9% of those deaths involve commercial vehicles. More than 80% of those accidents are the fault of the non-commercial driver. Of those death related accidents only 4% of trucks are fatigue related. Drinking related accounted for .06% of those accidents.

    If 80% of fatal accidents involving commercial vehicles are caused by the Non-commercial driver, then the opening sentence of your article is downright false. Further, if only 4% of those accidents are related to driver fatigue and only .06% are related to intoxication, then no, most accidents are not cause by commercial driver fatigue or impairement as your article claims.

    Road saftey would be better served by training automobile driver how to drive safely around large trucks, rather than trying to unfairly blame truck drivers in an attempt to use them as ATM machines.

    (statistics from

  3. Gravatar for Wayne A Archie

    You should learn your facts,and all your facts before coming on here and bashing truckdrivers. We have one of the most dangerous jobs out there,,gone days on end,and have to learn,,follow ,and obey more laws than the average person,plus no matter what we do we are always " Late ". Plus have to deal with people that try to drive around us or get mad because we are even there.

  4. Gravatar for Old Driver

    Every time i drove through Chicago, I would see an accident it was always the 4 wheeler's in the median/wall. I did see one accident with an 18 wheeler with a 4 wheeler and the police officer said it was the 4 wheelers fault.

    So we are professional drivers, So i would look in to your statistics again before you go accussing the pro. Driver.

  5. Gravatar for Tom

    Michelle has the correct statistics. But hey, what do I know? I'm just one of those filthy, nutcase truck drivers you're going on about. I could make some generalizations about lawyers who stretch or maim the truth and call it "justice," but I choose not to lower myself to that level. See where this is going?

    Fact is, truck drivers are safer now than ever before, and continually getting safer. That's not saying that crashes involving trucks aren't bad. When an 80,000 pound vehicle hits a 2,500 pound car, it's devastating (obviously). To this end, most big trucking companies have raised ther standards ABOVE those of FMCSA/DOT, and continually train drivers. Most of the trucks on the road are more than compliant, and their drivers are more higher trained than ever.

    In my four years with the industry, I have already had 10 times more training that the average Prius driver.

    I'm not going to post the statistics...Michelle already did that above. But, I will issue this challenge. You can take a ride with me for a week. You can see for yourself what happens out there on those roads and highways in my 62mph-max truck from the cab's-eye view. You can see the several times a day I'm cut off by 4-wheelers. Or somebody in the car next to me with a cellphone in one hand and a cup of something in the other, steering with their knee. My personal favorite it the guy who looks like a lawyer, going through piles of paperwork in rush-hour traffic.

    I follow the law. I keep my logs up to date and legal. I don't drink or do drugs. No, accidents, none. I'm so clean, I squeak.

    That challenge? Pack an overnight bag for a week and ride with me. Don't forget your'll want to keep in contact with your family when we're parked for the night. I'm a nice enough guy to buy you a few meals. As an added bonus, I'm knowledgeable enough about the law to keep you occupied with intelligent conversation.

    I know a few state troopers around the country that I can even enlist their help with setting up some demonstrations to help you understand things a little better.

    Not interested? Want to make the world a safer place by taking truckers off the road? There is a simpler, more humane way of doing that. Just stop buying stuff! Most everything you own was on somebody's truck at some time.

    I'm not out here because I want to be. It's out of pure necessity. I would rather be home with my family. Don't get me wrong, I love traveling this country, meeting new people, trying different foods, etc. But the time gone from the kids and wife, as well as the ever-increasing liability (thank you), it's getting to be too much for us.

    But I'm serious. Give it some thought, and get back to me. It will be an eve-opening experience, and possibly quite enjoyable.

    Hope to hear from you.

  6. Gravatar for Craig Brown

    First, I want to thank everyone who wrote a message about this article. I took your comments seriously, and I adjusted some of the language in the piece to more accurately deliver my message.

    Second, although many of you had comments, none of you mentioned the case described in my article. Five young women died when their vehicle was struck by a truck whose driver was asleep at the wheel. That's the real subject that needs to be remembered.

    Again, thanks for your comments

  7. Gravatar for Pro Driver


    I think I can speak for every driver out there that needless and careless loss of life is tragic, and our condolences go out to ANY family thats suffered from a loss of a loved one. BUT that accident and needless loss is not directly related to us as an Industry, possibly to a few bad apples, but as a whole were family men and women, Providers for our children, wives and Loved ones, We dont condone reckless and unsafe behaviors and would more then likely report the same.

    There have been some terrible accidents and unfortunately the media and other groups have chosen to make the everyday hardworking truck driver the scapegoat, and thats unfair to our business, our Industry, and OUR familys.

    Again my heartfelt condolences to those familys and people injured...

  8. Gravatar for Philip Lewis

    Mr. Brown,

    Let me preface my comment by sending my deepest condolences to the families of those sudents killed in the crash you mentioned. There is absolutely no excuse for any driver operating beyond their limit(s) on a public highway.

    That said you have successfully turned everyone's attention to a misguided fact in which Michelle has shown is incorrect, that trucks cause a majority of highway accidents. Most people are in agreement with you as they are ignorant of the facts.

    There is no doubt that there are flaws in the commercial transportation industry which compel a driver to drive beyond his/her limit to make more money or deliver a shipment on time just as there are flaws in many industries, some jeopardizing lives in the process.

    My question to you is this, can you, your staff, or any one you associate with come up with constructive ideas that will improve the commercial transportation industry short of creating yet more restrictive legislation which only ultimately results in the average consumer not being able to afford the goods provided by said industry rather than merely demigrading the very people that bring these products to you?

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