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Chicago Trucking Accidents and High Risk of Dangerous Carriers

April 15, 2014

When dangerous 18-wheelers or truckers with poor safety records are permitted to remain in operation, it increases the risks faced by every motorist on the road.

It’s a critical safety issue because an experienced Chicago tractor-trailer accident attorney knows most of those injured in collisions with commercial trucks are operators or passengers of other vehicles or are non-occupants, such as a bicyclist or pedestrian. In fact, the trucker generally has the best chance of escaping a collision without serious injury. According to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 317,000 large trucks were involved in traffic collisions in the United States in 2012. A total of 3,921 motorists were killed in those collisions – up significantly compared to the 3,781 killed in 2011. Of those, 2713 were occupants of other vehicles and more than 400 were bicyclists or pedestrians.

A closer look at Illinois trucking accidents

Illinois trucking accidents claimed 115 lives in 2012.

It’s especially concerning when we hear about dangerous trucking companies that are allowed to remain in operation despite known risks to the public. In the wake of a fatal January collision involving a Naperville trucking company, the Chicago Tribune reports federal regulators did little to stop the carrier despite a history of safety violations. In fact, records indicate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) closed a 2011 enforcement action without forcing the carrier to resolve numerous safety deficiencies, according to information the Tribune obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The FMCSA is a federal bureaucracy that employs more than 1,000 people. It was established by Congress Jan. 1, 2000 with the primary purpose of improving commercial carrier safety. However, the Government Accountability Office recently took the agency to task in a report that contends FMCSA own data-collection efforts are insufficient when it comes to identifying dangerous carriers. The number of serious and fatal trucking accidents is still on the rise nationwide 15 years after the agency’s formation

Fatal truck accident raises concerns over FMCSA procedures

The Tribune report comes after a fiery wreck in January that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured a state trooper. Investigators say the driver falsified his log books in the four days leading up to the crash and that he and other drivers for the company routinely ignored the rules of the road. The FMCSA ranked the company in the bottom 12 percent of carriers in its class for the safety categories of unsafe driving and hours-of-service compliance.

Hours-of-Service rules place a number of restrictions on commercial drivers in an effort to protect the public, including an 11-hour daily driving limit. However, the FMCSA is a decade behind schedule in mandating onboard digital recorders to replace hand-written log books, which are too often forged. For the second time in as many years, the agency recently announced its intentions to move forward with requiring the data recorders after a public comment period. The devices have long been mandated for commercial trucks in much of the industrialized world.

Just months before the accident that killed the toll worker and injured the Illinois trooper, the FMCSA ordered an investigation into the trucking company’s poor safety record. However, the Tribune reports that investigation was never actually conducted.

A Chicago accident attorney can help after a trucking collision. Call Coplan & Crane at 800-394-6002 to schedule your free consultation