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Fatigued Truckers and Unsafe Trucking in Southwest Florida

While driving on an overpass on S.R. 46 in Brevard County recently, a trucker fell asleep. That’s what police suspect was the cause of a crash that occurred around 2:30 a.m. in a highway construction zone.
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Incredibly, no one was injured, but several barriers were destroyed, some 75 gallons of diesel fuel littered the roadway and traffic was blocked for about four hours. The driver admitted to investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol that he’d fallen asleep.

Truck driver fatigue in Florida is often the result of poor policy – sometimes even illegal policy – by the trucking company, urging drivers to skirt hours of service laws that limit drive time to ensure truckers get enough sleep so they can safely operate these large vehicles.

Unfortunately, cases such as the one out of Brevard aren’t isolated. The Florida Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported it has taken a Florida general freight hauler immediately out-of-service after declaring it an imminent safety hazard.

Our Cape Coral trucking accident lawyers note the company and its owner operate a fleet of 33 truck-tractors and oversee 29 drivers. Despite being a smaller carrier, the company has noted five recordable crashes in the last year.

Federal regulators launched the safety investigation in August, and noted two recordable crashes were due to maintenance deficiencies. In other words, if the company had been properly taking care of its fleet, the accidents could have been avoided. In one of those maintenance deficiency crashes, the company owner was behind the wheel.

One of the crashes reportedly occurred because the driveshaft fell off the vehicle, causing the rig to collide with a passenger car.

Over the course of the last 12 months, the company has been the subject of 42 vehicle inspections. The result? Nearly 115 vehicle maintenance violations.

This lead the FMCSA to find the company has an ineffective maintenance program in place, as it fails to systematically inspect, maintain and repair its trucks, which substantially increases the likelihood of injuries and death. When the regulator pressed the company for a comprehensive maintenance program that would prevent this, the firm was unable to provide one. Drivers there aren’t even required to conduct vehicle inspection reports before heading out for duty.

In addition to the crashes, the company’s drivers have received 15 speeding tickets and 10 other citations for other offenses.

The FMCSA’s investigation further found the company did not properly oversee or maintain driver qualification files, and had overlooked drivers with serious medical issues and troubling driving violation records. The company owner reportedly failed to maintain even his own file. There were also drivers who tested positive for drugs or who had suspended commercial drivers licenses or expired medical certifications who were allowed to continue driving for the firm. Four drivers who tested positive for drugs – two during random testing and two during pre-employment screening – were allowed to hit the road without undergoing any of the required return-to-duty procedures necessary in those cases. Numerous drivers had their CDL suspended for speeding, and yet continued to drive for this firm.

And lastly, the company failed to properly monitor employees to make sure they were complying with hours-of-service limits established to prevent drowsy driving.

This firm was not connected to the crash in Brevard, which further goes to show these kinds of problems are not as isolated as we might wish. Companies that allow unsafe trucks and unsafe drivers on the road need to be held accountable.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:
FHP: Sleeping truck driver crashes in Mims, Sept. 26, 2014, By Scott Gunnerson, Florida Today
FMCSA: Florida company involved in five crashes ordered out of service, Sept. 18, 2014, By Greg Grisolano, Land Line
More Blog Entries:
Stratton v. Wallace – Vehicle Lessor Not Shielded Under Graves Amendment, Aug. 30, 2014, Cape Coral Truck Accident Lawyer