Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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old-truck-1228351-m.jpgLate last week in Campbell County, one individual was killed and three were injured after two semi-trucks collided. According to a report by a local Kentucky news station, the accident and subsequent explosion occurred on I-75 in Campbell County.

Apparently, one of the truck drivers crossed into the center median and caused a head-on collision with another semi-truck.

One of the tractors was carrying batteries, and the other was carrying an unknown “oxidizing” agent. This combination only exacerbated the already dangerous situation by causing a large explosion. The explosion then caused a deadly fire and a cloud of thick smoke.
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After the accident involving Tracy Morgan and a truck driver who failed to stop for slowing traffic, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is looking at truck driving safety and practices across the nation, including in Kentucky and Indiana.

i-haul-299523-m.jpgMorgan’s accident happened in the early morning on the New Jersey turnpike, after an exhausted Wal-Mart truck driver slammed his truck into Morgan’s limo van, resulting in one person’s death. The NTSB pointed out that similar accidents had happened in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Maryland. The agency is focused on aspects of commercial truck safety such as drug and alcohol testing of drivers, driver fatigue, medical qualifications, vehicle maintenance, and technology. This includes whether Wal-Mart’s collision-avoidance system, which the company began installing in 2010, is effective. Wal-Mart claims that its trucks are programmed to begin braking automatically when they sense traffic is slowing down, to pick up blind spots, and to limit the trucks’ top speeds to 65 miles per hour. Yet that did not help the driver in the Morgan accident, who had been awake for 24 straight hours.

Since 2009, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has increased steadily, with 3,921 deaths in 2012 alone. The American Trucking Associations, the industry’s greatest trade group, claims that the cause is simple: truckers are driving more. During the recession, there were fewer goods being shipped over the country’s interstate highways; as the economy improves, the truck traffic has grown accordingly.
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Some erratic snowfalls have caused several car accidents in and around Kentucky in the last few weeks. But while there may have been a few flurries in the air, two recent multi-car crashes on I-65 near Elizabethtown do not appear to have been caused by weather.

According to Kentucky State Police, on Saturday, March 2, 2013, a commercial truck driver was driving too close behind a passenger vehicle and the truck crashed into the back of vehicle, causing it to catch fire. Six of eight family members in the SUV tragically died in the fire. The two survivors were foster children of two of the adults killed, and they were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The accident occurred on the northbound side of I-65.

About 15 minutes after the northbound truck accident, another accident occurred in the same place in the southbound lanes. Another semi crashed into the back of one car, and hit another car that in turn hit a third car, resulting in a four-vehicle accident. The driver of the first car hit was the drummer of country singer Kellie Pickler. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment of extensive injuries. Two of the other drivers were also injured.

If the weather was not to blame, what caused these three very similar accidents? Officials do not know for sure, but they have a couple theories. Kentucky State Police think distracted driving could have played a part in the first accident. The truck driver that hit the SUV may have been on his phone or paying attention to something else in his cab, and he didn’t see the SUV in time to stop. It would be sadly ironic if the trucker was on his phone at the time of the crash, because this stretch of I-65 is where a truck hit a van and killed 11 people in 2010. That accident led to the National Transportation Safety Board’s request to make talking on a cell phone or texting against the law for long-distance commercial drivers. Investigators are also checking the driver’s log to see how long he had been driving and if he had taken the amount of break time required by law. A blood sample was taken as well.
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On Monday, January 21, 2013, a freak snowfall caused whiteout conditions on I-275, just north of the Kentucky border in Ohio. Although temperatures were below freezing, officials think the pavement was warm enough to melt the snow as it fell, then the cool air refroze it into ice. As cars began to slip and slide, other drivers coming up behind them were unable to see them in time to stop, so the cars and trucks crashed into one another. By the time it was all said and done, at least 86 cars and trucks were involved in the accident.

Unfortunately, one 12-year-old girl was killed when she exited the damaged car she had been riding in. While some might question why someone would get out of a car on a highway, she or the driver she was with were probably afraid they would get hit in their car if they stayed inside. Someone else involved in the car crash confirmed this belief, saying, “I just hopped out of the car as fast as I could and ran to the side of the road, and it wasn’t even five seconds after I exited my vehicle, my car got completely smashed by the semi.” At least 20 other people were also taken to the hospital with injuries.

Initial reports said the girl who lost her life was hit by a barrier cable that had snapped during the accident. This information had people wondering if this type of barrier system is more dangerous than concrete or metal barriers. According to a news report from WCPO, a Cincinnati news station, the sheriff’s deputies that were at the accident site said the cable barrier had not broken. Rather, it struck the girl as it was snapping back after several cars hit it. The Ohio Department of Transportation believes the cable barriers are actually safer than concrete or metal barriers because they do not cause cars and trucks that hit them to bounce back into traffic and cause more accidents.
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One cannot look online or read a newspaper without seeing an article about the tragic accident in Midland, Texas. Numerous war veterans and their spouses were riding on a parade float being pulled by a semi-truck when it was hit by a train. Four veterans lost their lives and several other people were injured. As the victims and their families try to put their lives back together, investigators are trying to determine what caused this tragic accident.

One of the things they will examine is the train itself. Was it working properly? Did the horn sound at the appropriate time, at the right volume, for the length of time required? Were the brakes and other components of the train in working order? They will question the conductors and engineers who were on board when the train crash occurred about what they witnessed and if they noticed anything that may have contributed to the crash.

Investigators will also examine the tracks and crossing gates. Initial reports are stating that the lights were flashing and the crossing gate bells were ringing before the truck attempted to cross the tracks. But witnesses say they don’t think the crossing signals and gates are activated soon enough to allow enough time for the gates to be completely down before the train crosses the intersection. News reports have discussed that the speed of the trains at this crossing has increased over the years, and maybe the gates have not been adjusted to take this change into account.

The investigators will also thoroughly investigate the truck that was pulling the float when the accident occurred. The truck was donated by a local Texas company and was driven by a fellow military veteran. The driver of the truck will be interviewed and his background will be checked to make sure he had the proper training to be driving the truck. He will most likely be asked if he heard the warning bells at the crossing or saw the flashing lights or gates. The company that owned the truck will be questioned as well.
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1119802_bus.jpgOn June 6, 2012, a tour bus carrying over 50 children and adults crashed in Hart County, Kentucky on its way to Washington DC. The driver had only traveled about seven miles with the passengers on board when the bus accident occurred. While the accident investigation has not been completed, it appears that the driver was speeding and lost control of the bus around a tight curve. The bus rolled over, causing multiple injuries that were fortunately not life-threatening.

Why would a driver speed around a tight curve, especially in a large tour bus? Some passengers said he was overconfident, refusing to slow down even when several of them warned him to reduce his speed because of the curvy road. Others said he had been drinking energy drinks that may have clouded his judgment. Another reason may have been because he had already driven eight hours from Chicago and he may have been too tired to realize how fast he was traveling.

Whatever the reason, it appears he was speeding, risking the lives of at least 50 other people. As a result, three families have joined together and filed a lawsuit. One child from each family was involved in the bus crash and their families believe someone should be held accountable. They have sued the driver of the bus, the bus company – Southwestern Illinois Bus Company – and Worldstrides International. The claim against the driver is fairly self-explanatory since he was the one that was operating the bus when it ran off the road and his negligence most likely contributed to the accident.

The bus company may be partially liable for the accident for a couple of reasons. It could be responsible if it is determined that the driver lacked enough experience to be driving the bus. Also, if any maintenance issues played a part in the accident, the company could be held accountable. The lawsuit alleges that the driver had already driven eight hours from Chicago to Kentucky and was setting out to drive an additional eight hours to Washington DC. If this is true and the company asked him to drive both routes without resting, it would be in violation of the federal law that states commercial bus drivers can only drive 11 hours at a time. Worldstrides International is the company that organized the trip. Its website ironically claims it is “the nation’s largest and most respected accredited travel organization” and that its “programs are marked by exceptional service, a superior safety record, and a personalized approach to educational travel that is unmatched in the field.” If they contracted with the bus company that employed the driver that caused the accident, they could be partially liable for the accident too.
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A recent Kentucky truck accident involved multiple vehicles and cars, most of whom were not even from the area. On May 22, 2012, traffic on I-24 over the Ohio River near Paducah was moving slowly due to some construction. One driver did not slow or stop in time and rear-ended the car in front of him. Both of these drivers survived the accident with only minor injuries.

Unfortunately, this initial car accident led to another more deadly accident in the same area. Traffic was backed up from the initial accident in both westbound lanes when semi driver reached the scene. He allegedly did not slow down or stop. He hit the mirror on a pickup truck first, then crashed into a motorcycle. Both people were knocked off the motorcycle. The truck driver then hit another semi before coming to a stop. Both truck drivers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The motorcycle riders were not so lucky; they were pronounced dead at the scene.

This accident was very tragic in that it claimed the lives of two innocent victims. It was also very unusual because almost every person involved was from a different state and no one was a Kentucky resident. The truck driver who allegedly caused the accident was from Wisconsin. The two motorcycle riders were from North Carolina and Texas. The pickup truck and second semi-truck drivers were both from Illinois. This raises the question of where a lawsuit, if necessary, should be filed.

Generally, lawsuits are filed in the state in which the accident occurred. We’ll use the above case as an example. The accident happened in Kentucky, so a lawsuit should be filed in Kentucky. Most attorneys are licensed to practice law in one or two states that are in close proximity to each other. So it is unlikely that an attorney from Texas or North Carolina – the home states of the victims in this accident – would be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky. It is also unlikely that the victims’ families would know any Kentucky attorneys.
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1016169_speed_of_motorcycle.jpgOn Tuesday, March 6, 2012, a motorcyclist was killed on I-65 in Louisville, Kentucky. It appears that the motorcyclist was travelling in the middle lane between a pickup truck and a tractor-trailer truck. According to Louisville police, the accident seems to have been caused when the driver of the pickup truck moved into the lane the motorcycle was in, causing the motorcycle to collide with the semi. Traffic on I-65 and the nearby ramps of the Watterson were closed for several hours and rush-hour traffic had to be diverted.

This horrific crash illustrates a few points of driver safety that bear repeating. First, riding a motorcycle can be fun and exhilarating, but it is inherently much more dangerous than driving a car. As a result, motorcyclists have to take extra precautions, especially when riding on a multi-lane highway. Motorcycles are smaller than cars or trucks and can be overlooked by other drivers on the road. Motorcycle riders have to be incredibly alert when riding to make up for other drivers possibly not seeing them. Proper gear should be worn at all times, including long pants, boots, a protective jacket and a helmet. The motorcyclist in this accident does not appear to have played any role in this accident, he was an innocent victim, and all of the above precautions still may not have saved his life.

Second, car and truck drivers need to always be alert when driving, paying attention to the road and those around them. It is even more important when travelling at higher speeds on a freeway or interstate. As noted above, motorcycles are smaller and may be harder to notice, especially in a rearview mirror. Any distraction may be enough to cause a driver to not see a motorcyclist, or another car driver, before it is too late. It is unknown whether the pickup truck driver in this wreck was distracted by the radio, a cellphone, or even a snack, or if distraction played no role in the accident.
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Kentucky trucking company Dunaway Timber Company has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages to the family of a Missouri man who was killed by one of their truck drivers in Yellville Arkansas. On September 3, 2008, Morgan Quisenberry was driving a tractor-trailer when it crossed the center line and hit two passenger vehicles before colliding with the cab of the victim’s tractor-trailer. The victim was able to climb out of the cab, but became trapped under the burning vehicle. He died before arriving at the hospital, leaving a wife and two children.

This was not the first truck accident Mr. Quisenberry had caused. Before being hired by Dunaway, he had been in an accident while hauling hazardous materials. He had also lost his license twice for driving under the influence. While Dunaway Timber wasn’t aware of these infractions because Mr. Quisenberry lied on his application, the information could have been obtained through a background search that would have taken little time and cost the company about $15.00.

While Mr. Quisenberry was not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident, he was fatigued, which can have the same effect on a person’s driving ability as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He had been driving three hours longer than allowed. Laws forbid truck drivers to drive more than 11 out of 14 straight hours before taking a 10-hour break. Mr. Quisenberry knew that he had exceeded the number of hours allowed and falsified the information in his log book.

Taking all of this information into consideration, the jury determined that the driver was 25 percent responsible for the accident and the company was 75 percent responsible. How can the company be more responsible than the person actually operating the vehicle? The company hired Quisenberry without doing a background check on his driving record and sent him out only 19 days after he was hired, allegedly without adequate training. The route the company assigned to him could not be completed in less than 13 hours, well over the 11-hour driving limit, forcing him to drive while fatigued. Supervision and oversight by the company were lacking. All of these factors caused the jury to find Dunaway Timber guilty of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The driver’s smaller percentage of fault was most likely attributed to his allowing the trailer of his truck to cross over the center of the road while he was driving around a curve and falsifying the number of hours he had driven in one shift in his log book.
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911468_school_bus_with_child.jpgOn November 3, 2011, two school buses full of students and adults from Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky were headed to Mammoth Cave on a field trip when one of the buses left the road and rolled over near Glasgow, Kentucky. Of the passengers aboard, 16 children and 3 adults were admitted to a hospital in Glasgow. Their injuries ranged from broken bones and cuts and bruises to a potential back and head injury. Lawrence Austin, the bus driver, stated that the trailer of a truck hit the side of the bus, causing the bus to leave the roadway and roll down the embankment. The driver of the truck did not stop and investigators initially saw no signs of collision on the bus.

Kentucky State Police completed their investigation of the bus accident and released their findings earlier this week. They did discover some white paint on the on the left side of the front fender of the bus, which confirms the bus driver’s account of being hit by a white semi. The damage was so minimal the truck driver may not have even been aware that he struck the bus, so he did not stop. The search for the truck driver was called off just hours after the accident because there was no evidence of a collision found initially and the description of the truck was very limited. Kentucky State Police spokesman Jonathan Biven said searching for the truck would have been like “looking for a needle in a stack of needles.”

What caused the truck trailer to veer into the other lane and hit the school bus will probably never be determined. Investigators believe the weather may have been involved because it was raining. Other factors such as the condition of the truck, the weight of the load in the trailer, and the truck driver’s driving record and attention to the road will never be known since the driver did not stop and the search for the truck was called off before it was found. Charges are not expected to be brought against Mr. Austin, the driver of the bus. He has no known driving issues and the bus was recently inspected over the summer and had no mechanical issues.
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