Trucking companies are responsible for the conduct of the truck drivers that they employ. Unfortunately, some trucking companies turn a blind eye to safety violations or even encourage safety violations or risky behavior. As reported in a recent NBC News article reported, the trucking industry is “straining to keep up with surging demand for goods.” According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there are currently 30,000 to 35,000 unfilled truck driver jobs in the country, and given that overall freight tonnage is expected to jump 23.5 percent from 2013 to 2025, the industry will need to add nearly 100,000 drivers each year over the coming decade to keep up with the expected growth.
Moreover, there is a high turnover rate in the trucking industry, and the economic pressures can lead to over-worked and exhausted drivers. “Companies are wanting things delivered at a certain time, consumers are wanting them overnight,” said Dan Ramsdell, the national director of the Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America. “And so it forces drivers to drive over hours because the companies permit that to happen.”
Unfortunately, loopholes in trucking regulations can result in crooked trucking companies avoiding federal safety rules and sketchy violation records by re-registering with the Department of Transportation (DOT) under a new name. For instance, a trucking company may receive a poor safety rating or the DOT may threaten to shut them down, so the company will change its name and request a new DOT number, while keeping its equipment and employees, thereby evading its prior record and continuing the cycle of injury and death.
In fact, according to NBC News, studies show that “so-called chameleon carriers not only avoid penalties and liability by shifting corporate structures, they’re also more dangerous than their more stable competitors.”
Over the years, our trucking accident lawyers have seen cases with the following examples of willful and wanton retention of dangerous truckers by trucking companies:
- A bus company employed a bus driver who had, during a three year period, been involved in 13 incidents of sleeping through his report time, during training, or while driving passengers. Moreover, passengers often complained that the bus driver appeared to be falling asleep while driving. Despite these alarming incidents and reports, the bus company continued to employ the driver. He went on to have 7 additional incidents of falling asleep or drifting between lanes while driving, and he ultimately crashed his bus, killing a 24-year-old man.
- A trucking company employed a truck driver who had a prior rear-end accident on his record and three rear-end accidents while working for his employer. Nonetheless, the trucking company continue to put the driver on the road and his recklessness ultimately killed a woman, her mother, and her two sons. During litigation, the trucking company attempted to avoid liability by hiding the driver’s accident files and refusing to disclose all applicable liability insurance limits. Fortunately, millions of additional insurance money was discovered by the trucking attorneys at Cogan & Power – who represented the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit – and the trucking company paid millions of dollars to settle claims for punitive damages.
- A trucking company hired and continued to employ a trucker who had received the worst possible risk assessment score. The truck driver ultimately ended up killing and seriously injuring four people in a truck accident caused by his reckless behavior.
The federal government has said that it is ramping up efforts to identify “chameleon carriers” and shut down those companies that are guilty significant safety violations.
Contact a Trucking Accident Lawyer
The Chicago truck accident attorneys at Cogan & Power, P.C. focus on representing the victims of commercial trucking accidents, including those caused by FMCSR violations, distracted truck driving, or truck driver fatigue. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact Cogan & Power at (312) 477-2500 for a free consultation with one of our Chicago trucking accident attorneys.