What to Do if You Are in a Commercial Truck Accident
Drivers must always be watchful of other vehicles on the road. An average car weighs more than a ton and can cause significant damage in a collision, especially when travelling at a high rate of speed.
That potential for injury increases tenfold when an accident involves a transport truck since a fully loaded semi can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. This disparity in sheer weight is one reason why a commercial truck crash often ends badly for drivers in regular vehicles. According to a news report, the Ontario Provincial Police says that it responded to 9,110 collisions involving transport trucks in 2022, the most since 2009.
"The biggest causes [of accidents] are because of three things: improper lane changes, following too closely, and speeding," said an OPP spokesperson.
The story notes those collisions resulted in 71 deaths. It adds that 2,858 charges were laid in relation to those crashes with 40 per cent of these charges handed out to drivers of passenger vehicles.
The story quotes a career truck driver who says other drivers need to understand how their actions affect truckers.
"That space we're leaving in front of us isn't for you; it's for us to stop,” he says. Section 158 (2) of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act reinforces that, as it states that commercial motor vehicles “when driving on a highway at a speed exceeding 60 kilometres per hour shall not follow within 60 metres of another motor vehicle.”
If a passenger car cuts into this space in front of a truck and the traffic flow is suddenly interrupted, a tractor-trailer may not have the space to safely stop, with the smaller car paying the price.
Electronic Monitoring of Trucks.
Some truck drivers are paid for the distance they cover each day, which can lead them to push on when they are tired and inattentive. In an effort to crackdown on those and other unsafe operators, the Ontario government requires that commercial vehicles be outfitted with a computerized sensor that records their hours of service.
Since 2022, all commercial trucks in the province must be outfitted with certified electronic logging devices (ELDs) to record their hours of service. An ELD connects to the vehicle’s engine and automatically records driving activity and updates driver logs, giving dispatchers and drivers real time visibility into available hours and violation risks. Data is also displayed on the tablet in the cab so the driver can refer to it at any time or present it at a roadside inspection.
ELD’s also record such things as:
- the speed of the truck;
- seatbelt status of the driver;
- cruise control status;
- brake application;
- clutch application; and
- the truck’s mechanical status.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers who cross provincial/territorial borders into Ontario must use ELDs to record their hours of service. Any truck driver who does not can face penalties that include:
- fines between $250 to $20,000; and
- points on their carrier safety record that can affect their rating upon conviction.
The Hours a Trucker Can Drive.
Another step the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has taken to reduce the problems caused by fatigued truckers is to limit the number of hours they can drive. According to the Hours of Service bulletin, a driver:
- must have 10 hours off-duty in a day;
- is not permitted to drive beyond 13 hours in a single day; and
- is prohibited from driving after being on-duty for 14 hours in a day.
The notice clearly defines the required off-duty time, indicating that following a minimum of eight hours off-duty, a driver is not allowed to drive for more than 13 hours.
The ministry also regulates how often truck drivers can operate in either a seven or 14- day cycle:
- Over a span of seven straight days, a driver is prohibited from driving after being on- duty for 70 hours.
- Over a span of 14 straight days, a driver is prohibited from driving after being on-duty for 120 hours. Drivers adhering to this cycle must not drive after accumulating 70 hours on-duty without taking a continuous 24-hour break.
- On any given day, all drivers are required to have at least a continuous 24-hour break in the previous 14 days.
The ministry demands that truck drives keep a daily log (“handwritten, computer generated or made by means of a recording device”) that includes information such as:
- start time of the day being recorded;
- the cycle the driver is following;
- odometer reading at the start of the day;
- start and end times for each duty status during the day;
- odometer reading at the end of the day;
- total distance driven by the driver.
Safety Standards Must Be Met.
Unlike passenger cars, commercial trucks in Ontario must be inspected and certified as being roadworthy on a regular basis. Most trucks and trailers with a total gross weight of more than 4,500 kg require an annual safety inspection that is valid for 12 months.
If the vehicle doesn't pass an inspection, owners are required to repair it and have it re- inspected before a safety standards certificate is issued.
Truck drivers must conduct daily inspections, commonly known as a “pre-trip” or “circle- check,” to detect problems or defects with their vehicle before getting on the road:
- It is not permitted to drive for more than 13 hours in a single day; and
- It is not permitted to drive after being on-duty for 14 hours in a day.
The bulletin clearly states that a driver must take a minimum of eight hours off-duty before driving for more than 13 hours. It is their responsibility to document any flaws they uncover during an inspection and inform the operator of these.
Should they detect a "minor" flaw on the vehicle, as outlined in the inspection schedule, this flaw must be documented and immediately reported to the operator. The operator is obligated to fix any flaws that fail to meet the performance standards. The inspection remains valid for a period of 24 hours. If they find a major defect on the vehicle, as defined in the inspection schedule, the vehicle cannot be operated and must be repaired prior to being driven.
Truckers must carry and produce an inspection schedule based on their vehicle, as well as a corresponding valid inspection report, when on the highway.
Contact Us for Assistance.
These inspection reports, driver’s log and the information stored in the ELD can provide vital information about the truck and its driver if the vehicle is involved in a crash. The reports could show the driver was speeding or exceeding their hours of allowable driving time that day.
If you suffered injuries due to a commercial truck collision, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers can obtain these records and use them to prove that the truck driver was at fault in the accident.
Our truck accident lawyers can also check to see if the truck was carrying a load that exceeded its size or weight limit, or if the vehicle had been properly maintained and certified in the weeks and months before the accident. If you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, contact us for a free consultation.
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