Tractor trailers have become essential to our economy because the United States industry depends on the shipment of materials and goods back and forth across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were over 1.7 million truck drivers employed in 2012 and that number is projected to increase by 11 percent in 2022. Unfortunately, this high number of workers can often mean a high number of accidents. The following article will provide prevention tips for truck drivers based out of the state of New Jersey, as well advice on what to do if you are injured in a work-related accident.
Who or What Causes Commercial Trucking Accidents?
New Jersey in a no-fault state, which means an employee does not need to prove who or what caused an accident in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In most cases, benefits will be awarded even if the accident was partly the driver’s fault. That’s good news for someone who has recently been involved in a commercial truck accident. However, if you drive a tractor trailer as a profession, it is in your best interests to do everything you can to prevent a future accident. Often the stakes are higher than just benefits and wages.
Sometimes the factors that lead to an accident are not easily, or even possible, controlled by the driver. These include:
- Bad weather conditions
- Mistakes of other drivers on the highway
- Defective equipment
- Load shifting in transit
- Poor road conditions
- Unreasonable schedules
Many others contributing factors can be controlled by the worker to some extent, or completely, including:
- Driver exhaustion
- Improperly secured loads
- Inexperienced drivers
- Poor truck maintenance
- Reckless driving
- Road rage
Truck Driving Accident Prevention Tips
1. Know the Law
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers can work a maximum of 14 hours each day, with no more than 11 of those hours spent driving. Drivers may work a maximum of 70 hours per week and must rest for 34 consecutive hours between 70-hour work weeks. Drivers must take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation also implements laws at the state level. In New Jersey, commercial truck drivers operating any vehicle over 26,000 pounds must pass a skill and knowledge test in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
2. Don’t Use Drugs or Alcohol
It may be obvious that you should never drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. However, truck drivers may want to take prescription drugs or over-the-counter energy pills legally to stay awake while on the job. These are dangerous because they can affect judgement while driving. It is better to get a good nights sleep and make sure you always follow the laws regarding working hours.
3. Be Aware of Surroundings
Be wary of any dangerous circumstances, such as dangerous road conditions or reckless drivers. Tractor trailers can respond much differently than regular vehicles under poor driving conditions. Avoid excessive slippery roads, rain, and wind whenever possible. Watch out for the mistakes of other vehicles on the road as well and practice defensive driving.
4. Take Note of Maintenance Concerns
Keep your truck well-maintained. Watch for any tire or brake problems and be aware of how the freight is loaded. Uneven or insecure loads can easily lead to an accident.
5. Practice Good Driving Skills
Maintain a safe distance of at least 25 feet between your truck and other vehicles and remember your blind spot when merging. Use turn signals, obey the speed limit, refrain from road rage, and reduce speed in work zones.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Tend to your health by eating a good diet, staying active, and getting enough sleep. A long term health plan will help you stay alert at the wheel. Remember to always wear your seatbelt as well.
What if the Accident is Not Preventable?
Unfortunately, a driver can be doing everything right and still end up injured in an accident. Even the most alert driver in a well-maintained vehicle can not prevent the mistakes of other drivers or many other causes of accidents.
If you operate a commercial vehicle for a living and are hurt on the job, you have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages, medical costs and possibly vocational rehabilitation if your injuries prevent you from returning to the wheel.
As mentioned earlier, New Jersey is a no-fault state. This means that if you are injured while driving a truck based out of New Jersey, you can collect benefits no matter what caused the incident, and even if you contributed to it yourself. As a compromise the no-fault workers’ compensation law, injured drivers can not sue their employers. However, if the accident was caused by another party, you may sue them in a third-party lawsuit.
Find a Workers’ Comp Attorney Today
A workers’ compensation attorney will help injured commercial drivers who are hurt while performing work-related duties. This could be a range of incidents, including:
- Injuries sustained while loading and unloading the truck
- A slip and fall while climbing into and out of the cab
- A slip and falls on icy or wet surfaces, on the truck or at a pickup and delivery location
- Vehicle accidents on the highway
As you can see, commercial drivers are frequently exposed to conditions that can lead to accidents, both on and off the road.
An experience lawyer will have the network and resources to help you win a fair amount of benefits. An attorney can also evaluate the case and determine whether a third party lawsuit is necessary; For example, this may be an option if the incident was caused by a defective part.
A skilled attorney will take care of everything related to your claim. They will investigate to gather and develop evidence, fill out all necessary applications, and handle appeals if needed. All of the lawyers in our network are highly knowledgeable of New Jersey and federal trucking regulations and how to investigate the cause of an accident and determine responsible parties.
You need to focus on what matters–a full and healthy recovery. Let an attorney take care of the complicated workers’ compensation issues and win a fair amount of benefits for you.