Truck accidents continue to cause havoc on U.S. roads. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency that regulates the trucking industry, reports that truck accidents have been on the rise for the last decade.
Each year, more than 100,000 large trucks are involved in traffic crashes that result in injuries. More than 4,000 of those truck crashes result in at least one fatality.
Unsafe truck drivers cause many of these accidents. Truckers who engage in unsafe driving behaviors put everyone they share the road with at risk for accident and injury. If you spot a safety violation on the road, reporting the driver could save lives.
Our experience with truck accident lawsuits gives us unique insight into all the things that can go wrong when drivers are out on the road being unsafe.
Below we cover the reasons why you should report a trucker, how to report an unsafe truck driver, the information you need to file a report, and what you should do if you have suffered injuries in a truck wreck.
Unsafe Truck Driving Practices
Some driving behaviors can lead to catastrophic accidents. If you witness a trucker engaging in them, reporting them to the authorities can help prevent a potential disaster. Report any of the following:
Traffic laws in most states forbid professional drivers from passing on a hill, on a curve, and on the right.
Trucks can limit on-road visibility for other motorists because of their sheer size. Illegal passing makes this danger even worse by limiting visibility at moments when drivers need clear sight lines to avoid an accident.
Accidents involving a semi-truck running another car off the road when attempting to pass another vehicle is a common risk of illegal passing.
Commercial drivers have demanding schedules and many feel extreme pressure to meet pick-up and drop-off deadlines.
Some trucks have speed controls that prohibit them from driving above a certain speed, but many do not. Hurried truckers often drive too fast for road, weather, and traffic conditions, putting the public at risk for deadly accidents.
According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, truck wrecks that happen at higher speeds result in greater damage and a higher chance of catastrophic injuries or death because of increased force during a collision.
If you see a truck swerving, it might signal a potentially dangerous situation.
Each of these scenarios could result in a trucker losing the ability to react appropriately to hazards and/or potentially losing control of a truck, leading to dangerous and deadly truck crashes.
Failing to Yield
Some truck drivers act as if they own the road and have little regard for other vehicles around them. They operate under the assumption that every other driver will yield to them, even if they do not have the right of way.
These truckers put others at risk of serious and fatal injuries. Failing to yield can lead to dangerous head-on collisions and t-bone collisions, in particular.
Following Too Closely
The FMCSA estimates a loaded semi-truck takes the distance of up to two football fields to stop if traveling at 65 miles per hour. Truckers who tailgate other vehicles can cause severe property damage and injuries in a rear-end collision.
If the vehicle in front of a truck makes an erratic turn, slows suddenly, or stops quickly, the trucker simply does not have the time and space to avoid a collision, even at speeds below 65 miles per hour.
The risk of a deadly accident runs especially high in heavy traffic and inclement weather.
Camping in the Left Lane
Many states have rules that prohibit slow vehicles from camping in the left lane on an interstate or other multi-lane highway. Left lanes are for passing.
Truckers who insist on driving only in the left lane inhibit the free flow of traffic, especially when they do not have the power to maintain their speed as they go up a hill.
Using the left lane as a default driving lane is a dangerous practice that forces vehicles to pass trucks on the right, where they have massive blind spots. If a trucker does choose to return to the right lane, he risks running other motor vehicles off the road and causing a severe car accident.
Many of the driving behaviors above fall under the category of reckless driving. Reckless driving typically refers to the moving violation that a trucker can receive for showing purposeful disregard for the safety of others on the road.
Report any behavior by a truck driver that seems reckless, regardless of whether it falls into one of the categories above.
Where to Make a Report
If an unsafe driver’s conduct behind the wheel puts you or others in immediate danger, call 911 to report it as an emergency. In non-emergency cases, the way in which you report an unsafe trucker can vary based on your location and the circumstances.
If you have witnessed unsafe driving behaviors by a commercial vehicle driver on an interstate highway, or you have concerns about the transportation of hazardous materials and substances, report your concerns to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
As professional drivers, trucks must adhere to U.S. Department of Transportation rules and regulations at all times. You can report any unsafe driving behaviors to the FMCSA by calling the Department of Transportation’s Complaint Hotline at 888-368-7238 or 1-888-DOT-SAFT.
You can also file a complaint online on the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCDB) website.
All truckers and trucking companies must follow federal regulations, but state governments also impose their own rules and regulations on truck drivers and truck companies.
If you witness an unsafe semi driver on state roads, then you can file a complaint with your state’s regulatory agency. For most states, you will need to contact the Department of Transportation.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) recommends that if you choose not to report an unsafe driver or unsafe vehicle to law enforcement by calling 911, then you should notify the Kentucky State Police at their non-emergency phone number: 1-800-222-5555.
What Information To Report
Ideally, a report to the authorities about an unsafe truck driver should include:
- A description of the truck;
- Any identifying information for a trucking company (such as a logo or company name);
- Visible license plate number and/or DOT numbers on the truck or trailer;
- A description of the driver;
- The location where you observed the safety violation;
- The date and time of your observation; and
- A description of unsafe behavior.
Remember, in reporting an unsafe semi driver to any authorities, put your own safety first. Do not speed up, tailgate, or engage in any other unsafe driving practice because you want to try to collect information to relay to the authorities. You could end up causing a crash of your own.
In particular, it is not always easy to get a driver description, especially if you are in a passenger vehicle and the other driver is in a semi that sits much higher above the road.
Try to take note of any distinguishing characteristics that you can identify to help support your complaint; but again, safety first.
The location information you provide can include the name or number of the road, highway, or interstate where you were traveling, as well as any cross streets, intersections, mile markers, or exits that someone could use to pinpoint your exact location.
These are merely suggestions, however. Do your best to report what you see, while keeping yourself safe from the unsafe driver and any other hazards on the road.
Injured in a Trucking Accident?
If you have sustained injuries in an accident with a semi-truck as a result of an unsafe commercial driver or negligent trucking company, you should not have to shoulder the physical, emotional, and economic harm without financial support.
You have legal rights to compensation for your injuries and losses.
By taking legal action against the unsafe driver, the driver’s employers, and others, you may have the ability to recover significant money damages to help you regain your health and rebuild your life.
Truck wrecks, however, frequently involve complicated factual and legal issues. To protect your rights and give yourself the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve, trust only an experienced truck accident lawyer to represent you in all aspects of investigating, negotiating, and litigating your claim.
Louisville-based attorney, David Bryant, has been advocating for injured accident victims for more than a decade, including in cases involving unsafe semi-truck drivers and devastating accidents. His experience in the negotiation, settlement, and litigation of personal injury claims has led to tens of millions of dollars in settlement money and jury awards for his clients.