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This video features Tom Metier, a Personal Injury attorney based in Colorado.
Drivers are under a lot of pressure, and we see a lot of times that trucking companies don't care.
Are trucking companies pushing their drivers to unsafe limits when it comes to hours and rest? Well, that's what we're going to find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.
Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Attorney Tom Metier, one of just a handful of attorneys in the country who are board certified in trucking accident law. We're going to get to Tom in just a second. Before we get into the interview, I want to remind you that if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, just head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the home page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and it will walk you through the process right there.
Tom, good to see you again. Thank you for making some time to help us out again today.
Oh, Rob, thank you. It's great to talk with you this morning.
So I mentioned that you are board certified in trucking accident law; for the layman, tell us what that means and why that's important for someone that might need help in a situation like this.
Well, sure. Thank you. Good question. As a board-certified trucking lawyer, and there are less than 50 of them in the entire country, what it means is that I've had to have a lot of trial experience with trucking cases, which all have to be disclosed to the Certification Board. I also have to have taken written tests and exams, just like an orthopedic surgeon has to take in order to be board-certified in orthopedic surgery. To be board-certified in truck accident law, I have to take a test and do exams and prove that I know what I'm talking about, and also that I have the skills in the courtroom to be certified as a truck accident lawyer. So it just tells the consumer that I'm one of the few attorneys in the country who has that knowledge and has proven it, so it isn't just me saying, “Oh yeah, I'm good.” It's the Board of Certification, which is independent, and it's an important credential to obtain.
So when we talk about an accident involving a big commercial truck, like a big rig and say a passenger vehicle, is it easy to determine who's at fault? Is it always obviously the driver of the truck or could fault lie somewhere else, say with the trucking company or the passenger vehicle? Walk us through that a little bit.
Sure. So truck accidents and driving 18-wheelers and commercial trucks is very different from just driving a car. There's a whole different set of regulations and laws called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, which trucking companies and truck drivers must comply with. Those allow a member of the public who's been hurt in an accident involving a commercial truck or an 18-wheeler to look at what the truck company's duties and what the duties of the driver were as being different, and perhaps something that the common person doesn't know much about. In fact, most attorneys don't know much about it because the truck accident is not like an auto accident.
First of all, you've got perhaps an 80,000 pound 18-wheeler vehicle that's moving at 65 miles an hour or greater. The forces and the responsibilities are huge, and the truck driver has to have a certification of a special license, and he has to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act’s limitations on the number of hours that the driver can drive in any single day period and week period.
Not only that, but the trucking company itself has to have a special certification, a Department of Transportation designation, as being licensed to operate commercial trucks on our highways. That is true in federal law, and those federal regulations are adopted in 50 states, and those regulations can be modified in addition to states that have their own regulations. So the trucking company is responsible to make sure that its drivers know the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, that they comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, and those companies have special duties to comply with those laws, to make reports, and to do other things that those regulations require.
One of the other things that's really important here is that we need to understand that drivers sometimes are trying to do everything right, but the trucking company itself is making them do things that they shouldn't do, and people on the roadway get hurt as a result.
So that leads right into my next question. So you have many years of experience with these kinds of cases; do trucking companies push their drivers at least up to the limit and sometimes over the limits when it comes to things like time on the road, rest, and that sort of thing?
Yes, they do. And it can be very brutal to be a truck driver. In fact, we represent many truck drivers who have been hurt by other truck drivers as a result of those truck drivers being too tired to drive. It's one of the things that is required and has been for a long time is that there's a limitation on the number of hours that a driver can drive, and the driver must log his time or her time behind the wheel, and log their rest to make sure they've got adequate rest and that they haven't driven too many days in a row. You know, being tired is even more dangerous than being drunk behind the wheel, and there are statistics that show that. So we really have to make sure that our drivers are staying within those limits.
Now, you asked about the trucking companies and what they're making drivers do in this day and age. They continue to put a lot of pressure on drivers to drive too many hours, and they have a lot of strategies for that. One of the things we see is that a trucking company will have a driver drive right up to the limit of their hours, and leave them parked beside the road on the shoulder of the road, and tell them they're going to have to stay there for over 24 hours and rest. Can you imagine being out in the middle of the prairie with your load and just having to stay there in your truck because you're not permitted to drive any further? And they have them park in illegal areas where that happens. But really, what we're talking about is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act regulations have been changed because in this day and age of covid, there's so much demand for drivers that they've extended the hours that drivers are being permitted to drive, and it's a very dangerous thing as this is moving through the regulatory and Congress to allow these drivers to have extra hours to drive.
So drivers are under a lot of pressure, and we see a lot of times that trucking companies don't care about those limits. They have these drivers in a position where if they want to eat and feed their families, then they're going to have to drive and keep driving way beyond what they should be.
So I think I know the answer to this question, Tom, but I'm going to ask it anyway. What's the motivation for the trucking company to push the drivers to these unsafe limits? Is it just the dollar?
Yes, it's the dollar. It is about making a profit. One of the things that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require is that a driver not be coerced by the trucking company to overdrive his or her hours, but if you think about that, why in the world would the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations have to tell a company that they're specifically prohibited from coercing the truck driver from driving too many hours? Well, it's because it's such a big problem. So, there are strategies to avoid writing down and recording in the electronic logs as well as hand-written logs as to how long a driver has been driving.
This may surprise you, Rob, and those who are watching, but many trucking companies even have their own weather people. They have their own weather departments and route planning, because they want those trucks moving as far and as fast as they legally can, and they'll push the limits, and if you have a load that needs to be delivered and you get paid when it's delivered, then they want to get it delivered; that leads to money, and if they have to push their drivers to do it, they will. It's a sad thing. Now, I don't want to say that every trucking company does that because they don't. There are good operators out there, but oftentimes when somebody's been involved in a crash… I shouldn't say often, because we always check to see, has this driver been pushed too far? Are they exhausted? The driver has a duty independent of the trucking company to pull over and get off the road if they're feeling tired or if they're sick, and unfortunately, if you want to keep your job, they look at the performance and the dollars that truck driver is bringing in, and so truck drivers, they got families to feed and they're going to drive.
I see that more and more these days, big rigs have got dash cams; they've got cameras to document what's going on. Do those ever help someone who's been injured or is that footage only helpful if it's to show that they were not at fault?
Well, it can be very helpful, but you're right; there's a tendency on the part of the trucking company to not share the fact that those videos exist. Let's just talk about the tractor, which is the truck part of a tractor-trailer where the driver is, and this applies to the trailer too. There are cameras all over that truck, in most trucks these days. There's something called telematics, and those cameras that are both watching the driver inside the truck and are watching what's going around the truck, where it is in traffic, how it moves, there are computers on board that record all of that. There are systems in which somebody sits back at a headquarters somewhere and can actually look and watch those videos in real time as the driver is driving down the roadway and seeing what's going on. At the same time, they've got their weather department talking about the road conditions, and they can positively advise that truck to change its route for more safety. One of the really important things to know, I think, is that whoever you hire to represent you in a truck accident case, needs to know all about those telematics; what they are, how they work, which companies have them, and how to preserve that information so that your attorney can get it on your behalf and we can know what the full story is.
I've used those videos and the telematics information in many cases, and I've been able to prove exactly what traffic was like, why the driver of the truck causing the accident was at fault, matched that up to the regulations as to what their duties were and how the company actually caused this crash as well as the driver. All of those things take a level of training and understanding, but see it's different than just a car accident. It's something that takes a very specialized expertise, and of course, in putting that all together we need to make sure that all the proper insurance policies that are available in that truck and on the load are accessed, and to identify all of the defendants who are responsible. So this is a complicated area of law. It's a fun area of law for me to practice because I get to help people doing it. So yes, there are videos and we want to have them.
In a collision between a passenger vehicle versus an 18-wheeler, generally, the injuries to the people in the passenger vehicle are often very catastrophic injuries, and so their lives are turned upside down, and they may be thinking, “I'm not sure I can afford any attorney at that point, much less one of only 50 board-certified trucking attorneys in the country to take my case.” What's your answer to that?
Well, first of all, we do our work on a contingency fee basis, so if there's no recovery for you, there's no attorney's fee. There are some costs that can be involved, but you never worry about whether you can afford to pay an attorney if you're hurt in a truck accident. You call us and we will help you, and determine whether you have a case and how to help you if you do have a case.
When people are hurt and they can't work, and they have extra expenses for medical expenses and loss of income and everything else that comes with it, like needing their vehicle replaced, this is the time when we can be the most help to you. Get to us as early as you can. Just call and we're there for you. You know, it's the most natural thing in the world to think, “I can't afford to get help.” We work on a contingency fee basis, and we charge the same contingency fees as others that do what we do, so there's no reason not to call. We'd love to help folks. One of the things that we all worry about is how do we support ourselves and our family, how do we make the physical recovery that we need to make, and that, again, is where we come in on not only immediately investigating the truck accident and understanding what's necessary to prove your case there, but we have to be able to help you with your health care choices and making sure that you're getting the care that you need, that you have an advocate for all purposes to make sure that you get well and that your family does as well as humanly possible. So these are complicated matters, and you're right; a lot of people involved or hurt in truck accidents are really badly hurt, and so whether it's psychological injury or physical injury or brain injury, we have experience with all of those things. That’s why it's so challenging, but again, it's the ability to help people and the opportunity that we love.
As always, lots of really helpful information, Tom. I appreciate you making some time to answer our questions.
Rob, thank you so much. I look forward to talking to you again.
That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been attorney Tom Metier with the Metier Law Firm, one of only about 50 attorneys in the entire country that are board certified in trucking accident law. Don't forget if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the screen that says, “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do it right there. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with
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