As a Missouri tractor-trailer crash lawyer, I have been following the news about the Oklahoma crash last year that took 10 lives. Donald L. Creed, then 76 years old, was working for Kansas City-based Associated Wholesale Grocers when he crashed his rig into stopped traffic. The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that Creed’s acute fatigue was to blame for the crash, the Associated Press has reported. Creed, who has retired from truck driving, recently pleaded guilty to 10 misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 10 years of probation. He also faces several lawsuits filed by families of the victims.
Creed suffers from sleep apnea, a disorder that can prevent restful sleep and is unfortunately common among truckers. According to the Associated Press, Creed probably only slept for 5 hours before beginning work at 3 a.m. on the day of the accident. He had just returned from vacation and was no longer in the rhythm of starting work at that hour, so he was probably very tired. By the time of the crash, he had been on the road for over 10 hours. Reports at the time said Creed apparently didn’t brake or take evasive action to avoid hitting the stopped traffic, and investigators said he may have been so exhausted that he didn’t even see the traffic stopped ahead of him. His 40,000-lb. truck crashed into a Land Rover and drove over three other vehicles at 70 mph. In all, ten people were killed and several others were injured.
This crash has significance well beyond the families devastated by the loss of their loved ones. The NTSB leveled serious criticism at the trucking industry and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for their failure to implement simple accident-prevention measures that it has been recommending for a decade. In 2001, the NTSB recommended that life-saving warning systems be installed on all heavy trucks. The systems would alert drivers visually and aurally when their trucks come within 350 feet of colliding with another vehicle. Some systems would automatically brake in these situations too, without needing any action by the driver. That way, a truck whose driver is asleep at the wheel could stop before causing an accident. These systems would cost about $1,000-$2,000 per truck, and could prevent a estimated 4,700 accidents and 96 deaths each year. Unfortunately, truck operators are not required to install the systems, and not many have done so voluntarily.
Similarly, the NTSB has been urging the FMCSA to address driver fatigue for 20 years, and the FMCSA has not done so even though 31 percent of all heavy truck crashes are a result of driver fatigue. Ten years ago, the NTSB recommended that trucking companies be required to use fatigue risk management programs. The programs should include screening of truck drivers for sleep apnea, the Board said, so that drivers with the disorder could receive appropriate treatment. But the FMCSA has moved slowly on this recommendation as well. It expects to produce a model risk management program in two years, and the program would not be mandatory for trucking companies.
As a St. Louis semi truck crash lawyer, I work with families who have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones in preventable accidents. All of these families want to know why their loved ones had to die, and it is painful to recognize that there is no good reason — other than that the trucking industry doesn’t want to lose profits to regulation. Because the FMCSA and Congress are reluctant to hold trucking companies responsible for being safe, the rest of us have no choice but to drive as defensively as we can. Drivers should also educate themselves about their rights. Even though the rules that truckers must obey are not nearly as stringent as they could be, some truckers still manage to ignore them, including rules about driver fatigue.
Drivers and companies that ignore safety regulations irresponsibly endanger others’ lives and put them at risk of preventable accidents. This is called negligence, and if it hurts someone else, the victim can hold the negligent truck driver responsible. Victims of truck drivers’ and trucking companies’ carelessness can work with an experienced southern Illinois eighteen-wheeler crash attorney to recover the costs that were imposed on them by the negligent truck driver — costs such as medical bills, replacement or repair of a damaged or totaled vehicle, past and future lost wages, lost quality of life, and wrongful death. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a wreck caused by a truck driver, please call Carey, Danis & Lowe to learn how we can help you. You can call us at 877-678-3400, or send us a message online.