Safely transporting products from woods to mills is an essential part of the forest product supply chain and often the most expensive, with roughly half of the total logging costs going toward trucking. But both fatal and non-fatal logging truck accidents have increased significantly in recent years, which begs for further research to understand causation better, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University analysis found.
The regional analysis used data from two federally mandated crash databases involving 383 logging truck accidents over a five-year period, from 2011 to 2015. Researchers found that log tractor-trailer accidents increased 33% during that time frame compared to 16% among all tractor-trailer accidents.
During that time, fatal log truck accidents increased by 41%, and 78% of those deadly logging truck accidents involved rollovers. In just more than half (53.2%) of log truck accidents involving at least one other vehicle, the other vehicle directedly contributed to the crash, researchers found.
Log trucks were also the oldest vehicles involved in fatal truck accidents, with an average of 13 years, compared to the overall average for all 7.6 years.
Researchers calculated crash rates by state and region, comparing fatal truck accidents to the amount of wood harvested. The Southeast registered the highest fatality rate with 0.9 fatalities per 100 million cubic feet of wood harvested. The national average crash rate was 0.7 fatal log truck accidents per 100 million cubic feet.
The safety issues have driven up the cost of insurance for logging companies and severely limited the number of insurers willing to issue these companies’ policies. As a result, both safety and cost threaten the industry’s sustainability, researchers write, which “justifies additional research regarding causation of crashes.”
Beasley Allen truck accident attorney LaBarron Boone identified a serious technical problem in the cab guard of logging trucks while representing the family of Larry Albritton. On Oct. 7, 2013, Albritton was killed when the load on the log truck he was driving shifted forward, breaching the truck’s cab and causing the log truck to roll over and crash, killing Albritton.
Boone commissioned studies on the aluminum guard on heavy trucks and discovered that they were too weak to save drivers’ lives. The guards attach to the back of 18-wheelers pulling flat beds, trailers and log trailers and are supposed to prevent shifting cargo from hitting the cab of large trucks. However, many were not strong enough to withstand the movement of even one log on a log truck, much less the scores that are usually placed on them.
In a quest to increase profits, cab guard manufacturers often chose to use aluminum—rather than something stronger like steel, which would not sacrifice safety—without accurately testing the consequences of the decision.
Albritton’s case resulted in a $16.8 million verdict from a Lowndes County, Alabama, jury in January 2017. The verdict led to cab guard manufacturer Merritt Equipment Co., being forced to explicitly warn the public that its cab guard, marketed as a safety device, would not protect a truck driver in the cab from being injured or killed by forward shifting cargo.
Log Truck Accident Injury Lawyers
Truck accidents are complicated scenes often involving several factors. When investigating a claim related to an 18-wheeler or other heavy truck accident, it is imperative to know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, technology, business practices, insurance coverages, and the ability to discover written and electronic records. Expert testimony is of utmost importance. Semi-trucks accidents involving passenger vehicles often result in serious injuries and wrongful death. Trucking companies and their insurance companies almost always quickly send investigators to a truck accident scene to begin working to limit their liability in these situations. Our lawyers, staff, and in-house truck accident investigators immediately begin the important task of documenting and preserving the evidence.
Truck accident lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Montgomery and Atlanta offices have experience in handling these types of claims. For more information, contact Chris Glover, Mike Crow or Parker Miller. They would be happy to provide more information or work with you on a truck accident claim.