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Commercial Vehicle Accidents

Commercial Vehicle Accidents

Work trucks and commercial vans can cause major damage.

Commercial Vehicle Accidents

Big rigs are an ever-present threat to Texas drivers, but they’re far from the only oversized vehicles encountered on our roadways. Commercial trucks are used to transport goods of all kinds between and within cities. From delivering packages to hauling construction materials to collecting garbage and moving people and entire households, commercial vehicles are the workhorses of American industry.

You’re likely to encounter commercial vehicles every time you’re behind the wheel. Similar to 18-wheeler accidents, liability can be much more complicated when a commercial vehicle is involved, and injuries are more likely to be severe for the occupants of passenger vehicles. An accident involving a delivery truck, construction vehicle, bus, or other type of commercial vehicle should promptly be discussed with an attorney.

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UPS truck on fire

Delivery Trucks

The explosion in e-commerce has led to a corresponding uptick in the number of delivery trucks. These trucks, which range in size from vans to 18-wheelers, are dispatched by companies that include UPS, FedEx, and Amazon. At all hours of the day, they’re out making deliveries. Everyone likes getting a package, but if you are injured by a delivery driver, you might find that the shipping company is hiding behind a complex web of liability that makes it extremely difficult to sue them directly.

Amazon

Amazon changed the e-commerce market and continues to lead the way with its breakneck delivery speeds, with most items available with one or two day shipping. The online retailer is building its own logistics empire to reduce its dependency on other carriers. According to a 2020 report, Amazon partners with more than 2,200 U.S. delivery businesses that employ nearly 100,000 drivers.

However, these thousands of “partners” are not employees of Amazon. The drivers who make Amazon deliveries are classified as independent contractors. Some of them do not even partner directly with Amazon. You know those branded Amazon tractor trailers that you see on the highway? They’re driven by drivers for independent trucking companies. Those Amazon delivery drivers that drop off packages on your doorstep? They’re not employed by Amazon, either. They could be part of the Amazon Flex program, which partners directly with local drivers using their personal vehicles, or they could work for a local logistics company that has a delivery contract with Amazon.

The bottom line is, you probably can’t seek compensation from Amazon directly if you are hit and injured by an Amazon delivery truck. Amazon has successfully pushed back against delivery driver injury lawsuits. A Bloomberg report indicates that in 2021, Amazon Logistics has been a defendant in at least 119 car accident lawsuits in 35 states. A Texas couple who sought more than one million dollars in damages over a delivery van accident in Dallas recently had their case dismissed.

This doesn’t mean you are out of options. While direct legal action against Amazon is an uphill battle, drivers and the companies they work for should have insurance coverage. Individual drivers in the Amazon Flex program are required to maintain personal automobile insurance that covers them in an accident. In addition to personal coverage, Amazon offers its Flex delivery partners an Amazon Commercial Auto Insurance Policy that provides up to $1 million in coverage per accident.

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FedEx

Like Amazon, FedEx relies on a network of independent contract delivery drivers. But unlike Amazon, FedEx has some drivers that work directly for the company.

FedEx has several segments, including FedEx Ground and FedEx Express. FedEx Ground consists of the network of delivery trucks that you see around town. Drivers for FedEx Ground do not work for FedEx. They work for service providers that contract with FedEx. FedEx Ground has nearly 5,000 U.S service providers that employ around 100,000 workers—many of them drivers—and operate around 60,000 vehicles, reports NBC News.

If a FedEx Ground delivery driver injures you, you probably won’t have a direct claim against FedEx. Instead, the claim will be with the delivery driver and the company they work for. FedEx drivers have won lawsuits against the company for misclassifying them (i.e., claiming they are independent contractors when in fact they are employees). For example, Texas FedEx drivers shared part of a $227 million misclassification settlement. But FedEx Ground still maintains its independent contractor driver policy in Texas and other states.

FedEx does directly employ certain workers, including the drivers who pick up and deliver packages for FedEx Express, the division responsible for next-day FedEx deliveries in the U.S. These vehicles may have branding on the truck that identifies them as FedEx Express (not FedEx Ground), but the vehicles from these different company divisions can be hard to tell apart. FedEx Express has a fleet of commercial vehicles such as vans, trucks, and tractor trailers.

More confusing still, FedEx also has divisions such as FedEx Freight, FedEx Office, and FedEx Logistics. If you’re in an accident with a FedEx truck, and are uncertain about the types of insurance coverage available to you, contact our law office to speak with a truck accident attorney who can help you make sense of things.

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UPS

Few vehicles are more recognizable than brown UPS delivery trucks. UPS has a delivery fleet of around 120,000 vehicles and is the world’s largest package delivery company. Unlike their competitors, all UPS delivery drivers are company employees. Their drivers are unionized, so they receive additional compensation and training. The company has its own driving school and spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on driver safety training. Per 100,000 hours of driving, UPS trucks average about nine accidents.

Their good safety record is backed up by a large liability insurance policy.  Because UPS drivers are employees, it means that the company may be held liable for the actions of its drivers, a legal concept known as vicarious liability.

A UPS truck can weigh around 15,000 pounds and cause serious damage, so accident victims may need to pursue every possible avenue of compensation. Also remember that UPS has a fleet of tractor trailer freight vehicles. Usually, these 18 wheelers make overnight deliveries to UPS facilities.

Nonetheless, as you might expect from a company that logs nearly 3 billion miles per year, accidents do happen even with UPS. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that, over the last two years, UPS trucks were involved in nearly 3,000 crashes, including 1,000 injury crashes, and that UPS was cited more than 7,000 times for safety violations.

There’s no mistaking when you’ve been in a crash with a brown UPS truck. But you may be unsure of what to do next, and mistakes could cost you money. Don’t take chances. Contact Jim Adler & Associates and let our lawyers take the guesswork out of your delivery truck accident claim.

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Other Delivery Trucks—Straight Trucks and Step Vans

Many companies besides Amazon, FedEx, and UPS use delivery trucks to transfer goods to customers and other businesses. These trucks come in several different configurations, including box trucks and step vans. If you’re involved in an accident with a box truck or step van, fault may lie with the delivery driver and/or the company they work for. Some delivery truck drivers are independent contractors who own their truck and work a delivery route on a freelance basis.

A box truck, also known as a straight truck, has a rectangular shape, with a cab up front that is separated from the cargo box in the back. On a straight truck or box truck, all the axles are attached to a single frame; the truck and trailer are not separate, as they are on a tractor-trailer. Straight trucks measure from 20 to 40 feet long, stand up to 10 feet tall, and carry up to around 30,000 pounds. They’re often used to haul larger amounts of product over longer distances.

Step vans have the rectangular shape of a box truck but are generally smaller and designed to carry lighter loads. The cab and cargo area on a step van are only separated by a sliding door. Step vans are suited to make more frequent stops (i.e., delivery routes). They can hold around 10,000 – 20,000 pounds.

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Construction Vehicles

Texas has some of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio have all grown significantly over the last decade, and the growth shows no signs of slowing down. The large number of people moving to Texas is driving new investment in infrastructure, which means lots of construction projects.

Front end loaders, bulldozers, forklifts, backhoes, cranes, and other pieces of heavy equipment are transported to construction sites on the back of transport vehicles. These transporters haul heavy equipment using different types of commercial trailers, including flatbed trailers and more specialized trailers like removable gooseneck trailers and lowboy trailers.

Commercial trailers are also used to transport heavy equipment for the following industries:

  • Oil and gas
  • Agriculture
  • Paving/Roadwork
  • Mining
  • Forestry

In addition to equipment that must be transported on trailers to construction sites, some equipment makes regular trips to and from sites, including:

  • Dump trucks
  • Cement mixers
  • Hydrovacs

While these vehicles are smaller than fully loaded commercial trailers, they’re still massive compared to a passenger vehicle. Just the load of a dump truck can weigh nearly 30,000 pounds. A cement mixer without any cement in it weighs 20,000 to 30,000 pounds. Fully loaded, a cement truck carries around 10 cubic yards of concrete—equivalent to another 40,000 pounds. Hydrovac trucks, a specialized type of excavation truck, can carry hundreds of gallons of water and weigh over 65,000 pounds when full.

Suffice it to say that an accident with any of these behemoth construction vehicles has the potential to be catastrophic. The driver of the construction vehicle, the construction company or subcontractor that employs them, or another party—such as the transport company hired to haul a piece of heavy equipment—could be held liable for an accident.

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Septic Trucks

Texans living in rural and suburban areas may rely on a septic system, rather than a city wastewater system. In fact, on-site sewer systems are found in approximately 20% of new homes built in the state, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Owning a private septic system requires periodic emptying of the tank using a septic truck. Septic trucks are designed to remove and transport waste to a wastewater processing facility. Completely filled, a septic truck with a 2,000 gallon tank will weigh around 28,000 pounds.

Septic truck drivers typically work for a septic pumping service company. Drivers must have a Class B or higher CDL license. Some drivers also obtain a tanker’s endorsement. The company usually requires drivers to have a clean driving record for the past several years, pass a DOT physical exam, and submit to a background and drug check. When these stringent requirements aren’t met, it can lead to unqualified drivers operating septic trucks.

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Garbage Trucks

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Curbside trash collection is one of those modern conveniences that we often take for granted. All you have to do is roll your bins to the curb on collection day and a garbage truck rolls around to haul it away. No handling garbage yourself and no trips to the dump.

Garbage trucks are some of the biggest vehicles that you will regularly encounter driving around your neighborhood. They weigh about 30,000 pounds unloaded and can carry approximately 9 to 18 tons of trash in a single load—equivalent to the trash of 400 to 800 homes.

Poor visibility and frequent stops make garbage trucks a potential road hazard. In a typical year, garbage trucks are involved in more than 1,000 injury crashes and roughly 100 fatal crashes, FMCSA data shows. A crash with a truck of this size can get messy. Making matters more complicated, many garbage truck drivers are city employees.

Filing an accident lawsuit against the government is much more complicated than filing an accident claim against a private individual or company. There are strict notice deadlines and requirements. An attorney should be retained immediately following any accident with a government worker.

Not all refuse trucks are operated by the government. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio have public sanitation services as well as private garbage collection services, such as Republic Services and Waste Connections.

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Buses

Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio have public bus services that transport people throughout their cities.

  • In Houston, bus services are operated by METRO.
  • Dallas has the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART.
  • San Antonio is serviced by the public transport network VIA Metropolitan Transit.

Connecting these Texas cities and cities in Mexico are intercity bus services provided by numerous companies, such as:

  • Greyhound Lines
  • Trailways
  • Kerrville Bus Company
  • Turimex International
  • Omnibus Express
  • Southwestern Coaches
  • Megabus

Texas school districts also have bus services for transporting students. Some school districts contract with outside school bus vendors. For example, the Irving Independent School District contracts with private school bus provider First Student. Schools may additionally charter a private school bus or motor coach for special events like athletic team events, concerts, club competitions, and organized trips.

Tour groups and other private groups may also charter buses. Then there are private tour buses that allow visitors to take in Texas sights and attractions.

Considering the number of miles they travel and the number of buses on the road, buses have strong safety records. In 2020 in Texas, for instance, there were only 11 fatal bus crashes. For comparison, in the same year, Texas saw more than 400 fatal semi-truck crashes. But major bus crashes are not unheard of. Two major Texas bus crashes in 2021—in Hempstead and Big Spring—killed four people and injured more than a dozen.

Getting in a bus crash as a motorist or a bus passenger can leave you confused about who, exactly, is liable. One of the major factors to consider is whether the bus is owned and operated by a government entity or a private company. Don’t hesitate to contact a bus accident lawyer at Jim Adler & Associates to get the help you need.

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Heavy Haul Trucks

If you thought that nothing could be more dangerous than a fully-loaded 18-wheeler barreling down the interstate, think again. Federal regulations limit semi-trucks to a gross weight of 80,000 pounds, a length of 53 feet, and a width of 102 inches. But there is freight that exceeds these limits that still has to be moved. For that, there’s heavy haul trucking. Heavy haul trucks are used to transport equipment such as:

  • Agricultural equipment
  • Boilers
  • Cranes
  • Boats
  • Homes
  • Turbines
  • Mining equipment

You may have seen a truck with a bright yellow banner announcing an “Oversize Load” or a “Wide Load.” These are heavy haul trucks that require special permitting to comply with state regulations. Particularly big loads, known as “super loads,” may require front and rear escorts and have travel restrictions. Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio restrict oversize loads Monday – Friday, 7 – 9 a.m. and 4 – 6 p.m.

Outside of these hours, you may pass a heavy haul truck in your travels. The huge loads they carry create a very small margin for error. These trucks are more prone to accidents and their loads may become unstable and fall off the truck. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles tightly regulates oversize/overweight trucks. Requirements that aren’t followed to the letter could be evidence of negligence.

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Moving Trucks

Americans are on the move, and many are headed to Texas. Data from the 2020 U.S. Census data shows that Texas’ population increased by 4 million over the previous decade—the largest number of any state.

People who move are more likely to move themselves than to hire a professional service. This is understandable from a cost perspective. But from a safety standpoint, it’s a bit unnerving. Most big box trucks you see from U-Haul, Ryder, Budget, and Penske do not require a CDL. Anyone with a regular driver’s license can rent one, load it up, and be on their way.

The biggest U-Haul truck is 26 feet long and has over 1,600 cubic feet of cargo space. Most renters have little or no experience driving a vehicle that large. The blind spots on a truck that size is much larger than what they’re used to.

Unlike with rental cars, a driver’s personal auto insurance policy may not cover them in the event of a rented truck accident. U-Haul offers optional coverage to renters, but it may not cover injuries or property damage that the driver causes to somebody else. There are instances where the rental company could be liable for an accident, such as equipment failures that should have been detected during routine inspection. Rental companies have insurance for situations like these. A rental truck accident could alternately be the fault of a third party.

You may be able to make a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured motorist policy in the event that a rental truck crashes into you. Questions about rental truck accidents should be discussed with an experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney.

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Consult With An Accident Attorney

You pass commercial vehicles every day, most of the time without incident. But it only takes one crash with a commercial truck to change your life. These trucks dwarf passenger vehicles in size and are much more likely to cause serious and fatal injuries. Questions about who owns the truck and what company or state entity the driver works for further complicates the claims process. While insurance policies on commercial vehicles may offer compensation above and beyond a passenger vehicle insurance policy, sorting out liability and accessing insurance funds can be more difficult.

Jim Adler & Associates is among the most accomplished truck accident attorneys in Texas. Our experience handling big truck crashes makes us uniquely suited to handle commercial vehicle crashes of all types, whether it’s a construction vehicle, a moving van, a heavy hauler, a garbage truck, or a delivery box truck.

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