In truck crash litigation in Georgia, I often find that smaller trucking companies have the least focus on enforcing safety rules. For example, we are now preparing for trial a case in which the trucking company repeatedly had been fined for scores of violations of the same basic safety management rules over a three year period prior to the crash in question. That is not unusual.
Starting last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched a new safety drive called Compliance, Safety, Accountability 2010 (CSA 2010). In an effort to reduce truck accident fatalities, the program is designed to identify dangerous truck drivers, companies with records of negligence and tractor-trailers and other trucks that have unsafe records.
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies sued to block public release of truck safety data online in CSA 2010, claiming that the data is not an accurate reflection of their safety performance and would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The small trucking companies also claimed that federal regulators had failed to follow proper procedures and never put a proper notice in the Federal Register, denying the companies a chance to comment. They also alleged that the agency failed to issue a proper final rule.
Last week, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected those objections, so that all the detailed trucking safety data may be released online to the public.
In 2006, there were more than 385,000 tractor trailer accidents throughout the United States. They accounted for about 4% of all vehicles involved in a traffic injury and were linked to 8% of all fatal accidents, resulting in at least 4,732 deaths. Federal safety regulators say those numbers, while declining are out of proportion with the number of trucks on the road.
Ken Shigley, author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation & Practice, is a board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers . He practices at the Atlanta law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard, and has broad experience in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. He is also president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia. This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.