When you are doing online research before contacting a lawyer about a potential lawsuit, or when you meet with a personal injury lawyer for an initial consultation, the legal jargon can be enough to make your head spin. What is the difference between economic and noneconomic damages, if they both involve money? Why say statute of limitations when you can just say deadline? And that does not even cover all the Latin phrases that you see in legal documents and hear in the courtroom. If your personal injury lawsuit involved a truck accident, you will probably also have to wade through another set of jargon and abbreviations, namely the industry jargon of commercial trucking. The Kansas City truck accident lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC can help you navigate the unfamiliar worlds of the civil courts and the trucking industry.
Machines So Big, They Have Their Own Language
If you have been involved in a truck accident, you already know that car accidents are one thing, and truck accidents are something else entirely. The likelihood of a truck accident causing at least one fatality is much greater than if all the vehicles involved in the collision were cars, even if the truck was not traveling very fast at the time of the accident. Since truck accidents, even minor ones, can be so devastating, a lot of work goes into preventing them. Drivers’ expertise and safe driving behavior, the trucks themselves, and their freight, are subject to strict regulation. Thesetrucking terms and initialisms illustrate just how delicate of a balance it is to get a truckload of freight to its destination safely.
Common Terms Used in the Trucking Industry
A TL is the amount of freight necessary to fill the trailer of the truck; it is about 10,000 pounds. In other words, the load that the truck is carrying is almost always at least five tons. Some trucking companies are TL carriers, which means that, on every trip, each truck carries a full TL of freight from a single supplier. When suppliers need to ship smaller loads, they rely on LTL carriers; LTL stands for less than truckload. An LTL carrier fills the trailers of its trucks with small quantities of freight from a variety of suppliers sending their merchandise to nearby locations. LTL carriers, therefore, often make multi-stop trips.
Brakes and the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)
One of the main reasons that commercial truck drivers require specialized training before they can legally work as truck drivers is that the brake systems in trucks are so different from car brakes. The brakes in a commercial truck are air brakes; the air is stored in reservoir tanks in the truck and distributed through the truck by an engine-driven air compression system. This same air compression system supplies air for the truck’s suspension system. It takes a lot more time and distance for a truck to stop than it does for a car. Wet and icy road conditions can affect the truck’s ability to brake, just as they can in a car. Therefore, commercial trucks have an anti-lock brake system (ABS) to prevent the brakes from locking up and malfunctioning. Sensors monitor the revolution speed of the truck’s wheels and communicate this information to a computer, so it can adjust the braking force of the truck’s air brakes automatically.
City Truck Driving and Highway Truck Driving
Even when you are driving a car, driving on city streets with traffic lights and frequent stops and turns is a very different experience from driving in a long, straight line on the highway. A truck driver will rarely need to do both in the same trip. Typically, one truck driver handles a multi-state, multi-day trip transporting freight across the country. The Department of Transportation has set regulations about Hours of Service for long trips. For example, a truck driver may not drive more than 11 hours in a day and cannot drive more than eight hours without taking a break to rest and eat. Likewise, the DOT limits the number of shifts a driver can work in a week and how long he or she must rest between shifts. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOT has relaxed these regulations somewhat for trucks carrying medical supplies, agricultural products, and food.
Different trucks and different drivers are responsible for deliveries within a city. A truck driver whose job is to transport goods within the same city is sometimes called a pickup and delivery (P&D) driver. Companies that manage P&D routes are sometimes called cartage companies.
Trucking Companies and Companies That Own Trucks
If you file a truck accident lawsuit, one of your lawyer’s tasks will be to find out what went wrong to cause the accident and what the driver should have done differently to prevent it. Before you get into those details, you must answer the more fundamental legal question of who is responsible for the truck that caused the accident. In most cases, it is not the driver, because most commercial truck drivers do not own their own 18-wheelers. (A more cynical way of looking at this is, if the driver had enough money to pay a personal injury settlement of six figures or more, he would not be driving a truck.) In most truck accident lawsuits, the company that owns the truck is the defendant. Sometimes the companies that produce the merchandise being transported own their own delivery trucks, but in most cases, the company that produced the merchandise hired a separate trucking company to transport it.
If you decide to file a truck accident lawsuit, your lawyer will have to exchange information with the trucking company about the circumstances that led to the accident, as well as about the financial losses you suffered as a result of your injuries. During this process of exchange of information, known as discovery, most defendants agree to a settlement amount that is acceptable to the plaintiff. If they do not, then the case goes to trial.