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A California jury recently awarded $36 million to a couple injured in a freeway accident two years ago. The couple, Jaishree and Prakash Sheth, were driving on Interstate 10 when a big-rig truck attempted to pass their vehicle and struck the car instead. The impact caused the car to spin out of control, hit a median and swerving across the freeway before coming to a stop.

Jaishree was initially paralyzed in the crash and requires 24-hour care. She has undergone several surgeries to repair her injuries, including loss of the normal use of her bladder and bowels and is expected to undergo further surgeries. The driver of the big rig was reportedly driving for 82 hours straight by taking turns driving with his wife.

The big rig company, Schneider National maintains that it hires the safest drivers and that the driver involved in the freeway accident has no safety violations and was not cited in this accident. The company also stated that it planned on asking for a new trial because they believe the award was not supported by the evidence. If denied a new trial, the company then plans to appeal.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Truckie D

    I think a little clarification is called for here David.

    If someone is "taking turns", then they couldn't be driving for "82 hours straight", now could they?

    Even if they switched drivers with the truck moving, it still couldn't happen quite that way. Most trucks have around 200 gallons of fuel capacity. That works out to a maximum of around 20-25 hours before requiring refueling. Even without stops for anything else (which is possible, but unlikely), the argument simply doesn't hold water. This also doesn't include picking up or dropping loads. Even for preloaded trailers, this generally takes around an hour each time, further weakening this already thin argument.

    Let me digress a little bit, and talk about the way team driving works.

    Team driving is used primarily for any load that needs to be moved as quickly as possible; for example, perishable foods. It's also used for certain types of hazardous materials, which are required by law to always be attended. A third category are those load that are extremely valuable, and would be a target for theft if left parked for any length of time.

    Trucking companies like teams, since they can get far more miles per year out of a truck. Amortizing the company's fixed costs over a much larger number of miles equals bigger profits for the company. Better cash flow too. Team drivers also generally receive more money per mile as well.

    Team drivers are subject to the same Hours of Service regulations as every other driver. To do this, one drives, while the other is in the bunk getting their required rest period. A team also has a further constraint -- they have to keep the hours used by each driver roughly equal. If they don't, it's quite easy to end up in the situation where only one driver has hours available, and the other doesn't. This means that the truck is effectively solo driven, until the driver again picks up hours. This makes everyone unhappy with the team when it happens.

    So, to pick up where we left off, the driver in question had probably used about 40 hours (give or take a few) at the time of the crash. With some serious injuries involved, you can bet money that the driver had his logbook gone over with a fine tooth comb, yet, the driver wasn't cited, which seems to me to indicate that the driver was in compliance. I also don't see in any of the sources that the driver was cited for anything else either. The truck also seems to have been in compliance, since no citations were issued for equipment issues either. Neither was there any mention of a moving violation. Hmmm.....was there actually any merit in this judgement, or was it just a sympathetic jury digging into somebody's deep pockets? I wonder......


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