Landra Reid, 69, underwent surgery Friday at a Virginia hospital to stabilize injuries from a broken neck she suffered in the traffic accident. Virginia State Police say Landra and her 49-year-old daughter were traveling northbound on I-95 near Washington Thursday when their minivan was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer loaded with rolls of plastic. The Reid’s minivan was pushed into the cars in front of them, resulting in a multiple car pile up and multiple injuries.

The truck driver has since been charged with reckless driving.

What happened? Typically rear end collisions like this occur for the following, preventable, reasons:

  1. Driver Fatigue – The fatigue can be caused by violating the hours of service regulations or by obstructive sleep apnea. Both of these issues I have blogged on extensively before. They are chronic issues in the trucking industry. Currently the industry is trying to keep the regulations allowing them to drive longer hours and thus earn more money.
  2. Driver Distraction – cell phones, texting, unauthorized passengers in the cab are all frequent causes of driver distraction. Texting while driving has been determined in studies to be as bad as drunk driving, which is why almost 20 States have banned it and FMCSA recently passed a regulation forbidding truck drivers from texting.
  3. Poor Training – Drivers frequently receive poor training and are not given additional testing by the company that would identify weak drivers. Often the only test required of a driver is to determine his ability to wave a CDL license at an employer.
  4. Maintenance – It is always possible that bald tires and bad brakes contributed to the wreck. The driver may not have been able to stop in time. Admittedly tires and brakes on a tractor trailer are a moderate expense, but I have seen drivers and companies push pass the safe limits in order to save a dollar. Since the driver is required to inspect the truck and trailer before driving, and every so often after that, his failure to properly inspect (either poor training or a deliberate choice) the tires and brakes could have been a factor.
  5. Oversized Load – A tractor trailer that is oversized has a much harder time stopping as the brakes are designed for lighter loads. Drivers, who are inexperienced at driving an oversized load, don’t allow sufficient space to stop the tractor trailer.
  6. Cargo Securement – There are specific regulations requiring loads to be secured so they don’t shift during transportation. If the company failed to supply the driver with appropriate gear to secure the load, or the driver chose not to use it to save time, then the load might have shifted causing the drivers foot to slip off the brake. Liability for a load shift can move from the trucking company to the shipping company depending on several factors.

One thing seems clear, there is likely not enough insurance to deal with all the people hurt in the wreck if the trucking company purchased the minimum insurance limits of $750,000. Given the serious, life threatening, injuries of Landra Reid, and the massive life changes she will endure recovering from and dealing with the consequences of this collision, the $750,000 minimum limits are not enough to cover her claims, much less that of her her daughters. Then we have the other injured victims in the cars that were hit subsequently as Mrs. Reid’s minivan was slammed into the cars in front of her by the force of the impact by the tractor trailer. In cases with smaller truck companies (More About Pam Transportation Below), all of these victims would have to divide the single policy, frequently limiting them to recovering less than their medical bills.

The trucking company involved in this case appears (The company was identified by a local news report and photograph) to bePAM TRANSPORT INC (DOT number 179752 and MC number MC-150496) with 1769 trucks, 2,168 drivers who travel over 200 million miles a year on the roads and highways of America. Pam Transportation is a middle of the road company in regards to safety, with approximately 52% of the trucking companies in America having better driver safety histories on average. The FMCSA has not performed a safety audit (Compliance Review) since 2007 of Pam Transportation so really there is no way of telling about the company’s actual safety record. Less than 2% of trucking companies a year have compliance audits. The new CSA 2010 regulations will help identify safety problems with a trucking company, but clearly to late for these victims.

Our firm handles cases like this every year. We have posted many blogs on the above topics. It is a tragedy every time this happens, no matter when it happens or who is involved. One can only hope that the silver lining will be the enactment of some of the reasonable safety reforms I, and groups like Parents Against Tired Truckers, Crash, and the Truck Safety Coalition,  have been advocating for to make the roads safer.