Auto accidents are the leading cause of death and traumatic injuries for Americans. More than 36,000 people were killed and 2.5 million injured in 2019 due to motor vehicle crashes (CDC).
Logging trucks involve a small portion of these statistics but are disproportionately deadly due to several factors, including:
- Poor truck maintenance
- Minimally qualified or unqualified drivers
- Lack of compliance with state regulations
- Dangerously overloaded trailers
Most log truck wrecks happen on rural roads where drivers haul their loads from the forest to a paper mill, chipboard mill, or sawmill. Any accident that happens in a rural area increases a person’s likelihood of dying from a serious injury because it takes time for emergency personnel to arrive at the scene and help.
Common Causes of Logging Truck Accidents
In many cases, a logging truck comes to a stop, but the driver behind them does not. The driver may be distracted by an object in the car, speeding, or driving aggressively and swerving around other vehicles.
Other times, it is the log truck driver that is driving recklessly or suddenly coming to a stop in the middle of an intersection. A driver may not be able to avoid a collision with the truck in time, suffering serious injuries as a result.
Overloaded or improperly secured log trucks can dump their loads during a sharp turn, while speeding, or at any time if the chains holding the logs suddenly give. Individual logs can weigh anywhere from 5 to 15 tons, more than enough to crush a passenger car. When multiple logs fall from a logging truck onto a car, the resulting crash often ends in tragedy.
It is common for log trucks to be overloaded, especially in the early morning on the first run to a mill. There are weight limits, but these limits are frequently ignored and rarely enforced. The Georgia Forest Product Trucking Rules do not establish length limits for logs, allowing trailers to have loads that hang up to 20 feet off the edge. This creates the danger of a load swinging and hitting another vehicle during a turn and becoming a dark obstacle at night.
While log truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license, they are exempt from many federal regulations such as minimum age (18 instead of 21), literacy, road test, background checks for prior truck jobs, and driving for multiple employers at the same time. This means that many log truck driving jobs are held by people who lack the qualifications and safety expertise that other tractor-trailer drivers must have.
In addition to loading and driving in rough conditions in the woods, log trucks and trailers are often converted from old equipment. This creates mechanical hazards such as worn-out brakes or lights and reflective tape being covered up by mud and dirt.
The law requires log trucks to have flashing amber lights on the end of an extruding load — these must be visible from 500 feet away. Taillights and side reflectors must also be visible from 500 feet away. Many times, however, these lights are barely functional, and the reflectors are obscured by dust or mud. This means that a log truck can be invisible on a dark highway, a driver not realizing the logging truck is right in front of them until it is too late to stop.
Logging Trucks Lack Strong Oversight
Logging is regulated by the Georgia Forest Product Trucking Rules, not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These “rules” often lack meaningful substance when it comes to safety regulation.
Most law enforcement officers are unfamiliar with the Georgia Forest Product Trucking Rules, so when they investigate a logging truck crash they don’t know what to look for and include in their accident report. Some may even be biased toward logging truck drivers if they have friends or relatives who work in the industry.
It is essential to investigate a catastrophic log truck accident in Georgia as soon as possible. A case can easily go sideways and fail if the defendant driver is allowed handle how the accident is reported to their company. Without aggressively pushing for evidence of wrongdoing of every party who might be involved and quickly informing the insurance company of the incident, clients may be left with next to nothing for injuries and unjust suffering.
How to Stay Safe Around a Logging Truck
Reducing dangerous driving habits is one of the best ways to avoid a tragic accident with a logging truck. Distracted driving involves any activity that takes the driver’s eyes and focus off the road. Drivers should avoid reaching for objects, handling food or drink, or manipulating a digital device such as a smartphone (it should also be noted that it is illegal in Georgia to hold or use a phone with any part of the body while driving).
Another way to drive safely around a truck hauling logs or other exposed cargo is to give them ample space. Do not tailgate. Do not attempt to pass a logging truck unless the road ahead is clear.
What to Do After a Log Truck Accident
Even if a person manages to walk away from a logging truck wreck, they still may have suffered serious injuries. Common injuries in log truck crashes include lacerations, broken jaws, neck fractures, traumatic brain damage, loss of an eye, puncture wounds, and broken ribs.
In the worst cases, the victim succumbs to their injuries at the scene or on their way to the emergency room. Logging truck accidents often happen on rural highways and roads, so it takes emergency responders longer to get the victim and transport them to a hospital.
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an accident involving a logging truck that wasn’t their fault, we want you to know that you have rights when it comes to receiving compensation for your pain and loss.
Don’t let the truck driver or the trucking company's lawyers get away with excuses or pressure you to settle for an amount less than you deserve. You are entitled to be correctly compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and suffering.
Get a logging truck accident lawyer to help you recover just compensation for your injuries and trauma. Gary Martin Hays & Associates can help you move forward with your life. Call (770) 934-8000 or contact us online for a free consultation about your truck accident case.