With over 22 million acres of forestland, Washington State is one of the country’s leading lumber producers. Timber harvesting of douglas fir, spruce, hemlock and ponderosa pine spans the state. It is not uncommon to share roadways with logging trucks both east and west of the Cascade Range. While drivers can expect to come across logging trucks on highways adjacent to forests, Washington interstates are also highly-travelled trucking routes.
Sharing our roadways with large semi-trucks and trailers carrying 80K pounds of logs raises reasonable safety concerns. As a driver of a passenger vehicle comes into contact with a logging truck, they may naturally wonder: is my car visible to the truck driver? Do the truck’s brakes work sufficiently? Are the logs securely attached to the trailer? If the answer to any of these scenarios is ‘no,’ the outcome could be catastrophic.
How logging trucks – and requirements for logging truck drivers – differ from other semi-trailers?
Logging work, in general, is among the most dangerous professions at nearly 30 times more fatal than the average job in the U.S. Loggers use heavy machinery to cut down trees and load logs onto trucks. While most logging worker deaths are associated with machinery or overly-heavy lumber loads, the danger expands to the transport of the logs.
A logging truck carries a massive load. Rules and regulations governing weight limits, securing of logs, inspections and other aspects of safe operation differ from those for many other semi-trailers in the trucking industry.
- Weight limits for logging trucks vary by jurisdiction but are typically 40 tons, and knowing the loaded weight is important for operating safely. Logging trucks are more susceptible to rollovers given their heavy weight and how that weight is distributed on the trailer. Overloaded or improperly distributed logs are especially dangerous.
- Logging truck drivers must have knowledge of the handling of logs. Specific rules for loading and securing logs require direct communication between loading machine operators and drivers to ensure safe areas.
- Prior to entering public roadways and again at regular intervals, drivers need to perform inspections. They must make sure their load of logs are stable and secure. Drivers must test their truck’s brakes, tires, steering and all other major operating components to ensure their safe condition. Inspection and maintenance records must be up-to-date.
What contributes to a logging truck crash and who is responsible?
Driver error and improper maintenance are common factors that lead to logging truck crashes. In addition to the truck driver, other parties may contribute to and be responsible for a crash. Liability is determined through the process of investigation and discovery. Reasons for crashes include:
- Driver Impairment, Fatigue or Distraction. Not unique to logging truck drivers, driving a vehicle requires attention, awareness and caution. Driving a logging truck under the influence, sleep or distracted, can cause a driver to speed, fail to follow road signage or operate the vehicle under unsafe road conditions.
- Improperly Loaded or Secured Logs. When cargo is not distributed or secured properly, the truck can become top-heavy and turn over, or lose its load. When a truck must swerve to avoid an object or navigate a winding road, the unsecured logs can break loose causing the truck to roll over.
- Improper or Incomplete Driver Training. If a trucking or lumber company is negligent in their training or instruction of drivers they have hired, the company may have some responsibility for the crash.
- Equipment Failure or Inadequate Maintenance. When a driver or mechanic fails to detect or repair a defect or performs substandard maintenance, they can be held liable for the cause of the crash.
How can you protect yourself?
- Keep your distance. Whether you encounter a logging truck on a major interstate, a two-lane highway or a backcountry road, obey the rules of the road while maintaining a safe distance. Do not hesitate to pull off to the side of the road in a designated pull out if needed.
- Be aware of overhang from long tree trunks. Not all tree trunks extending beyond the length of a trailer are properly flagged. This can be especially dangerous at night or when sight distance is low.
- Drive defensively. While there may not be a lot of traffic on forest roads or adjacent highways, logging trucks, road maintenance machinery, and other vehicles may be present. On forest roads with lower visibility, drive with your windows rolled down and music off to hear trucks approaching. Be cautious at intersections of logging roads and highways.
Coluccio Law has helped many victims injured or killed in trucking crashes and is currently representing the victim of a logging truck crash. If you have been injured in a crash involving a large truck, you want an attorney with the experience, knowledge, and track record to recover fair compensation for your injuries and related damages. Coluccio Law will build a compelling case and put you on the strongest footing for gaining results. As an experienced truck accident lawyer firm, we will know well how to prove liability taking into account the many variables involved in your truck crash case.