I asked Ben Baker, a lawyer in our Personal Injury Section, to write a piece on crashworthiness as it relates to big trucks. Ben has a tremendous amount of experience in product liability litigation and has handled a number of crashworthiness cases. He agreed to write for this issue and the following is his article.
BIG TRUCK CRASHWORTHINESS
Statistical evidence shows that approximately 1,000 heavy truck occupants are killed in highway crashes every year. During the 1980s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored a number of research projects that evaluated statistical information related to heavy truck crashes in the United States. It was found consistently that the primary contributing factor to heavy truck occupant fatalities were injuries caused by ejection and rollover which involved severe deformation to the cab. The same reports also found that the best way to reduce heavy truck occupant fatalities was:
• to enhance the structural integrity of the cabs, and
• improve methods to reduce occupant impacts with the interior surfaces of the vehicles.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, heavy truck crashworthiness and cab roof strength is still not regulated by NHTSA. In contrast, passenger car manufacturers are required to pass minimum roof strength and crashworthiness standards found in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The United States has always lagged behind on safety regulation of car manufacturers. Although the crashworthiness of heavy truck cabs is not regulated in this country, there have been foreign standards in place for years. Heavy trucks sold in foreign countries are required to meet a variety of crashworthiness and roof strength standards. These include the Swedish standard and the ECE Rule 29 standard, which require cab strength testing by static and dynamic loads. These particular tests require impacts to the roof, rear of the cab, front of the cab and the A pillars of the cab.
Apparently, in response to the overwhelming research data, American heavy truck manufacturers undertook the “Heavy Truck Crashworthiness Study” in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) during the 1990s. This study culminated in an SAE recommended practice for testing the strength of heavy trucks. Unfortunately, the test does not simulate actual forces that would be imparted into a heavy truck cab that rolled over while travelling down the highway. As a result, heavy trucks manufactured in the United States still provide unsafe cabs of thin aluminum with fiberglass roofs. Therefore, occupant fatalities continue to occur truck rollovers. It’s extremely difficult for a heavy truck driver to survive a wreck when the roof and cab structure disintegrate around him during the event and fail to maintain reasonable occupant survival space.
Personal Injury Section
Our firm has handled a number of cases against heavy truck manufacturers for the failure to design and manufacture cabs that will provide adequate protection for truck occupants in foreseeable rollover crashes. We are currently looking at a number of these claims and have several cases filed in courts around the country. If you have any questions about claims of this sort, contact Ben Baker in our firm by email at email@example.com or call him at 800-898-2034.
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