Jury Says Truck Driver Not Adequately Trained Awards $58 Million
News of a jury award in a wrongful death lawsuit in Santa Fe, NM, that awarded the family of a crash victim $58.5 million dollars comes as no surprise to me. In essence the jury said that the driver of a tanker truck that made a left turn in the path of the victim’s oncoming vehicle did not have adequate training. The Jury also decided that the bulk of the responsibility for the crash lied with the management company that contracted with the trucking company.
The jury held the management company of Bergstein Enterprises of Lubbock, TX, 70% accountable for the March 2010 crash that killed Kevin Udy.
The jury also decided that twenty percent of the liability fell on the oilfield trucking company Standard E&S, also of Lubbock, TX. The owner of the tanker truck, Zia Transport of Hobbs, NM, was 9 percent responsible the jury said. The driver of the truck, Monte Lyons, was only 1 percent responsible. Only 1% is $580,000!
The award consists of $11.5 million in actual damages and $47 million in punitive damages paid to Santa Fe Trust, a fund set up for Udy’s family.
What we have here is a failure by the FMCSA to protect trucking companies from bearing the brunt of lawsuits. The failure to recognize or give any credit to the trucking companies that provide CSA training is just incredible. Under current conditions no trucking company following CSA rules can be judged CSA compliant in the operation of their fleet in North America, none! The very fact that the FMCSA only points fingers at trucking companies and does not recognize any transportation company that has training programs in place is bad business. No safety compliance recognition opens the court room doors for lawsuits to completely wipe out North American trucking as we know it today. Justice for Truckers warned of these actions three years ago before CSA begin and everybody was shaking their heads, no way!
Ray LaHood has single handedly set up our trucking industry to fail. As we had suspected from the beginning CSA has set the stage for law firms across North America to gain the type of knowledge it would need to bankrupt trucking. Believe me, this is the tip of an iceberg. Next insurance companies will react to this news and small trucking companies will not be able to secure insurance because of the additional cost. Attorneys will scan the carrier SMS scores looking at any and every carrier that is either close too or over the stated CSA threshold limit. Then any carrier who has a driver who has an accident where someone is injured or killed will have to defend its CSA driver training practices to the letter of the law. Can You?
Ray LaHood made sure the FMCSA would not recognize any attempt made by carriers for their CSA training efforts. Even after a DOT audit where government agents decide the carrier has earned the FMCSA highest rating of satisfactory the rating is not considered good enough to operate by the FMCSA beyond the day of inspection. A lose, lose, for trucking and a win, win, for the FMCSA and DOT if your aim is to destroy trucking as we know it.
Let us not forget the shippers either. The big shippers are not going to be able to hire anyone to deliver freight at this rate of attack by the courts.
Carriers need to be asking themselves how much longer they are going to wait before they put a stop to this madness by the FMCSA. Yes the FMCSA can control trucking using rules and regulations and laws. Yes, Ray LaHood has proven he could circumvent driver’s constitutional rights by making rules instead of laws. Yes Ray LaHood has proven his theory that carriers would not stand up for themselves against the FMCSA. I’m forced to give him that.
What I won’t give into is that carriers and the transportation industry will continue to let this happen. Trucking is in a free fall right now because of a tyrant named Ray LaHood and he is betting that none of you transportation companies have the balls to stand up to him or the government. You may not be able to stop CSA but you can force change and you can prove that trucking is suffering at the hands of CSA rules where everything you do can be judged wrong but nothing you do can be right. You can also use our constitution to regain the right to be judged by a jury of your peers instead of your accusers. LaHood has the power to correct mistakes in CSA but refuses to do it. He can’t afford to admit he was wrong?
Right now, today, trucking has the choice of being eaten by the rules or being defended by the law. If you are going to choose being protected by the law you better get started. The fact is until you turn the law against Ray LaHood he is going to continue to use it to destroy carriers and drivers. The real damage has just begun.
Carriers who do not have a documented CSA training program in place with proof of driver attendance to the training and follow up training will be at the greatest risk. Carriers who do not have any outside influence on the type of CSA training program that is offered will have more difficulty also because of an assumed inherent inability to only teach what is good for the company and not for dispatchers and drivers. Our survey shows that 80% of the drivers in the Southeastern states do not recall any CSA training and have not seen or know about their PSP reports. The west coast is worse. What about your drivers?