Dump Truck Accidents
Dump trucks haul large quantities of dirt, gravel, sand or rock for construction. Most dump trucks have open box beds equipped with hydraulic pistons that lift the front of the bed so that the load can be dumped out on the ground. Standard dump trucks have the box bed mounted on the frame with a hydraulic lift and arm arrangement for lifting the box to dump the load.
There are several other configurations of dump trucks for hauling larger loads. We often see semi trailer dump trucks in which a road tractor in a tractor-trailer combination tows a two axle dump trailer. Advantages include heavier load capacity and rapid unloading, but there is the disadvantage of instability when dumping on uneven surfaces.
Most dump trucks operate within a single state, so they are governed by intrastate trucking rules of the specific rather than the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. While the state and federal rules are similar, there are differences.
A big difference in Georgia is that state law only requires $100,000 liability insurance coverage for instrastate motor carriers rather than the $750,000 current minimum for interstate motor carriers hauling non-exempt loads under the federal rules.
However, that is often a distinction without a difference, as dump trucks hauling materials to construction companies or the state DOT are often required by contract rather than by law to carry at least $1 million liability insurance with the company to which they are hauling covered as an additional insured on the policy.
Some of the areas of safety concern encountered with dump trucks include:
- Driver qualifications. Dump truck drivers are often paid less than over the road interstate truck drivers, so these jobs sometimes attract less qualified truck drivers. That is not always universally true, as some truck drivers simply prefer to be home every night, but it is a factor we have encountered in cases.
- Rough wear to tires and mechanical components. Because dump trucks often operate in rough, off-road environments in quarries, construction sites, etc., tires, suspension, brakes and other parts critical to safety are likely to present greater maintenance challenges than trucks operated only on highways. We have had cases in which after wrecks inspection revealed major mechanical problems due to off-road operations.
- Underride. Because they are built to operate off road in rough conditions, many dump trucks are higher off the ground and present somewhat greater danger of small vehicle being crushed under them in collisions, increasing the risk of severity of injuries to occupants of the smaller vehicles.
- Tipping. A sudden shift of the heavy, high center of gravity may result in a dump truck tipping over. If a smaller vehicle is next to it, it may be buried under dirt, sand, rock or gravel.
Because companies operating local dump trucks for construction projects may be less attuned to safety and regulatory requirements than interstate motor carriers, litigation of these cases may present a somewhat different set of challenges. Driver qualification and truck maintenance records may more often be “lost” if suit is not filed immediately, often with transparently obvious “the dog ate my homework” excuses. Dump truck drivers with spotty personal records may be even more difficult to locate than other truckers.