Guest blog written for MADD by Bill Berenson, personal injury lawyer and member of MADD’s North Texas Advisory Board of Directors
We have an alarming crisis on our Texas roads you need to know about:
- Texas has been #1 in the nation for the most commercial truck crashes for the last five years.
- These wrecks took the lives of 685 Texans and injured 6,204 others – many severely – in 2019.
- By comparison, California which has over 10 million more people, only suffered 463 deaths that year.
- The number of fatalities caused by 18-wheeler crashes rose by almost 30% here since 2016.
Further, some of the drivers of these gigantic vehicles were driving while intoxicated or drugged.
Reckless and drunk driving have to stop or, at the very least, be curtailed.
We should not think that violent crashes like this one caused by a speeding trucker who crashed into vehicles on the opposite side of LBJ Freeway in North Dallas are acceptable.
Proposed new law will allow trucking companies to escape liability
Our lawmakers who are meeting in Austin should be focusing on urgent problems like the ERCOT disaster, COVID-19, crime, education, and public safety.
But the commercial truck industry wants to make it virtually impossible to hold it responsible when it kills and maims innocent motorists.
House Bill 19 filed by state representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano) will shield 18-wheeler companies from complying with federal and state safety rules.
They can avoid responsibility when they cause crashes by failing to hire, train, supervise, and discipline qualified drivers, maintain their vehicles, and load cargo properly.
How the law will hurt innocent Texans
HB 19 will strangle the rights of the victims of tractor-trailer crashes and their families. Their legal cases will be unfairly blocked, delayed with mid-trial appeals, and possibly denied due to many one-sided barriers to justice. Then they can and will be further delayed by endless appeals.
The proposed bill creates special and often incomprehensible rules. They force the injured victim to sue the driver, not their employer whose negligence was often the real cause of the collision. Crucial evidence will be restricted or eliminated.
“Texas already has the most dangerous roads in the nation. This legislation will only put all of us at greater threat. We need to improve safety, not give careless corporations less incentive to follow the rules of the road.”
— Ware Wendell, Executive Director of the consumer agency Texas Watch
Giant trucking corporations do not need a special handout
Why are Texas lawmakers even thinking about protecting this dangerous industry comprised of many out-of-state and even foreign business owners?
Clearly, House Bill 19 has one purpose: to boost the profits of commercial truck carriers. These include some of the largest corporations in America like Federal Express, UPS, and JB Hunt. Their headquarters are in Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas, respectively.
Don’t feel sorry for the trucking industry. It takes in an enormous amount of revenue — almost $800 billion in 2019.
Take Action Now
We cannot give kid glove legal treatment to 18-wheeler companies. Texas already has an effective way to decide how vehicle crashes are decided.
We need ways to make our roads safer — not make trucking companies richer.
Please contact your state representative and senator and urge them to vote against this terrible new law. Our lives may depend on it