Rhode Island Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Commercial vehicles offer individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses convenient modes of transportation. These vehicles also present potential risks to their occupants, and to occupants of smaller passenger vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Used by a business to transport goods or passengers, a commercial vehicle is required to be licensed by municipal or state agencies to operate on highways, roads, and streets. Drivers are required to have special commercial licenses. The most common types of commercial vehicles are large trucks, large vans and buses, school buses, and taxis.
When someone is injured in a commercial vehicle collision, many questions arise about legal rights and liability. At Marasco & Nesselbush, Providence’s trusted personal injury law firm, our Providence accident lawyers have years of experience helping those injured by another driver’s negligence obtain the compensation they deserve for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses. We strive to provide each and every client with extraordinary case results and legal care.
Types of Commercial Vehicle Accidents
- Large Truck Crashes
- 15-Passenger Van Accidents
- Van Crashes
- Bus Collisions
- School Bus Accidents
- Taxi Crashes
Because commercial vehicles are typically large, others on the road who are not occupants of the commercial vehicle often suffer the most serious injuries and fatalities. However, for commercial vehicles such as buses, seat belts are not typically required by law, therefore increasing the risk of passenger ejection and other circumstances that can lead to catastrophic injury or death.
Large Truck Crashes
According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a large truck is considered to be a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds. Drivers of these vehicles are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) as well as pass additional tests to obtain specific endorsements on their CDL, depending on the type of commercial vehicle. Some common endorsements for large trucks include those for hazardous materials, tank vehicle, double/triple trailers, and combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials.
Commercial truck drivers operating big rigs, semi-trucks, or tractor-trailers, are required to obey the rules and regulations implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with regard to Hours of Service (HOS), inspection, repair, maintenance, transportation of hazardous materials, proper and secured loads, as well as abiding by traffic laws.
15-Passenger Van Accidents
15-passenger vans are a popular choice among churches, schools, and other groups who need to transport more people than the average car, truck, or SUV will hold. However, most states, including Rhode Island, do not require a chauffeur’s license or CDL to operate a 15-passenger van. These vans have particular safety concerns, especially in relation to rollover accidents, that typical passenger vehicles don’t pose, particularly when the van is fully loaded with passengers or cargo.
Similar to 15-passenger vans, vans are particularly prone to rollover accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A van’s rollover risk increases as it is loaded with people and cargo, especially if any part of the load extends to or over the back axle. As the weight in the van increases, the van’s center of gravity shifts upward and to the back. This makes it far more likely to roll over at lower speeds and with less side-to-side movement than would be required to roll an ordinary passenger vehicle. Also like 15-passenger vans, drivers of vans are not required to have a CDL.
In addition to being required to have a CDL, bus drivers must also obtain a “P” endorsement on their CDL for which they must pass “Knowledge and Skills Tests.”
While bus accidents occur less frequently than crashes involving small passenger cars, the injuries they cause to occupants of the buses and to others on the road can be devastating. Based on data provided by the FMCSA, in 2009, there were 9,000 bus crashes, causing injuries to 20,000 people. There were 221 fatal bus crashes, in which 254 people were killed.
School Bus Accidents
In addition to being required to have a CDL, school bus drivers must also retain an “S” endorsement on their CDL for which they must pass “Knowledge and Skills Tests.”
The most severe school bus accident injuries often occur due to a lack of seat belts. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that five states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York) require that school buses provide seat belts, and that Texas requires all school buses purchased after September 2010 to have seat belts.
Rhode Island state law requires that a person who wishes to drive and operate a taxi must acquire either a valid chauffeur’s license or a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or an equivalent license issued by another state and acknowledged by the Rhode Island DMV.
In many taxi accidents, passengers suffer serious injury coming into contact with taxi windows. Although taxis have seat belts, a false sense of security sometimes leads passengers to feel that they don’t need to use them. Nevertheless, taxi drivers are required to drive safely and not put passengers in harm’s way by causing an accident.