Positioned between the west coast and the midwest, the state of Colorado is a natural hub for the trucking industry. Over 79 percent of Colorado’s communities depend exclusively on trucks to receive the goods they need.
As of 2013, Colorado’s trucking industry accounted for 1 out of every 20 jobs in the state. Many of Colorado’s truck drivers work for one of the 12,500 locally owned trucking companies based here. In addition, Southwestern Colorado is a pass-through route for trucks coming from Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
If you are a trucker in southwestern Colorado or if you are a driver who has shared the road with a semi truck, you know how much care is required to avoid a truck accident. Durango accident attorney Jordon Harlan has worked with numerous drivers on both sides of the issue to help them establish who was at fault in a truck crash.
If you have been involved in a truck accident, contact Jordon Harlan for a no-cost consultation about your case.
How Truck Accidents Happen in Colorado
The mountains of western Colorado are beautiful, but they also possess some of the greatest potential for truck accidents to take place. These steep, winding highways, many of which have just two facing lanes and lack any guardrails, can prove deadly for trucks and other vehicles.
Risk factors for truck accidents in Colorado include:
- Mechanical failure: High elevation causes undue stress on a vehicle. This stress, combined with bad brakes, faulty exhaust systems or a failed defroster, can be the cause of a deadly truck accident.
- Speeding: Without downshifting to a lower gear during a steep descent, a semi truck can quickly gain uncontrollable momentum.
- Unpredictable weather: Even on a sunny day, rain or snow can show up without warning. But perhaps the greatest danger to trucks comes from Colorado’s high winds, which can easily tip over a top-heavy semi truck.
- Changes in temperature: Tire blowouts cause more 78,000 crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many times these blowouts are caused by changes in air pressure caused by fluctuating temperature.
Rules for Trucks in Colorado
Trucking law involves very specific rules about determining fault in accidents. These rules apply not only to the truck driver, but also to the company employing the driver. Truck drivers in Colorado must pass frequent vehicle inspections and ensure that their trucks are properly maintained.
In addition to basic FMCSA safety measures, Colorado truck drivers should be aware of state-specific rules for driving a truck on Colorado roadways. Following these rules can help protect drivers from liability if they are involved in a truck crash:
- Without chains, a truck can lose control of the truck or be unable to ascend a steep grade, potentially causing accidents. That is why Colorado requires truck drivers to use chains on four drive tires during winter conditions and/or whenever the state puts chain law into effect (usually between September 1st and May 31st). If traveling on I-70 between Morrison and Edwards, trucks must carry chains between September 1 and May 31.
- In addition, all vehicles under 26,001 lbs. must use chains any time the weather conditions are severe.
- The truck must be marked on both sides with company name and DOT number. It may also be necessary for truckers to obtain appropriate CDOT permits depending on size and weight of truck and any towed unit.
- Truckers are required to carry a “black box”—an Electronic Logging Device (ELD)—that can record significant statistics about the truck’s progress and electronics. The black box records data about speed, brake application, steering, number of hours operating and other important facts that may prove critical in a trucking accident case. Losing or destroying the black box is likely to be seen as obstruction of justice.
What to Do If You’ve Been in a Truck Accident
With an average of about 50 fatal truck accidents per year on Colorado highways, Colorado state courts can be very tough on truck drivers. However, if you are a truck driver who has been involved in a truck accident, it may not be all your fault. While driver error is often found to be the main cause of truck accidents, in some cases the blame lies with trucking companies or contractors putting pressure on truck drivers to exceed the legal limit of driving hours. Truck accidents may also result from faulty maintenance or inadequate inspection.
If you have been involved in a truck crash in Colorado, make sure that your rights are protected. Contact Jordon Harlan, Colorado’s personal injury and accident attorney for a free, no-obligation discussion of your case.