Author Topic: Can someone explain this one to me?  (Read 2229 times)

TheDeamon

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Can someone explain this one to me?
« on: May 24, 2018, 12:25:36 PM »
https://www.freightwaves.com/news/werner-verdict-texas-crash

Of course, I think the answer lies here:

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Here are some of the highlights of Werner's recap of the crash, which took the life of a 7-year-old boy, left his 12-year-old sister with "catastrophic" brain injuries, and injured the childrens' mother and another brother:

"Think of the Children" sealed the case, IMO.

But let us look at the facts of the case:

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A Werner driver was westbound on interstate 20. The pickup truck carrying the family that suffered the fatal and non-fatal injuries was traveling eastbound--the mother was not the driver--lost control, went through a grassy median "and directly into the path of the Werner unit." The pickup truck had turned around, so its rear was hit by the oncoming Werner truck.

"Werner’s driver did not receive a citation, and the investigating officers placed no blame on the Werner driver," the company said in its filing. "The Werner driver was traveling well below the posted speed limit, did not lose control of his tractor-trailer, and even brought the unit to a controlled stop after the impact."

The Family's lawyer counterpoints, are mostly non-sequiturs, but here they are:

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The recap from the Penn Law Firm, one of two firms representing the plaintiffs, paints a very different picture, not of the accident itself but of the conditions prior to the wreck.

There apparently were differing views in the testimony about whether there were icy conditions, but clearly, the roads were not great. "Werner’s witnesses testified that Werner did not allow Ali, its student driver, to have access to basic safety equipment, such as an outside temperature gauge or the CB radio, either of which would have alerted him to the dangerous road conditions at the time," the Penn statement said. A National Weather Service warning about the poor conditions was not communicated to the driver, according to Penn, "allowing (the driver) to average over 60 mph while driving unsupervised through the icy conditions because (the driver) was on a Just-In-Time (JIT) load, requiring delivery to California by the next day."

"Ali averaged in excess of 60 mph for the 52 miles he was driving in icy conditions prior to the crash, and was traveling over 50 mph seconds prior to the collision," Penn said.

If the driver was traveling 50, that would support Werner's contention that he was below the speed limit. The question then was how slow the truck should have been going given the conditions, and the jury sided with the plaintiffs.

Now of course, "basic speed law" is also in play here, much of I20 in Texas has been posted 80MPH for years now. So obviously 50 to 55 MPH would be below the posted speed limit.

Of course, someone else seems to now have provided comment on this:
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Here is what the jury heard at the trial: the Werner truck averaged 60 mph traveling westward from Dallas to Odessa. Ice started forming on I-20 on the 100 mile stretch west of Odessa that the Werner truck went through. There were many, many other accidents on that same stretch. An identical accident occurred before the Werner truck (passenger vehicle lost control, went through the medium, collided with 18-wheeler) but no injuries because the 35-year veteran truck driver had slowed down to 5-10 mph because of the ice. The rookie Werner truck passed by many of the other accidents.

Also no indication, from that comment alone, that the Werner driver drove past that particular accident(doubtful, as it probably shut down the highway in the direction it happened on, although it could have been a Westbound to Eastbound crossing; as the Werner truck was traveling west). I have some other words I'd use to describe the 35-year veteran Trucker who evidently was doing 5-10 mph down the freeway("traffic hazard"), obviously a lucky break for the other motorist though as it probably saved their lives, and that of at least one other motorist because his Rig took the hit instead of them.

Although I have to wonder how many people lost control of their vehicles because of that slow moving trucker. The I-10 and I-20 corridor has a very large number of Truck Drivers who almost never see any winter driving conditions, even after decades driving on it. They're driving slow not because "they're safety conscious." They're driving that slow because they're terrified out of their mind. They don't drive on that kind of stuff, and they don't know what to do while on it. As such, most will shut down when "winter weather" is forecast to impact the road they're about to go over.

That said, I'd probably be shutting down in that area because of icy roads as well, not because I was afraid of being unable to safely operate my vehicle. I regularly drive into Western Canada during winter, snow and ice on the road is "just another day" of winter driving up there. Rather, what I'm afraid of is others being unable to operate theirs when in that part of the country. (As this case demonstrates)

But that doesn't mean that choosing to continue operate and drive in those conditions means I(or anybody else) should assume any liability for the consequences of people, who are not themselves, failing to properly operate their own vehicle under the presented driving conditions.

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He was not allowed to use the outside temperature gauge or CB radio (trainer driver was asleep in the berth but testified the rookie driver hadn't earned the right to use those tools).

This part is confusing, Werner has an in-dash Temperature readout gauge that is standard equipment on all of their trucks, and has been such since at least 2010, if not much earlier. This accident happening in 2014, and involving a trainer/student, if it was a "company truck" (and not a trainer-owned truck) then it should have been a "late model truck" and presumably newer than 2012. So how the student didn't have access to the dashboard temperature readout is a mystery to me.

The CB Radio being turned off is not surprising, 99% of the time it is useless, and of that 99% of the time, a significant portion of it can best be described as "distracting" and the last thing you want a rookie driver to be when out on the highway is distracted...

Another "standard feature" on Wener trucks, but also "a distraction," and thus ordered off by the trainer? A radio with weatherband reception. And while that sounds nice and damning, here are these tools the student had that weren't being used, it still ignores the matter that the Tractor Trailer remained under positive driver control throughout the entire event.

The only thing "wrong" that happened with regards to the tractor-trailer and this event is that it had a vehicle come into its direction of travel at a distance too close for it to safely stop in time to prevent injury or death. From a vector that the "reasonable man" standard should normally find outside the realm of culpability no less.

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The rookie driver and company denied there was ice on the road, despite 14 witnesses who testified otherwise. The company refused to acknowledge that the company or the driver made any mistakes, despite the fact that it made a conscious decision, with full knowledge of the national weather winter (ice) advisory, to take I-20 instead of another route with no icy conditions. The Werner truck should have been off the road like many of the other truckers, or going at a crawl for the safety of passenger cars, who are much more prone to losing control on ice.


I'm trying to figure out how Truckers, and Trucking companies are uniquely culpable on this count. In fact, by his own argument, it should be the responsibly of all those motorists "prone to losing control on ice" to stay off the roads in such conditions and not put their lives, and lives of others at risk, while allowing others, who can safely operate in such conditions(like those trucks) to do so.

But beyond that, the logic of "It is dangerous for these types of vehicles to be operating on slick roads, and while it isn't as dangerous for you to do so. You are under a moral obligation to not (safely) operate your own vehicle, and park it instead, so that when those other people DO lose control of their vehicle, they don't have to worry about being turned into a pancake."

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The passenger vehicle in this case hit black ice on the western edge of the ice storm, without warning (unlike the Werner truck that had passed through 2 hours of ice). The driver of the passenger vehicle was also found to be negligent and had already settled with the family, who were passengers but not related to the driver. The jury heard evidence that the Werner driver had slowed down to 50 mph due to a slower moving vehicle in his lane, but then was in the process of speeding back up when the collision occurred. If the Werner truck had slowed down or gotten off the road altogether then the injuries would have been minor or non-existent.

If the pickup truck had been driving at a slower speed, it probably wouldn't have lost control. If control still had been lost, it probably wouldn't have cleared the median thanks to the lower velocity, and no collision would have happened. Further, if the pickup truck had pulled off of the road(like the Big Rig seemed to be under some moral imperative to do), or checked road conditions prior to starting their trip(and delayed it), no serious accident would have happened either.

Oh, and nothing stops a car or pickup truck owner from using an external temperature gauge to warn them of potentially icy conditions, or installing and using a CB radio for that matter. Likewise road reports and weather reports are available to everyone, not just Truck Drivers.  :o Amazing, I know.

DonaldD

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Re: Can someone explain this one to me?
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2018, 12:43:40 PM »
Cars in Texas are rarely outfitted with all-season tires, never mind winter tires.

Driving in Canada on soft tires, often on salted asphalt, would not resemble driving on hard tires on icy roads in Texas.

Fenring

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Re: Can someone explain this one to me?
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2018, 12:45:31 PM »
You'll get a rounder view by reading the top comment below the article:

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Here is what the jury heard at the trial: the Werner truck averaged 60 mph traveling westward from Dallas to Odessa. Ice started forming on I-20 on the 100 mile stretch west of Odessa that the Werner truck went through. There were many, many other accidents on that same stretch. An identical accident occurred before the Werner truck (passenger vehicle lost control, went through the medium, collided with 18-wheeler) but no injuries because the 35-year veteran truck driver had slowed down to 5-10 mph because of the ice. The rookie Werner truck passed by many of the other accidents. He was not allowed to use the outside temperature gauge or CB radio (trainer driver was asleep in the berth but testified the rookie driver hadn't earned the right to use those tools). The rookie driver and company denied there was ice on the road, despite 14 witnesses who testified otherwise. The company refused to acknowledge that the company or the driver made any mistakes, despite the fact that it made a conscious decision, with full knowledge of the national weather winter (ice) advisory, to take I-20 instead of another route with no icy conditions. The Werner truck should have been off the road like many of the other truckers, or going at a crawl for the safety of passenger cars, who are much more prone to losing control on ice. The passenger vehicle in this case hit black ice on the western edge of the ice storm, without warning (unlike the Werner truck that had passed through 2 hours of ice). The driver of the passenger vehicle was also found to be negligent and had already settled with the family, who were passengers but not related to the driver. The jury heard evidence that the Werner driver had slowed down to 50 mph due to a slower moving vehicle in his lane, but then was in the process of speeding back up when the collision occurred. If the Werner truck had slowed down or gotten off the road altogether then the injuries would have been minor or non-existent.

If it could be demonstrated that the driver was operating the vehicle in a way that was both reckless and heedless of visually apparent dangers on the road around him then I can certainly see liability there. Testimony seems to say the driver had no access to the temperature gauge, which to me sounds like a strange argument in terms of the factors going into someone driving too quickly on ice, but perhaps it shows that the company was pushing the novice to get to the destination quickly regardless of the conditions and didn't give the student driver the necessary training or tools to be able to monitor dangerous conditions. In a scenario where multiple vehicles were careening out of control and the driver apparently had just passed an ice-related accident without blinking, it is indeed dangerous and irresponsible to maintain regular top speed, knowing that conditions are dangerous. In fact, going that quickly when other drivers have slowed to 5-10 mph is possibly even an arrestable offence.

D.W.

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Re: Can someone explain this one to me?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2018, 01:07:47 PM »
Should have asked for it to be tried in MI.  I think half the jurors would have been cited for contempt as they interrupted the trial to ask in colorful language why this wasn't thrown out already?

TheDeamon

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Re: Can someone explain this one to me?
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2018, 06:02:41 PM »
Cars in Texas are rarely outfitted with all-season tires, never mind winter tires.

Driving in Canada on soft tires, often on salted asphalt, would not resemble driving on hard tires on icy roads in Texas.

I drive in Canada in winter, on the same tires I drive on in Texas, during the Summer.

The bigger difference between the two is driving on snowpack, while it is "ice" isn't quite the same thing as driving on black ice or glaze ice.

That said, a lot of the court argument seems to come down to the presence or absence of ice at/near the road near the accident scene(at least, on the westbound side).

"Conventional wisdom" for truckers on this, is no temperature gauge is needed, and unreliable anyhow. What you look for is ice buildup on the "back" (travel direction) of your mirrors, and the presence of "road spray" from your tires. If you have road spray, the road is wet. If the road looks wet, but you have no spray, the road is frozen and you're on ice. They must have been seeing road spray, therefore the road was wet.

The "problem" there is conventional wisdom isn't completely right, and neither is that thermometer. It can be 40 degrees outside, you can be kicking up all kinds of road spray, and still be driving on ice.  ???

That said,highway crews may have also "treated" the westbound side and as such the road was "wet" not icy, even if the temperature was below 32 degrees, because saline solutions, among other things(thermal transfer from hot tires/moderate traffic, or just plain old sunlight) will help accomplish that. While the eastbound side, for whatever reason hadn't:
1) Been "treated" recently, and thus still had ice(and thus people giving conflicting accounts on the road being icy or wet).
2) Seen a comparable level of traffic, meaning that traffic wasn't helping warm the surface sufficiently to prevent things from either re-freezing, or preventing it from freezing in the first place.
3) A few other random and not-so random things that can cause disparities between roadway conditions between two directions of travel.

"Random things" such as the offending "patch of ice" that caused loss of control being on a bridge--As they're known to ice first. While the rest of the roadway was not icy and simply wet. Because it was firmly attached to the ground and thus not subject thermal transference to the air from below as well as above.)

Most "loss of control"/spin out incidents for motorists happen on or around the transition from terra-firma to a bridge, or from being on a bridge, back to terra-firma. That those transition points also tend to frequently become subject to potholes, which can further aggravate things, and just makes things worse for the unwary motorist facing a loss of control scenario

This could also, once again, account for conflicting accounts about the road being icy or wet. The bridges were icy, the roads themselves were not. The accident with the Truck didn't happen on a bridge, it happened on the road(and assuming the Pickup had just crossed a bridge, the Semi hadn't yet arrived at it, so they wouldn't be in a position to have known the bridge was icy--they never made it that far; they could have suspected it was, but that wouldn't have been relevant to the road conditions they were driving in at the time of the collision.)

You'll get a rounder view by reading the top comment below the article:

If you check, I had already quoted back most of that comment in the OP.

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If it could be demonstrated that the driver was operating the vehicle in a way that was both reckless and heedless of visually apparent dangers on the road around him then I can certainly see liability there.

Thing about driving past many slide-offs and spin-out locations is that while they make great indicators of hazards having been present, they do not inherently provide indicators of either "recency" or relevance to current driving conditions. It might simply be a reflection of driving conditions 3 hours(or 2 days) ago and the tow truck drivers are backlogged and just haven't made it to them yet. Unless you witness it happen, or see other indicators it just happened(people still in/around the car, brake lights on, etc), you have no way of knowing, by that alone, how relevant it is to your current situation. It could be very relevant, or it might no longer have any bearing on things at all.

At least from what's available at that site, and from that comment, we do not know that the Werner Driver was even aware that the other accident had even happened, we just know it happened "the same day" and to the east("behind") of him since he was going westbound, he may watched it happen(unlikely), he might have driven past going the opposite direction 20 minutes after it happened, or he may have cleared that particular accident scene 30 minutes before it happened. We do not know, although court transcripts might shed some light on that, the case to be made there is as yet unproven.

More likely than not, the Plaintiff brought it up, didn't bother to connect where and when to the travel of the Werner Truck, and the Defense failed to address that issue. In the meantime, the prosecution gets to make the Werner Driver seem wreckless and dangerous by comparing the (equally dangerous, for other reasons) driver going 15 Miles an hour on an interstate highway who had "a similar event" (which may not have been similar at all) happen with a no injury outcome.

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Testimony seems to say the driver had no access to the temperature gauge, which to me sounds like a strange argument in terms of the factors going into someone driving too quickly on ice, but perhaps it shows that the company was pushing the novice to get to the destination quickly regardless of the conditions and didn't give the student driver the necessary training or tools to be able to monitor dangerous conditions. In a scenario where multiple vehicles were careening out of control and the driver apparently had just passed an ice-related accident without blinking, it is indeed dangerous and irresponsible to maintain regular top speed, knowing that conditions are dangerous. In fact, going that quickly when other drivers have slowed to 5-10 mph is possibly even an arrestable offence.

If conditions were truly that bad, the officials of the State of Texas would have pressed charges against the driver. Texas has a reputation of throwing the book at truck drivers when it comes to even non-fatality accidents involving a CMV. That the driver wasn't found to be even partially at fault by the official investigation speaks volumes in and of itself.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2018, 06:08:51 PM by TheDeamon »