Coal has a rich heritage in West Virginia. It has been an important part of West Virginia’s history and economy for more than a century. Coal has provided generations of West Virginia coal miners with good-paying jobs. Although coal production has slowed, coal and other natural resources continue to be an important part of West Virginia’s future.
Hauling coal from West Virginia mines, often to rail and barge connections, accounts for significant road traffic. Both dump trucks and tractor-trailers are used to haul coal in West Virginia. The allowed gross vehicle weight for these trucks ranges from 80,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds, depending on the type of vehicle, the number of axels and the particular roadway.
With weights like that (and all too often, weights too high for safe or legal hauling), West Virginians know how dangerous a collision with a haul truck carrying a load of coal can be.
Many coal truck operators travel thousands of miles a month while keeping themselves and other motorists safe. In fact, sometimes it is the driver of the other vehicle who is at fault. However, there are some coal truck drivers and coal hauling companies who disregard the safety rules and place us all at risk.
Many factors can contribute to a haul-truck crash, including:
- Exceeding payload or weight capacity
- Crossing the centerline or swinging into other lanes to make turns
- Failure to adjust driving to account for mud, water or ice on roads or poor visibility from fog, rain or snow
- Driving while fatigued, stressed or under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication
- Failure to properly brake or navigate curves and steep grades, risking loss of control and a runaway truck
- Violation of hours-of-service (HOS) rules or mine safety regulations
- Negligent truck maintenance or repair, particularly of braking systems
- Inadequate driver training and retraining, including failure to provide specific kinds of training required by law
- Insufficient driver background checking or hiring despite questionable work, driving or criminal histories
- Speeding and other traffic violations
- Failure to perform adequate inspections before trips
- Driving while distracted such as by texting or eating behind the wheel
- And others
Involving a lawyer as early as possible after a collision with a coal haul truck can be advantageous. For example, legal counsel can launch a wide-ranging investigation into the incident while the evidence and witness memories are still fresh. As is clear from the long list of factors that contribute to determining at-fault parties, such an investigation can be quite broad and very detailed.
The attorneys at Farmer, Cline & Campbell, PLLC, with offices in Charleston, Morgantown and Beckley represent the victims of coal truck accidents and their families throughout West Virginia in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.