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What Victims of Collisions Involving Foodliner Need to Know

Most people who are injured in collisions involving commercial vehicles don't give much thought to how the type of tractor-trailer or its cargo could be relevant to the process of holding the company accountable, and in many cases, it isn't.

However, when tanker trucks from a company specializing in bulk liquid food transportation, like Foodliner, are involved, it introduces unique risks for collisions, which less experienced attorneys may not know how to properly investigate. Dallas commercial truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains how these unique factors affect litigation against Foodliner.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is Foodliner?
  • How many collisions involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
  • How do the unusual factors involved in liquid food transportation affect claims against the company?

Crash statistics courtesy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

What is Foodliner?

Foodliner, along with its sister company Questliner, is the 88th largest trucking company in the U.S., with 2017 revenues of almost $280 million. It specializes in transport of bulk liquid food products, such as cooking oils and wine. The company's fleet of roughly 1,000 tanker trucks and drivers traveled just over 80 million miles in 2018.

Federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in a total of 107 crashes over the last two years, of which 40 have involved injury and 1 has led to at least one person's death. To be sure, this data can't tell us how many of these crashes were caused by the negligence of a Foodliner driver. What we can say for sure is that the company deserves to be held accountable to anyone injured or killed in any wrecks its employees caused.

Another factor relevant for victims of crashes involving Foodliner vehicles is the unusual crash risks that transporting liquids, including liquid food products, can create for drivers of tanker trucks. While such issues certainly aren't the cause of every collision involving tanker trucks, it's a likely enough possibility to be worthy of investigation.

How Do Factors Unique to Bulk Liquid Food Transport Affect Your Case?

If you ask the average person what liquids are contained in tanker trucks, they'll most likely answer with oil or natural gas. While these fuels, classified as hazardous materials, are indeed transported in tankers, they can also sometimes hold other liquids, like vegetable oils used in cooking. And the significant differences between how fuels and food products are stored in transit could easily become relevant when investigating a crash involving a food tanker.

While tanker trucks moving food products may not have the same risk of burns or explosions associated with fuel, both require that some space be left unfilled for safety reasons. Because liquids expand when heated, filling the tanks of these trucks to capacity creates a significant risk of compromising their structural integrity, leading to leakage or worse.

Obviously, when liquid in a moving container doesn't fill it completely, that liquid is likely to move around to some extent. And any time cargo in a semi-truck moves around significantly from its initial location, it increases the vehicle's risk of tipping over. (Tanker trucks having a higher center of gravity than standard 18-wheelers doesn't help.) Beyond the potential injuries to the driver, overturning can cause the truck to strike other vehicles or become a road blockage that's difficult to avoid.

Because of these factors, preventing rollovers requires drivers who operate tankers to exercise even more care than those driving standard tractor-trailers. This includes making turns and taking curves at slower speeds, leaving plenty of following distance ahead so that stops can be made as gradually as possible, and, where a sudden stop is unavoidable, using stab braking to prevent skids. If a driver fails to do so and a crash results, they and their employer can both be held responsible under the law.

Simply having experience driving this type of vehicle doesn't guarantee that a driver will never take an unwise risk in an attempt to increase their efficiency.

Another difference between tankers carrying fuel products and those carrying food also increases their risk of rollover. Fuel tankers are divided into a series of compartments divided by barriers called baffles, which help to control the forward and backward surge of liquid. By contrast, those carrying food don't have such dividers, as the impossibility of fully cleaning them creates a food safety issue. This means that a sudden stop can often lead to substantial force being transferred from front to back, increasing the vehicle's instability.

To be fair, companies like Foodliner are aware of the added skill required to successfully drive food tanker trucks and increase the experience level required for their new drivers accordingly. But simply having spent significant amounts of time driving this type of vehicle doesn't preclude a driver's taking an unwise risk to increase their efficiency and make more money. One bad decision, like taking a curve onto a highway just a little too fast, could be all it takes to cause a rollover crash, with potentially devastating consequences.

You might think that, if a trucker's careless driving causes a rollover wreck, there would be no way a trucking company could successfully avoid being held responsible. But in my years of litigating commercial vehicle crashes, I've seen very few scenarios where they didn't try to avoid taking the blame, either by arguing the fault of another party, a "sudden medical emergency" they had no way of foreseeing, or some other absurd defense. However ridiculous they might seem, any of these arguments can potentially succeed if there's no one on your side to properly refute them.

To make matters worse, defense attorneys don't have to demonstrate that their client's driver was blameless to reduce the amount their client has to pay or even get them off the hook entirely. This is because most states reduce the amount paid in damages by the percentage a plaintiff is found at fault for their injuries, and some, including Texas, don't allow a plaintiff to collect at all if a jury determines they had more than 50% of the responsibility for a crash.

A hypothetical scenario might make this a bit clearer. Suppose that a tanker takes a curve too quickly and winds up rolling over, after which your vehicle strikes it. The trucking company's attorneys might argue that, had you been traveling more slowly, you would have had time to stop before the collision. Without someone able to effectively counter such arguments, it's entirely possible for the company's attorneys to place enough of the blame for the crash on you that some or all of the compensation you might have received is lost.

By obtaining help from an attorney with experience litigating crashes involving commercial vehicles, you can keep these attempts at deflecting responsibility from damaging your claim. They can focus the attention of a jury on what actually happened, as demonstrated by collision reconstruction models, data from the vehicle's electronic control module (ECM), interviews with witnesses and other evidence.

How Grossman Law Offices Can Help Your Litigation Against Foodliner Succeed

The unique risks involved in driving food-grade tanker trucks are just a small sampling of the many factors involved in any collision involving a commercial vehicle. Without the help of an attorney familiar with semi-truck accident claims, it's easy to miss a crucial aspect of your case or be unable to obtain a key piece of evidence, leaving you with almost no chance of holding Foodliner accountable.

To give your claim the best possible chance of prevailing, you'll want to hire a firm with a record of strong results in similar cases. At Grossman Law Offices, we've been successfully litigating cases involving commercial vehicles for almost 30 years. With our mix of dedicated investigators and veteran attorneys, we make sure to investigate every aspect of your claim to determine what really happened and obtain a just outcome for our clients.

If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a collision involving a Foodliner tanker truck, please call 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available around the clock to hear your story.

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