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What You Need to Know About Crashes Involving Universal Truckload

If you've been injured or lost a family member in an accident involving a Universal Truckload vehicle, the legal battle to hold the company accountable may prove to be more complicated than you expect.

When a trucking company causes a crash, the majority of those incidents result from either a mechanical issue on a semi-truck or an error on the part of its driver, and each cause creates its own unique set of problems. However, regardless of the cause of the crash, the victims still have the burden of proving the trucking company is at fault for their losses. This requires evidence, the ability to get that evidence admitted to court, and the means to persuade a jury that the facts are on your side. Dallas truck accident attorney Michael Grossman explains some of the difficulties that process involves.

Questions Answered On This Page:

  • What is Universal Truckload?
  • What do government statistics indicate about the company's rate of accidents and number of vehicles taken out of service?
  • How could the company's unusually high out-of-service rate affect litigation?

Universal Truckload Quick Facts
Crash statistics per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

What is Universal Truckload?

Universal Truckload is the largest subsidiary of Warren, MI-based Universal Logistics Holdings, the 31st largest commercial transportation company in the U.S., which generated revenues of $1.2 billion last year from a variety of services. The company provides freight brokerage services through third party owner-operators, as well as truckload and flatbed freight transportation using company-owned vehicles. Those semi-trucks number a little less than 2,000 and are driven by around 1,800 drivers, who traveled just over 130 million miles in 2017.

Government data indicates that over the past 2 years Universal Truckload's vehicles were involved in 148 crashes, with 60 of them leading to injuries and 5 resulting in a person's death. To be fair, this data can't tell us whether a commercial driver was at fault in any given incident. It's unlikely that none of these crashes involved negligence on the part of a Universal Truckload employee, and equally so that all of them did. Without a thorough outside investigation of each crash, it's difficult to make definitive conclusions either way.

Of the Universal Truckload 18-wheelers inspected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 22.5% were taken out of service for noncompliance with commercial truck regulations. One thing that stands out in these numbers is the carrier's out-of-service rate, which is higher than the national average of 20%. If you think about it, an out-of-service rate of 20% indicates that 1 out of 5 times a commercial truck was pulled over for inspection, a violation was found that lead to the 18-wheeler being put in the equivalent of truck time-out. That's appalling in its own right, yet Universal Truckload can't even meet that abysmal industry standard.

What else can we infer from this data? First, no truck driver wants to be taken out-of-service, and no trucking company wants their vehicles in that state either, because if drivers can't drive, the company can't make money. Despite this, more then 20% of the time, Universal Truckload apparently can't be bothered to comply with federal regulations, even though the government has the power to shut down their entire operation. If that doesn't scare them, what are the odds that your truck accident injury or wrongful death claim will?

How Could Universal Truckload's Out-of-Service Rate Affect Your Claim?

To better understand the context of out-of-service violations, let's back up a bit and take a look at how they're administered. Under federal law, trucking companies are required to have every vehicle affiliated with them, whether it's in their fleet and operated by one of their employees, or driven by owner-operators under contract, undergo an official inspection and review by an FMCSA agent at least once a year. In addition, the federal government deputizes local law to conduct inspections under the authority of federal regulation.

There are a host of reasons why commercial vehicles can be ordered out-of-service following inspection, including mechanical issues with the vehicle, failure to maintain and produce logs showing the driver's hours worked (hours-of-service logs), and lack of required documentation. If a company can't demonstrate compliance with all of these various regulatory requirements to an entity with the power to take their vehicles off the road, the odds are that they aren't complying with those standards, at least to some degree.

I know some commercial truckers reading this will probably object to the way I'm presenting this situation, given how onerous a burden they consider the FMCSA's regulations to be, and some of the violations that lead trucks to be removed from service may indeed be absurd examples of a bureaucracy throwing its weight around. But the law doesn't give any business the right to pick and choose which regulations it wants to follow, and trucking companies are no exception.

Another concern relevant to victims is that many of these out-of-service violations undoubtedly stem from paperwork errors. If a company can't keep tabs on the documents they need to do their jobs, are you willing to trust them to effectively keep track of the potentially damaging information you'll need to prove your truck accident case?

To help ensure that this evidence is available, a knowledgeable truck accident attorney will quickly draft and send what's known as a letter of spoliation. This is basically a letter from the attorney notifying the trucking company of your plans to file suit, and informing them of their duty to preserve any evidence relevant to your case, including the semi-truck involved in the crash, under penalty of legal sanctions.

Returning to the out-of-service data discussed above, it's also worth noting that no trucking company would be able to survive for long if 1/5 of their fleet was unable to operate. If 20% of inspected trucks are being pulled out of service, we can infer one of two scenarios: trucking companies are incredibly unlucky and only the most dangerous trucks are being inspected, or, at any given time, 1 in 5 trucks shouldn't be on the road, but companies are banking on successfully keeping them in operation without getting caught.

I don't know about you, but I can't think of many people and businesses that behave badly under the assumption that they won't be caught, yet still limit it to one specific behavior. Instead, where it's present, "I'm not going to get caught" tendencies permeate every aspect of their life and operation. If they believe that the federal government, with all of its resources, still won't be able to catch them doing something wrong, what are the chances they expect you to be able to prove that they screwed up and injured you or killed you loved one?

Why It's Important to Have An Experienced Truck Accident Attorney On Your Side

Here at Grossman Law Offices, we've successfully litigated literally hundreds of commercial truck accident and wrongful death cases over the last 27 years, so when trucking company defense attorneys sit across the table from us, they know they're caught.

This is because we hire some of the best investigators in the industry, have a stable of experts who make sense of the evidence that's gathered, and only employ litigators who have a reputation for bringing these elements together in a compelling presentation before a jury. If all that sounds like what you want on your side, we're ready and waiting.

If you've been injured or lost a family member in an accident involving a Universal Truckload semi-truck, give us a call at 855-326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're available whenever you are.

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