Logging plays a key role in Louisiana’s economy, and forestry is the state’s second-largest manufacturing employer. However, logging trucks can pose a serious safety risk to motorists within the state because they are subject to less stringent safety regulations than other types of vehicles.
The Forest Resources Association (FRA) recently found that only five companies in the United States were still willing to provide insurance for log trucks, due to increased concerns about the safety of these vehicles. They found that loggers with their own trucks or companies with more than 10 trucks in their fleet had the strongest safety records, but the industry as a whole posed an unacceptably high accident risk.
Log Trucks Are Allowed to Carry More Weight Than Other Vehicles
One reason Louisiana log trucks are so dangerous is that they’re allowed to carry higher weights than other vehicles. The standard gross weight maximum for a commercial vehicle is 80,000 lbs. However, there are several exceptions for log trucks.
- During harvest season, contractors can get a permit each year to haul forest products in their natural state. The permit allows 86,600 lbs. on state roads and 83,400 lbs. on the interstate system. Also, a timber harvest permit can be obtained to allow loaded log trucks to weigh 88,000 lbs. provided onboard scales are installed.
- During an emergency, unusual circumstances, a natural catastrophe, or a disaster, log trucks may be issued a permit allowing a gross vehicle weight of up to 100,000 lbs., although state axle limits still apply.
- Transporting logging equipment allows some truck drivers to be issued an annual special overweight permit to operate at the maximum axle weights provided for overweight permit loads, with a gross vehicle weight not to exceed 105,000 lbs. on non-interstate highways.
It’s very difficult to properly balance a truck loaded with logs. When weight distribution shifts, the truck can jackknife or roll over. If a link in a chain snaps, a disastrous accident is inevitable.
Logging Trucks Are Longer Than Other Commercial Vehicles
Under Louisiana law, the maximum legal length of any single vehicle is 45 feet. The maximum legal length of a combination of vehicles transporting timber poles and piling or forest products in their natural or treated state is 65 feet. The maximum legal length of a semi-trailer on a designated truck route is 59 feet 6 inches. The load upon the rear vehicle of a combination of vehicles transporting forest products in their natural state shall not project more than 20 feet beyond the rear of the bed or rear tire of the vehicle.
Drivers of logging trucks are only allowed to operate during daylight hours and must display a red flag or cloth not less than one-foot square at the rear of the load. Stationary vertical retaining poles must be equipped on the driver's side of the trailer portion. However, vehicles of this size have larger blind spots and must make wider turns. Both of these factors increase the risk of an accident.
Other Factors That Contribute to Accidents
In addition to regulation exemptions, other factors that can lead to logging truck accidents include:
The average age for log truck drivers is rising, and logging truck drivers earn less than other types of CDL drivers. This means drivers who are hired are often less experienced on the road.
Drivers Feeling Pressured To Cut Corners
Companies operate on thin profit margins, with insurance renewal rates continually increasing. Drivers often feel pressured to speed or work long hours to maximize their earnings.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Smaller carriers often convert high-mileage trucks to logging vehicles, which increases the risk of mechanical problems. A Virginia Tech researcher found that log trucks average 9.7 years in age, while all commercial trucks average 3.9 years.
Have You Been Injured in a Logging Truck Accident?
If you’ve been injured in an accident with a logging truck—whether the truck was carrying more weight than it should or the driver was inexperienced or otherwise negligent—you’re entitled to compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. This includes your medical bills, lost wages, associated property damage, and pain and suffering. If you’ve been left with permanent disabilities due to the accident, the at-fault party is also responsible for your future medical care and your loss of future earning potential.
You have typically one year from the date you were injured to file your claim in a Louisiana court. However, it’s best to take action as quickly as possible. Evidence to prove liability can become harder to locate as time passes.
If you've been injured in a logging truck accident in Louisiana, you need to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online, or call our Alexandria office to schedule your free consultation.