Alabama personal injury lawyers target trucks under guise of 'safety campaign'

| Friday, March 25, 2005

An Alabama firm of personal injury lawyers has launched a toll-free hot line and Web site for motorists to report trucks they think are unsafe. The Web site is called unsafetrucks.org.

The campaign, dubbed “Roll on Safely Alabama,” has invested in billboards and bumper stickers to stir the public against “reckless or endangering” trucks. It also includes proposed legislation to increase liability insurance coverage for some types of trucks.

Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, said he would introduce a measure in the coming weeks in the Alabama Legislature to require that logging trucks carry the same liability insurance as those traveling from state to state.

Means told The Birmingham News he also is pursuing legislation to allow law-enforcement officers to write citations for truck violations they did not witness, such as being obviously overloaded or carrying a load poorly strapped down.

The safety campaign is an effort started earlier this month by a Gadsden, AL, law firm and a consumer advocacy group that calls itself Alabama Watch.

While there is no official link between the safety campaign and state government, officials at the law firm – Cusimano, Keener, Roberts, Kimberley and Miles – say they plan to send complaints received to Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama departments of Public Safety and Transportation.

Doris Teague, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, didn’t want to comment specifically on the campaign due to a lack of information, but she did stress the best way for drivers to report any urgent safety concern on the roadways would be to contact law enforcement directly.

“To report traffic emergencies, accidents or other emergency-type situations, motorists can dial *HP, or *47, to report any urgent safety concern,” Teague said. “That would be the best way to go (to be connected to a nearby trooper).

“As far as witnessing a traffic violation, (the number) is not designed for reporting that type of thing. Reckless driving or some other serious issue is what the number is intended for.”

Alabama law requires that logging and other forestry product semis carry the same minimum liability as passenger vehicles, $20,000 for a single injury, $40,000 for two or more injuries and $10,000 for property damage.

Over-the-road rigs must have a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage.

Means said his proposal to require log trucks to carry more liability insurance was intended to bring them in line with other commercial carriers.

As a result, he told the newspaper “It is likely that insurance companies would require these trucks and drivers to meet higher safety and training standards in order to get coverage.”

According to the unsafetrucks.org Web site, the other proposal sought by Means is intended to permit an enforcement officer to ticket or make an arrest even if the offense was not committed in the officer’s presence. An example would be if a truck’s load is too long, too heavy or not flagged properly; in those cases, an officer wouldn’t be required to wait until the driver started down the road to pull him over for breaking the law.

Lt. Chris Williams of the Department of Public Safety indicated to Land Line he was all for the idea. Williams said if the proposal became law, it would make it easier for troopers to write tickets.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

Comments