Zooming along on the roads among all the cars and 18-wheelers are delivery vehicles on a mission to pick up or drop off everything from packages to pizza, flowers to newspapers, groceries to appliances. Some are regular cars with signs on top identifying them as delivery vehicles while others are cargo vans, courier trucks, or light trucks weighing up to 26,000 pounds. They may come to your house with the couch you bought at a furniture warehouse or to your office with a supply of copy paper. Usually, deliveries are made on tight deadlines, which can lead to dangerous driving practices.
Vowing a fast delivery, many companies are making promises that their drivers can’t keep without compromising safety. Delivery services that offer guaranteed delivery by a certain time of day or amount of elapsed time mean that drivers often take shortcuts such as speeding, double parking, parking in a handicapped zone, rolling through stop signs, turning right at red lights without stopping, backing up after passing the destination, and not using turn signals. The hectic pace may cause a driver to forget to properly secure the cargo or even the doors, causing items to fall onto the road and become dangerous obstacles or to shift inside and contribute to rollovers or tire blowouts. The monotony of the job’s tedious hours may result in tired, distracted or impaired drivers.
Accidents can easily happen when drivers already pressed for time must deliver in an unfamiliar area, or choose to block the curb or stop in the middle of traffic because there is no service entrance or loading zone. Adding to the situation are issues of visibility – many delivery vehicles are big and boxy with no windows in the cargo area, making them hard to see around. Furthermore, because delivery trucks are heavier than cars, they take more distance to stop and have more of an impact in a crash.
There is a tangle of legal questions to be sorted out when a delivery driver gets into an accident. Some may be employees driving a company vehicle, while others may be independent contractors who provided their own vehicles. Many independent contractors have special insurance coverage for business use, just as many businesses have purchased “non-owned” auto liability insurance to protect themselves in the event of a crash. Among other issues, it may be hard to tell whether or not the driver was on the clock at the exact time of the accident, whether the cargo itself was a factor, whether the vehicle had been properly maintained, or whether the driver was adequately trained.
A driver under pressure to make timely deliveries may also make poor choices. As the shopping season begins to ramp up, there will be more delivery vehicles on the road and in your neighborhood. Be extra vigilant and allow plenty of space when you find yourself near one.
At Stabinski and Funt, P.A., we handle a wide range of auto and truck accident cases. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims and their families throughout South Florida. If you are trying to put your life back together after a crash, or if you have more questions about this topic, feel free to contact us by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form