Dangerous Behavior of Truck Drivers
Rules and regulations are designed to help truck drivers transport their cargo safely from the point of pickup to the point of delivery. However, given the number of hours spent on the road by big-rig drivers daily and monthly, even the most seasoned driver can wrongly judge a situation and make a bad move that leads to a tragic accident. Following are some mistakes truckers make:
Driving While Distracted
With the amount of time many truckers spend driving, it is very easy for some to become complacent due to their comfort of being behind the wheel for long periods of time. Different distractions in the cab can draw their attention away from the roadway, or they can become “zoned out” from being so deep in thought that they pay less attention to the road. Other causes of distracted driving include eating, using a cellphone, and passengers.
Fatigue While Driving
The Hours of Service regulations in place to govern truck drivers allow them to drive for only 11 hours out of a 14-hour duty period. If they drive a full eight hours during that period, they are required to take a 30-minute break before returning to driving. This rule sounds great in theory, but what about the truck driver who stayed up into the early hours of the morning or couldn’t sleep because of worries on his mind? The resulting lethargy and fatigue can be as dangerous as if he were drinking while driving.
The stress and long hours involved in driving a big rig contribute to many truckers turning to a variety of substances like drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. The over-zealous expectations of trucking companies and the customers awaiting shipments are some of the factors leading truck drivers to lean on unhealthy substances to which they become addicted.
Breaking Rules of the Road
In their quest for convenience and speed, it is not unusual for truck drivers to ignore the laws of the road. For example, some truckers sail right through a yellow light, that turns red as the semi enters the intersection, to keep from losing momentum and to conserve gas. Then, of course, there is speeding to try to make up for lost time. Because some of these behaviors are so unpredictable, they can quickly and easily turn serious and deadly.
The risk of an accident is increased when a driver of a large semi-truck is driving in an unfamiliar area. For example, if a driver is working after dark and the roadway narrows too much or a low bridge with no clearance suddenly appears, the odds of an accident increase exponentially.
If proper precautions are overlooked by a driver, an accident is much more likely to occur. When a trucker aggressively changes lanes a mere few feet in front of another vehicle, the potential for a disaster is quickly created. The largest vehicles on the road are not designed to be driven in a haphazard, aggressive manner.
Other Drivers' Dangerous Behaviors
From the above information, it is easy to see that a truck driver can cause a serious accident in a moment’s time. However, it is important for other drivers to understand the needs of truckers and to avoid dangerous behaviors that can create major challenges for drivers of big rigs. Below are situations to avoid:
Pulling Over Too Closely in Front of a Semi-Truck
A semi-truck cannot stop on a dime. These rigs need far more room to stop than a passenger vehicle. When a passenger car pulls over directly in front of a commercial truck, the trucker may not be able to prevent a crash.
Staying in a Truck’s Blind Spot
Truck drivers are dependent on the side mirrors to know what’s taking place around them. There are positions beside the truck that the mirrors can’t accurately show. If another driver stays in one of these blind spots, the trucker may not know the other vehicle is there and could attempt to shift lanes, resulting in a massive collision.
Driving with High Beam Lights
If a vehicle following a commercial truck has its high beam lights on when the trucker glances into the side mirror, the trucker may experience a few seconds of blindness. This disastrous situation can be avoided if other drivers dim their lights when following a big rig.
Crowding a Commercial Truck
Truckers need far more room to make a turn than passenger vehicles do. Unfortunately, other drivers often fail to leave adequate room for large trucks to maneuver, thus increasing the chances of a collision.
Poor weather conditions create navigation problems for every driver on the roadway. Rain alone can increase the accident risk substantially. In icy situations, especially ones with black ice, the risks are dramatically increased. More room is needed for trucks to recover. Additional hazardous weather conditions include:
Tractor trailers are readily sent swaying in heavy winds, making them extremely difficult to control. Truckers should lower speed significantly in such situations.
Without question, fog decreases a driver’s vision. It becomes very challenging for a trucker to keep an eye on small vehicles near the semi-truck, especially if they are light colored.
Slush and Snow
The lines on the road become blurred with snow and slush. Even worse is the condition created when snow falls on top of a layer of ice. Slower speed is a must in this type of weather situation.
It goes without saying that regular maintenance is critical to keep commercial trucks roady worthy. However, mechanical problems can still arise, such as:
Even when a big rig has received regular maintenance, if improper loading or overloading takes place, excessive wear and tear can negatively affect the transmission. Failure of this vital part of the truck can cause the driver to struggle for control.
The amount of room needed for a big rig to stop is substantial. If the brakes fail, there aren’t many options for the driver.
Without the ability to properly steer, a truck driver is presented with a catastrophic problem in being able to safely steer the massive vehicle off the road. Steering mechanism failure means very limited maneuverability.
Fragments of tire littering the highway are reminders that tire blowouts have occurred and created potentially hazardous conditions there. Regularly checking the tread and replacing worn tires is likely the best preventative of blowouts. When a semi-truck loses a tire at high speeds, the truck can become very difficult to control and the loose tire pieces become dangerous road obstacles.
Tail Light or Headlight Failure
Even with such a large profile, should a big truck lose its tail lights or headlights, the potential for disaster is huge. Visibility at night drops drastically low and can easily cause an accident.
One of the fundamental training issues for a trucker is how to properly hook the trailer to the truck. If a trailer detaches at the wrong time, tragic consequences are possible for the trucker and all others on the roadway nearby.
Problems with Cargo
It is crucial that cargo is loaded correctly into a semi-truck and properly secured. Improper loading greatly increases the risk of accident. Some common cargo problems are:
Overweight in the Trailer
A substantial hazard is created when trucks carry too much weight in the trailer. This situation puts additional stress on brakes and increases the chance of transmission damage.
Jackknife accidents can result if cargo in a trailer is unbalanced. Additionally, the cargo can shift and cause the trailer to lift unpredictably.
If hazardous cargo is properly labeled, truck drivers are more likely to take correct caution and care with it. If such cargo is improperly labeled, though, the chances of accidents increase. Additionally, improper labeling does not signal to other drivers the precautions that should be taken near the truck. Lastly, in the event of an accident, hazardous cargo can dramatically increase the injuries to victims.
Truck Accident Legal Representation with The Eichholz Law Firm
Victims of a truck accident that was caused by a negligent driver working for a trucking company should contact The Eichholz Law Firm. Our truck accident attorneys will work with you to determine your next steps towards financial compensation and justice.
Contact our legal team today for a free case consultation if you have been involved in a truck accident.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2017”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2017. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief”, United States Department of Transportation, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- Nolo. “Trucking Accidents: Common Causes & Liability”, Nolo, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/trucking-accidents-common-causes-liability-30156.html. Accessed June 13, 2019.