As any 18 wheeler truck driver would know, the road can be a dangerous place, with any number of potential hazards ready and waiting to turn your latest shipment into a disaster. Whether it’s black ice and snow in the winter or careless driving from smaller vehicles, dangerous situations like these on the road can cause huge problems for drivers. In the case that an 18 wheeler accident does occur, make sure you’re fully armed with the following tips to protect yourself and others.
What To Do After An 18 Wheeler Crash
- Never Leave the SceneAn 18 wheeler takes up a lot of space on the road. In some cases, you’ll find that you don’t have a lot of room, even on a major highway. If you do find yourself in an accident, locate the nearest, safest place to turn off the road. This is particularly important if you find yourself in a car wreck with a smaller vehicle. Depending on where you or the smaller vehicle was hit, moving a safe distance away from traffic is extremely important.
- Check For InjuriesMake sure to check yourself and any passengers for injuries. While driving an 18 wheeler truck affords some safeties during an accident, there are many ways that an accident in an 18 wheeler can go horribly wrong for the driver.
- Contact Your DispatcherEven before contacting the police, make sure that you contact your dispatcher. Your dispatcher will want to know the full details of what happened. Every company has different policies for what to do in the case of an accident, some of which may be different depending on the type of accident and the severity. Your dispatcher may even contact the police on your behalf and may contact medical services for you and for anyone else if the accident involves a car wreck.
- Contact the PoliceAs with all accidents on the road, always contact the police after an accident occurs. Make sure to inform them that an accident has occurred, that you are an 18 wheeler driver, and any other relevant details, such as what materials you are carrying and how long you have been driving. The police will want to see your license, registration, registered weight and hours on the road. They will also likely want to speak to your company, depending on the type of accident and the severity of the accident.
- Never Admit FaultThere is a strong anti-truck culture that does exist on the road. If you are in an accident, never admit fault. Instead, explain only what occurred from your perspective, focusing solely on the facts. Try to remain calm, avoiding emotional responses that either blame others or place blame on yourself. It’s easy to start pointing fingers and assigning blame. Always avoid doing either.
- Gather Any and All Information From All PartiesIf you are involved in an accident with other vehicles, make sure you gather information from those parties. The basic insurance information should always be gathered if the accident involves a car wreck or an 18 wheeler crash. Always inquire if the other parties are injured or need medical assistance as well. This does not obligate you to provide medical assistance, but can be helpful information to have, particularly if you are contacting the police or medical services.
- Seek Medical TreatmentIn the case of an injury to either yourself or others involved in the 18 wheeler crash, make sure you seek medical treatment. Calling 911 is always a good step. Depending on the situation, your dispatcher or the police may have already done so, but it is always good to make the call yourself as well.
- Take Photographs of the SceneIt is important to take photographs of your truck, the accident area, and any other vehicles involved in the accident. This could take some time, so make sure you are prepared to spend 30 minutes to an hour going over your vehicle. The details will help determine fault, and will help your dispatcher know what steps to take. If you have a dashboard camera, make sure you secure and download the video, as all of the requisite evidence may be on the film.
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What Can Cause an 18 Wheeler Accident?
- Drunk & Distracted Drivers
Drunk and distracted drivers pose a very real threat to 18 wheelers. Far too often, drivers forget that 18 wheelers have fairly large blind spots. Distracted and drunk drivers will drift into those blind spots, completely unaware that they cannot be seen by the truck driver.
While vigilance on the part of the driver is important, the size of an 18 wheeler truck prevents the truck driver from knowing what is around him at all times. All it takes is a truck to engage in a lane change while a driver carelessly rides in the blind spot for a car wreck to occur.
- Failure To Use Signals
Regular car drivers are perhaps the biggest concern for an 18 wheeler. Most truck drivers can tell horror stories of improper passing on both the left or the right, improper and dangerous turning and erratic lane changes. Because most drivers on the road fail to realize the extreme limitations that exist for an 18 wheeler, they also fail to realize how their driving habits can cause dangerous situations for you and for themselves.
Be on the lookout for drivers who are not using turn signals while changing lanes, who speed and weave through traffic, who do not obey traffic signs and who generally drive recklessly down the road. This is especially a concern on major highways. Likewise, ensure that you, as the driver of an 18 wheeler truck, are following traffic laws.
- Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue is also a major concern in the industry right now. Trucking companies and government regulations have been increasingly clamping down on the amount of hours drivers can put in, in hopes of reducing driver fatigue. However, fatigue is still a major concern, with many drivers putting in 12 hours at a time, often late at night and into the early morning. Driving fatigued reduces reaction times and increases risky driving behaviors, leading inevitably to car wrecks or other types of 18 wheeler crashes.
How To Avoid Being In A Truck Accident
The driver of an 18 wheeler has a responsibility to drive safely. Although most drivers of regular 4-wheel passenger vehicles don’t realize it, 18 wheeler truck drivers often have to compensate for their own driving and the driving of others. In order to avoid the common causes of truck accidents, try doing the following:
- Never drive fatigued or tired.
- Always maintain good situational awareness.
- Slow down and let erratic or aggressive drivers pass you.
- Always follow the speed limits for the road you are on.
- Signal turns in advance.
- When possible, always move to the left when passing by on ramps, .
- Invest in a dashboard camera.
The best tip anyone can give an 18 wheeler driver is to always stay calm. When an 18 wheeler crash does occur, there is no substitute for a cool head.