Are Semi Trucks Dangerous?

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truck crash driver fled scene truck accident attorneyLike all other motor vehicles, semi trucks have the potential to be dangerous. Unlike most other moving vehicles, semi trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In comparison, passenger cars weigh an average of 4,094 pounds. With that size disparity in mind, it’s easy to understand why accidents involving the two often have devastating outcomes. 

That said, the dangers are very much there, so one of the best ways to feel safe is to educate yourself.

What is a Semi Truck?

Simply put, a semi truck is a massive vehicle with the express purpose of hauling large loads. In some form, semi trucks have been on the road since the late 19th century. In fact, the first semi truck hauled its inaugural cargo to its destination right here in Pennsylvania. Over a century later, it seems safe to say cars and semi trucks will continue co-existing on the road for many more years to come. 

The Dangers of Sharing the Road with Semi Trucks

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2020: “4,842 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. According to MCMIS, 45,900 large trucks were involved in injury crashes, and 86,618 were involved in towaway crashes.

Additionally, in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,965 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks. 71% of the people killed in those crashes were occupants of other vehicles. The numbers tell us that there absolutely is danger associated with semi trucks. 

By their own nature, semi trucks inherently generate a certain degree of danger on the roads they travel. At the same time, semi truck drivers need to make a living and that is understood. They are essential to our national land transportation of goods. However, the job of a semi truck driver comes with great responsibilities that cannot be minimized. To diminish any responsibility associated with being an accountable driver of a semi truck can lead to grave, life-changing devastation. When semi truck drivers operate their vehicles while fatigued, distracted, or unprepared, the risk of a catastrophic accident gets unnecessarily compounded due to negligence. 

Some frequent dangers associated with semi trucks are as follows:

truck accident

Size of the Semi Truck

The sheer size of a semi truck up against the average passenger vehicle can cause devastating consequences in an accident.

Cargo Loads

There are so many different types of cargo semi truck drivers transport every day: Raw materials, e.g., metal pipes, construction material; food; liquids; retail goods; animals; farming equipment; hazardous materials, etc. With these different types of cargo come specific requirements for secure transporting as mandated by the FMCSA. The new rules require motor carriers to change the way they use cargo securement devices to prevent articles from shifting on or within, or falling from commercial motor vehicles.

If cargo is not properly secured and weight distributed, this could cause imbalance which may affect turns, slowing down, and stopping. If an accident is caused due to improper cargo loading, the semi truck driver and the company responsible for loading the cargo will almost certainly be liable for negligence. 

Driving Under the Influence

For the average passenger car driver, .08% is the blood alcohol limit. For semi truck drivers, the alcohol limit is cut in half. Semi truck drivers BAC must be below 0.04%. 

Furthermore, according to FMSCA regulations, a semi truck driver may not imbibe alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating a commercial vehicle. Semi truck drivers who have had an alcoholic drink within four hours before their shift must be placed off-duty for at least 24 hours as a safety precaution. To be clear, their shift isn’t only sitting behind the wheel on the road. The truck driver may not drink alcohol while having their vehicle inspected, repairing their vehicle, or loading/unloading cargo. 

Distracted Driving

Aside from an emergency, the FMCSA prohibits texting and using a hand-held mobile phone under § 392.80 and § 392.82, respectively, of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The sanctions for driver offenses include civil penalties up to $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple offenses. Motor carriers are also prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to text or use a hand-held mobile phone while driving and may be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000. 

As indicated above, the odds are 23.2 times greater for semi truck drivers to cause an accident when texting while driving. Monetary penalties, possible loss of job, and an increased chance of causing an accident which may involve a nearby passenger vehicle of which that person is much more likely to be killed than the negligent truck driver. 

Fatigue

395.1 of the Code of Federal Regulations is very specific and clear on the hours of driving and the hours of rest semi truck drivers must meet. Truck driver fatigue is easily avoidable yet many drivers feel pressure from trucking companies to hit the road even if they are not well rested or are ill. If a driver is unable to maintain control of the big rig due to lack of sleep, this may cause inherent dangers like being unable to come to a complete stop or being unable to manage the heavy loads. A driver cannot will themselves to be more alert. They are either well-rested or they are not, and if they are not, their reflexes will suffer and catastrophic injury or death can occur. 

Common Injuries in Semi Truck Accidents

When semi truck accidents occur, there can be devastating outcomes most commonly including:wilkes barre truck accident attorney

  • Property Damage e.g., totaled car
  • Whiplash e.g., neck aches, headaches, blurred vision
  • Broken Bones
  • Amputations
  • Burns

The truck could be carrying flammable chemicals which during an accident can cause permanent burn injuries and/or disfigurement

  • Head & Brain injuries e.g., traumatic brain injuries, concussions. These injuries can sometimes leading to long-term disabilities
  • Spinal Cord Injuries e.g. paralysis, bone degeneration 
  • Death

If you or a loved one experience one of these accidents, it is difficult to comprehend what to do next. If you are here as a victim of a semi truck accident or if you are here to help advocate for a loved one who is a victim of a semi truck accident, we urge you to contact Munley Law for a free consultation. Our experienced lawyers will help bring the at-fault driver to justice and provide you with options for financial recovery.

What Can Drivers Recover Following a Semi Truck Accident?

Following a semi truck accident, drivers can recover economic and non-economic damages. However, in order to do so, they will need the following information that they can help you gather:

  • Documentation of severe injuries
  • Medical expenses
  • Long-term health ramifications
  • Proof of lost wages
  • Police report

Once this information is provided, a truck accident attorney can help you seek compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost current income and lost future income
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

In cases where the truck driver is negligent and held liable for the collision, you may also seek punitive damages for particularly heinous accidents caused by overt negligence.

What you are able to recover will largely depend on liability and insurance laws in your state. Your insurance company is going to want to prove the other driver is responsible while the truck driver and trucking company are going to try to shift blame.

What Can You Do to Help Stay Safe Driving Near Semi Trucks

It’s difficult not to tense up when taking that curve on the crowded highway while driving side-by-side with a semi truck that is 20 – 30 times heavier than the vehicle you’re in. Aside from being well-rested, alert, and obeying traffic laws, here are some ways to encourage safety on the road with semi trucks:

Avoid Blind Spots

Also known as the No-Zone, semi trucks have several blind spots to be aware of:

  • In front of the hood, extending forward for approximately 20 feet
  • Just below and behind the driver’s window
  • The right side of the truck’s cab, extending backward diagonally
  • Right behind the truck’s trailer, extending for about 30 feet

Keep Your Distance

Stay at least 4 seconds (20 – 25 car lengths) behind a semi truck. This may sounds like a lot, but semi trucks are huge and they need extra room to maneuver. 

Be Ready for Wide Turns

Again, semi trucks need extra room. Do not linger near them or attempt to pass them if they have a turn signal on. 

Merge and Pass Safely

The FMCSA imparts the following wisdom when merging and passing semi trucks: 

Signal clearly when merging in front of, or passing, large trucks and buses using these tips. 

  • Make sure the truck or bus is visible in your rearview mirror before you merge in front; leave extra space.
  • Avoid passing trucks and buses going down hills, mountains, etc., where they tend to pick up speed due to their heavy weight.
  • Avoid passing from the right lane.
  • When a truck or bus is passing you or merging into traffic from an on-ramp, give them extra space to change lanes safely.

What Should a Semi Truck Driver Do To Be a Safe Driver?

Obviously, every driver should aim to be a safe driver. However, the challenges that face a semi truck driver as opposed to the average passenger car driver, are more extensive. Consequently, there are more preparations a semi truck driver needs to make before taking that long trip. truck driver pay and safety on the job

Before the trip, a semi truck driver should:

Maintain the Vehicle

It’s not only smart, its mandatory. Semi trucks are massive vehicles with countless nuts and bolts. Cloudtrucks, a company that uses technology to help trucking entrepreneurs manage successful businesses, stresses the importance of preventative maintenance. This includes:

  • Inspections pre-trip and post-trip
  • Repairing any and all defects as they’re identified, no matter how big or how small.
  • Following a routine maintenance schedule

Cloudtrucks offers a helpful schedule and checklist laying out a rough plan for when to check certain items and when to examine and service particular parts depending on seasonal weather effects. 

Plan Your Trip

It’s helpful for a semi truck driver to know what’s in between Point A and Point B:

  • Being aware of the weather report
  • What the roads are like and what potential obstacles to anticipate
  • Will certain roads be congested when passing through
  • Where the rest stops for food and drink are located
  • Where the fuel stops are located 
  • Where the repair shops are

All of this knowledge is integral to promoting a safe trip. 

Sleep Well

Without being properly rested, your reaction time is compromised, and your focus is decreased. Operating a semi truck safely requires sharp attention to everything around you. Being such a large and heavy vehicle, it takes longer to stop; see the image below indicating that a truck traveling 65 mph will take up to two football fields to come to a stop. That’s 720 feet. That’s approximately the equivalent of a 70-storey building. If a truck driver is tired and unfocused, delayed reaction times can have devastating outcomes. 

Meal Prep

Planning out the trip and anticipating the time about to be spent in a semi truck calls for healthy snacks and plenty of hydration. It’s easy and convenient to fall into unhealthy patterns when you’re frequently on the road. By packing healthy food, the need to buy unhealthy food on the road reduces. It’s best to stay away from greasy and unnourishing foods which can make the driver sleepy, not to mention the long-term detrimental effects of sustaining such a diet. 

Pre-Trip Inspection

As mentioned before, pre-inspection of the vehicle promotes safety. The pre-inspection of a semi truck is not a place to take any shortcuts and it should be rote for all semi truck drivers. Further, if there is an accident and a semi truck driver can not prove and produce their pre-inspection process, the driver will almost certainly be on the hook. 

During the trip, a semi truck driver should:

Buckle Up

Some truck drivers don’t wear seat belts because they think they’re uncomfortable, it’s more dangerous to wear the belt, or it takes too much time to click and unclick. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) debunks these myths along with others, and is working to get all semi truck drivers on board.

  1. Drivers.  No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, that has a seat belt assembly installed at the driver’s seat unless the driver is properly restrained by the seat belt assembly.

The FMCSA shares that in 2020, nearly half of all large truck occupants who were unbuckled in fatal crashes died. Thankfully, at approximately 86%, most semi truckers do buckle up, but 100% is optimal.

Check Your Blind Spots

Here are the main blind spots a semi truck driver must be aware of and check several times a minute

  • Behind the trailer
  • Alongside of each trailer
  • Below the cab of the truck

Be Aware of Long Stopping Distances

As mentioned previously, it takes longer for a semi truck to come to a stop due to the size and weight of the vehicle. Keeping eyes on the road helps ensure that a driver is aware of any obstacles or traffic on the road.

Handling Space

The space all around a semi truck is something a driver must be aware of. We’ve all seen the bumper stickers warning that “this vehicle makes wide turns.” It is physically impossible for a semi truck not to make a wide turn.  

The space above the truck is important too. When a truck is loaded up with its cargo, it may be able to smoothly clear an underpass. Once that cargo is out and the truck is less loaded down, the height could change. Even a minimal difference in height can cause that truck to no longer be able to clear the same underpass it did when it was holding cargo. Conversely, with the space below a semi truck, clearing railroad tracks or other things sticking up from the ground may be easier to navigate when the truck is empty. Once the cargo is inside and the truck is loaded down, it’s a different story and certain care must be taken to avoid damage. 

Drive at a safe speed

For the reasons discussed above – the time it takes to stop, the space around the truck – as prepared as a driver may be, you can never prepare for everything. Driving at a safe speed will help in the event something unexpected does occur, e.g., a car ahead stopping abruptly; debris in the road, etc.

Eat and hydrate well

The benefit of pre-trip meal prepping helps encourage alertness, sharp reflexes, clear thinking, and overall good health. During the trip, eating healthy snacks every few hours and drinking water are important for optimal functioning. 

How Our Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help You

Hire LawyerSemi truck accident litigation requires thorough investigation, including expert witnesses, and in some cases, a recreation of the accident itself. Because the trucking company will be quick to gather their own team to create a case, you need a truck accident attorney on your side who will do the same.

Munley Law’s on-staff team of investigators will visit the accident scene and take photographs of physical evidence including:

  • eyewitness accounts
  • skid marks
  • accident debris
  • oil, gas, and radiator fluid stains

Further, our law firm will also obtain police reports, motor carrier records, etc. to help build a stronger case.

Contact our Nationally Ranked Trucking Accident Lawyers Today

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries in a semi truck accident, you may have a right to recover damages for your medical costs and other losses. The truck accident lawyers of Munley Law represent semi truck accident victims throughout the country.

Contact us now for a no-obligation, free legal consultation where we’ll discuss your legal options for obtaining compensation for the losses you have suffered in a trucking accident. We work on a contingency-fee basis meaning you don’t pay until we are successful.

Contact Munley Law for a free consultation by calling toll-free at (855) 866-5529 or email us today.

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