Tractor-trailer trucks are ubiquitous on American highways, and often, because of their size, their drivers might act as though they “own” the road. All of us have seen speeding trucks barreling down highways or turnpikes, and because of their size, it is much more difficult for these large trucks to slow down for vehicles traveling more slowly in front of them. Because they often travel too closely behind the vehicle in front, they find themselves swerving into adjacent lanes to avoid a rear-end collision.
Because they have blind spots that are located around the front, back, and sides of the truck, they often turn into cars in the adjacent lane, causing critical injuries and fatalities to the occupants of the cars in the adjacent lane. They may often cause “pile-ups,” in which multiple cars collide or are forced off the road, sometimes resulting in rollovers, ejection of occupants from the vehicle, and even paralysis, if not death.
Because trucks can require up to 40 percent more space than a car in order to turn, they may crush a car between the truck and the curb, causing serious injury to the occupants of the car or SUV. These trucks can weigh more than 80,000 lbs., and the results of a collision between a semi-trailer truck and a passenger vehicle can be devastating.
Often truck drivers will drive for long periods without sleeping, which is against federal law. These fatigued drivers may doze off to sleep, or may be so tired that the net effect is like driving under the influence. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs the time drivers can operate a truck without stopping to rest.
Using a cell phone will driving is often responsible for unexpected swerves or failure to slow adequately to avoid the vehicle in front, and the consequences of cell phone use while driving large trucks is often death or critical injury for other occupants of the road.
Because truck drivers know that drivers of smaller vehicles are aware of the dire consequences of a collision with a truck, they realize that drivers of smaller vehicles will do almost anything to avoid a collision. Some truck drivers drive extremely aggressively, a fact of driving on American highways that we have all probably experienced more than one time.
Driving 50,000 pounds at 70 miles per hour gives a truck twice the momentum as the same truck driving 50 miles per hour. In bad weather, when road conditions are hazardous, the difficulty of slowing a large truck driving at any speed can be nearly impossible.
Trucks, like all commercial vehicles, have strict maintenance and safety standards, which may not be observed. The failure to install mirrors in blind spots is a major safety problem. Violations occur when drivers fail to inspect their tires, brakes, and lights.
Although all truck drivers are in no way irresponsible, there are often drug and alcohol associated accidents caused by drivers of large trucks under the influence of some chemical substance. Very often, drivers involved in accidents have been found, among other things, to have amphetamines in their system. If amphetamine abuse becomes habitual, the side effects include a “crash” when the drug wears off, and long-term use can lead to paranoia. None of this makes for safety on the roadway. In fact, when drug screenings were performed on 168 fatally injured truck drivers, one or more drugs were detected in 67% of these drivers. Truck drivers are not allowed to drive without a commercial license, and any driver operating a commercial vehicle cannot report for duty with an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or greater. Furthermore, possession of alcohol is not allowed while driving, including cough or cold preparations, unless they are part of a shipment.
If you or a family member has been involved in a collision involving a semi-trailer tractor truck, you should contact a personal injury attorney to investigate your claim.