When you get into a car and start to drive down the road, you have what some attorneys refer to as a duty of care. This is a fancy way of saying that you should feel responsible for acting in a way that keeps the roads safe for everyone. Sometimes this means making your best effort to avoid an accident, other times it means following all of the traffic rules or stopping to help a stranded motorist. One of the ways that a semi truck accident is different from an auto accidents is that the courts tend to hold professional drivers to a higher standard than the rest of us.
In addition to acting responsibly, courts expect professional driving companies to follow a series of regulations which often apply to more than just the driver of a semi-truck.
That’s because like auto accidents, semi truck accidents are generally caused by three different things. A truck’s equipment could fail, the driver could make a mistake, or the road could be unsafe to travel on.
The average personal car built today weighs about 4,000 pounds, the average car built in 1987, weighed around 3,000. Trucks are big machines. Some trucks weigh in at over 80,000 pounds. That’s why errors in balancing the load a truck carries can cause fatal accidents.
In addition to the importance of proper loading, complicated systems like air brakes can fail in transit. Some routine procedures (like depowering the front brakes during a repair) can cause problems if the vehicle is not in road-worthy shape before it is operated.
Equipment failures like these examples, can lead to jack-knifing or rollover accidents. A failure of the braking system can mean that 80,000+ pounds of truck slam into the back of 4,000 pounds of sedan.
When the roads don’t seem safe, most ‘civilian’ drivers, just stay home. Professional drivers are often expected to perform their job when the company they work asks. This means that many semi-truck drivers are on the roads in conditions a regular driver may find terrifying. Because of their sacrifices, we can enjoy a wide variety of goods and services in our towns and cities–even in the midst of a blizzard like the one we had a few days ago. Those sacrifices come at a cost.
Many semi truck accidents are caused by driving in unsafe conditions. When a road is slick, the time it takes to stop a truck can increase. The air brakes the truck uses produce a tremendous amount of heat under normal operating conditions, this additional strain can increase the likelihood of equipment failure.
Operating a complex machine like a semi truck requires a driver maintain a high level of attention. That’s one of the reasons why commercial trucking regulations set limits on the number of hours that drivers can drive and why many semi truck drivers are required to keep paper logbooks. (While the requirements to keep logs haven’t changed, some companies are working on advanced tracking systems that may one day eliminate the need for paper records.)
But driver error in semi truck accidents, isn’t limited to the driver of a semi truck. Some people just never learned how to share the road. Racing in front of a semi truck to change lanes is a bad idea. Driving recklessly in a trucker’s blind spot is also a mistake. Many drivers assume that because a truck is larger, the truck driver has a more maneuverable vehicle. This is assumption is wrong.
By learning how to share the roadway, you’ll dramatically reduce your likelihood of being involved in a semi truck accident.
If you are involved in a semi truck accident, as soon as you’ve made sure that you and your passengers are safe, call the police. Truck accidents can have a major impact on traffic. You’ll want to make sure an officer files a police report and surveys the scene.
While you’re waiting for the officer to arrive, take a moment to collect the names of any nearby witnesses. Look around for security cameras that may have captured footage of the accident. Take photographs and write down everything you hear and see. That way, when you begin your search for a truck accident lawyer to help file your semi truck accident lawsuit, the attorney you select will have no troubles getting started right away.