Semi-trucks are a crucial part of our economy and supply chain. Without them, there would be no goods on the store shelves and no fuel at the pump. Almost every industry would draw to a halt.
While there are other ways to haul goods, such as by rail and air, they have a limited reach. Trucking industry services are indispensable as we rely on them to supply most of the goods we consume.
Nonetheless, having semi-trucks on the roads presents a massive danger to other motorists and road users. While 18-wheelers may cause only a small percentage of motor vehicle accidents, they generate catastrophic damage when they do happen.
Hundreds of thousands of truck accidents and injuries happen yearly, resulting in thousands of fatalities. Unfortunately, occupants in other vehicles sustain most injuries and deaths from semi-truck accidents.
This article examines the dangers of semi-trucks and explains why they pose a significant risk for other motorists. It also shows why lawmakers stringently regulate the trucking industry. Finally, if you or your loved one got hurt in a semi-truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence, we will discuss how you can pursue a claim to recover damages.
What Are the Dangers of Semi-Trucks?
While exercising caution can help people avoid some of these risks, sometimes motorists are at the mercy of the tractor-trailers—especially when the other party acts negligently. That said, here are some of the dangers of semi-trucks.
#1. Heavy Loads
Because tractor-trailers haul lots of cargo, they have a heavy and sturdy build. Once loaded, they become even heavier, posing an immense threat to smaller vehicles.
Even passing too close to a truck is risky for passenger vehicles, especially at high speeds. The airflow around a big rig can easily blow a car out of position, leading to accidents.
Rear-end, sideswipe, head-on, or T-bone collisions between semi-trucks and passenger vehicles can be fatal. Usually, loaded trucks weigh 20 to 30 times more than cars. In a high-impact crash, the passenger vehicles absorb all the truck’s weight, resulting in devastating fatalities or permanent disabilities.
Regardless of the accident’s impact, most survivors of serious big-rig crashes suffer severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, and broken bones.
Truck drivers sometimes struggle to maneuver their massive rigs. The braking distance for a big rig is almost twice that of an ordinary passenger car. If the truck driver is not alert, a delayed response to an emergency or miscalculation of distance to a stop sign can be disastrous.
#2. Increased Risk of Rolling Over
Maneuvering an 18-wheeler presents immense challenges due to its large size and weight, increasing the risk of tipping over. Moreover, semi-trucks have a higher center of gravity than passenger vehicles, increasing their risk of rollover accidents. Truck drivers must slow down when making turns and swerves or risk an accident.
Mandatory anti-lock brake systems (ABS) on big rigs help to minimize jackknifing accidents, though they still do happen. These days, semi-trucks are more likely to roll over than jackknife.
Sudden braking, wet or poorly maintained roads, sharp turns, crashing against another vehicle, and improperly loaded cargo can all send a big rig rolling.
#3. High-Speed Collisions
Most states have speed limits between 55 and 85 miles per hour, although some have more conservative restrictions. Driving the speed limit helps control traffic on our highways, which is good until a semi-truck collision occurs.
Maneuvering a semi can be challenging. While an alert passenger vehicle driver can quickly respond to an emergency, a big rig driver moving at high speed probably cannot.
When a high-speed collision with a passenger vehicle occurs, the damage is immense. For instance, an underride, override, T-bone, or head-on collision can kill those in cars. When the victims survive the accident, they may sustain permanent disability or other severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding, or broken limbs.
Due to their massive size, semi-trucks have limited visibility, and drivers have to be extremely alert when driving to avoid crashing with other motorists. You may have spotted bumper stickers on the back of a trailer reading, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” These stickers caution motorists against driving in a truck’s blind spots.
Some of the no-zones include:
- Twenty feet in front of the truck
- Thirty feet behind the truck
- Between the mirror and the semi’s middle on the driver’s side
- In the lane next to the cab on the passenger side
- Next to any part of the truck in the two lanes on the passenger side
While cautious truck drivers may check the side blind spots before maneuvering, motorists cannot always rely on them for their safety. Besides, there are blind spots that the driver may have no way of observing, such as the immediate front and back of the truck.
#5. Wide Turns
Semi-trucks make wide turns, especially when turning to the right. Without careful maneuvering, a big rig cannot turn right from the right lane without hitting the curb or, worse, pedestrians. Since the trailer does not follow the cab’s path, the trucker must drive to the left first to leave enough turning space.
Doing so presents various risks. For instance, if a truck driver is not well-trained, they might be unable to execute smooth turns, increasing the risk of crashing. Possible accidents in these situations include rollover and pedestrian accidents.
#6. Faulty Parts
Trucks have many parts that work together to ensure the functionality and safety of the vehicle. Each part plays a crucial role in making the semi operational, from the engine and electrical systems to the wheels and tires, down to every nut and bolt.
If one part becomes faulty or the manufacturer fits a defective part into the truck, a mechanical malfunction may occur. Accidents could happen if the braking, steering, or engine systems fail while the truck trailer is on the road.
#7. Improper Cargo Handling
If the cargo loading company is negligent when preparing the consignment, numerous mishaps can happen while the semi is hauling the merchandise. Common cargo dispatch errors include overloading, unbalanced load distribution, and improper securement.
Dangers of overloading may include mechanical parts damage, reduced braking power, tire blowout, and maneuvering challenges, resulting in collisions. For instance, a tire blowout may cause the truck to roll over or collide with other motorists. In the same way, if the brakes fail, the big rig may rear-end other vehicles or cause T-bone crashes at an intersection.
Improper cargo securement could also cause the cargo to tip over during transit and crash into other motorists. Many things can go wrong when the trucking company or the cargo loading company fails to exercise caution while loading the trailer.
#8. Driver Negligence
The consequences can be fatal when a truck driver acts negligently while behind the wheel. When a big rig collides with a passenger vehicle, the smaller vehicle’s occupants suffer the most. Examples of truck driver’s negligence can include:
Texting, checking GPS, adjusting music, or simply zoning out due to boredom while driving, is dangerous. When a truck driver takes their attention off the road, disaster can strike in a split second.
For instance, if a big rig’s driver gets distracted while approaching an intersection or stop sign, they may fail to react. As trucks require almost double the distance of a passenger car to stop, failing to apply brakes on time could result in T-bone collision, rear-ends, jackknifes, or rollovers.
Fatigue is a significant cause of big rig accidents. It affects alertness and decision-making, thereby decreasing response time.
Studies show that driving after being awake for 17 to 19 hours slows response time by 50 percent and causes the same impairment as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. As sleep deprivation stretches for longer hours, the performance equals having a BAC of 0.1 percent.
Federal regulations limit truck drivers’ hours of service to guarantee their safety and that of other road users. The driver must alternate between 10 consecutive hours off-duty and a maximum of 11 hours on-duty.
Unfortunately, some truck drivers log more hours than legally allowed, leading to fatigue. The trucking companies also push the drivers to work for longer hours than they should. Long, stressful hours increase the risk of collision with other motorists.
Other negligent behaviors by truck drivers that endanger other motorists include:
- Drunk driving
- Aggressive driving
How to Recover Your Damages After a Semi-Truck Accident
After getting injured in a big rig accident caused by another’s negligence, you may seek damages for your losses.
Some damages you may recover include:
- Medical costs (current and future)
- Lost wages (current and future)
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering damages
- Wrongful death damages (for a deceased loved who died after a tractor-trailer crash)
However, to recover damages, you must file a claim against the negligent or liable party/parties and do so within a set time.
In most cases, truck accidents result in severe injuries, sometimes requiring long-term treatment and care. Where the victim cannot resume the work they used to do before the accident, lost earning capacity or future wage loss computations can also add up the final amount.
For these reasons, truck accident claims are usually high-stakes cases, and insurance companies fight fiercely to avoid the large payouts the claims require. As a result, you may be up against seasoned defense attorneys ready to fight your claim capitalizing on any available loophole to reduce your claim or deny it altogether.
Hiring a semi-truck accident lawyer can help protect your rights. A lawyer can help you prove the negligence of the at-fault parties and negotiate for a fair settlement.
They can also:
- Investigate the accident, including sourcing for the truck’s electronic logging device for information on the driver’s behavior and truck diagnostics
- Gather evidence, including requesting any available surveillance footage
- Interview eyewitness
- Hire expert witnesses
- Research relevant laws and regulations
- Compute damages
- File a claim
- Negotiate a fair settlement with the insurer
- File a lawsuit (if necessary)
These tasks are stressful and time-consuming, especially when you are recovering from an injury. Further, semi-truck accident claims are extraordinarily complex due to the number of parties involved. Hiring a semi-truck accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal field with less stress and more confidence.
Semi-truck accidents are dangerous and almost always result in injury or death. If a semi-truck accident injured you or a loved one, reach out to an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer to discuss your case.