Semi-trucks crowd the nation’s highways and byways, transporting inventory for stores, packages for delivery, and raw materials for manufacturers. Sharing the roads with semi-trucks, especially for highway commuters, seems like just another day at the office. It’s easy to forget the dangers semi-trucks pose to the public.
Here are seven things you need to know about semi-trucks.
1. Semi-trucks account for about 1 percent of registered vehicles in the U.S., but 6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), roughly 3 million semi-trucks operate on the nation’s roads, which is barely more than one percent of all registered vehicles, the vast majority of which are passenger cars. However, those semi-trucks account for a disproportionate share of the total miles traveled by motor vehicles every year across the country. Of the more than three trillion vehicle miles logged annually by motor vehicles of all shapes and sizes, semi-trucks account for 184 billion of them. In other words, semi-trucks put in a lot of work—roughly six times more than your average passenger vehicle.
2. Semi truck drivers spend long stretches behind the wheel.
Federal trucking regulations allow semi-truck drivers to spend up to 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift behind the wheel every day. The rules mandate just one 30 minute break after 8 hours of driving. That adds up to a lot of hours on the road without much rest. Increased time on the road can lead to higher levels of driver fatigue, which increases accident risk. Unfortunately, the average passenger vehicle driver has no way of knowing whether the semi-driver in the next lane has rested recently, which can make it difficult to predict and deal with that heightened crash risk.
3. Semi-trucks have huge blind spots.
The average passenger vehicle has relatively small blind spots: perhaps one large enough to lose track of a motorcycle or small vehicle. Semi-trucks, on the other hand, have massive blind spots on every side of the vehicle. If you stay too close to a semi-truck, the driver may never have any idea of your presence, which can result in serious injuries in an accident when semi-trucks change lanes. Modern semi-truck technology allows for cameras and warning indicators that can help drivers track the presence of other vehicles nearby.
Many truck fleets, however, have not yet upgraded to that technology, which means that most semi-truck drivers must rely only on situational awareness and side mirrors to help them keep track of vehicles near them on the road.
4. Big trucks can weigh up to 80,000 lbs.
The average car, on the other hand, typically weighs less than 4,000 pounds. Small vehicles, rather than SUVs and minivans, may weigh even less. In a collision with a semi-truck, a passenger vehicle may provide its occupants relatively little protection. Victims of semi-truck accidents often suffer serious injuries. The larger overall mass also means that semi-trucks take much longer to get moving, but also considerably longer to slow down and stop.
5. Semi-trucks must receive regular maintenance.
Truck drivers must check over their trucks and sign off on a maintenance report before and after every run. If they identify any potential problems, those problems need to be dealt with before the truck goes out on the road. Failure to take care of appropriate maintenance on the truck can leave the owner, usually the trucking company, liable for any accident caused by that lack of maintenance, such as brake failure, wiper blades that do not clear the windshield enough for the driver to see, or steering problems.
6. Truck drivers—and the companies they drive for—usually carry more liability insurance than the average passenger vehicle driver.
By law, truck drivers must carry a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage. Compare that to the average driver of a passenger vehicle, who will often carry no more than the minimum insurance required by the law of the state where the driver lives, which can be as little as $10,000 in many locations. Big trucks can cause much more substantial injuries and considerably more vehicle damage in an accident than the average passenger vehicle. While insurance cannot turn back the clock on an accident, it can help provide the compensation victims need to manage and rebuild their lives after suffering serious semi-truck accident injuries.
7. Semi truck accident claims get complicated. Victims need the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer.
Semi-truck accidents tend to cause widespread damage and injure multiple parties. Investigating their causes, and untangling the often-complex legal and financial interests that multiple parties may have in a semi-truck and its cargo, requires skill, experience, and attention to detail.
Lots of lawyers handle motor vehicle accident cases. Fewer, however, possess the know-how and resources to represent victims of semi-truck accidents. The lawyer semi-truck accident victims need is one who understands the economic and regulatory aspects of the trucking industry, who can act quickly to obtain and preserve critical evidence like a semi truck’s onboard electronic data logs, and who knows how to protect victims’ rights no matter what twists and turns a case takes.
Oftentimes, the parties facing potentially large liabilities for a truck accident will point fingers at each other, or even at the victims, to escape their financial obligations. Others may seek refuge from semi-truck accident damages by filing for bankruptcy. A skilled semi-truck accident lawyer can make sure that victims get their due and see justice done, even if liable parties undertake these maneuvers.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a semi-truck accident, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation from the parties at fault. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney to learn more about your rights and options.