Rollover truck accidents are some of the most serious motor vehicle collisions on American highways. While there are many studies that look at risk factors for long-haul truck drivers, including long hours and driver fatigue, multiple surveys and statistical research studies have identified motor vehicle drivers as the leading cause in 85 percent of crashes. Car and SUV drivers have a high probability of being involved in, or causing, commercial truck collisions.
What do truck drivers wish that the average car or SUV driver understood about sharing the road safely? We share five causes of motor vehicle collisions involving transport trucks, and information about blind spots that every driver should be aware of, to reduce their risk of accidents and injuries. There are no winners in a collision between a car and a transport truck; but, the instances of fatalities in truck accidents are even higher than other types of accidents on American highways.
1. Traveling in the “No Zones"
Most drivers are aware that there are certain blind spots on their own vehicle, where shotting other vehicles in adjacent lanes can be difficult. Multiply the blind spots on a car in terms of distance by at least ten, and that is what it is like operating a commercial transport truck. No matter what the truck driver does, or how many times he or she checks the mirrors or rear cameras, the driver may not be able to see your vehicle.
It is never a good idea to travel in one of the designated “no zones" of a truck. If the truck driver cannot see you, and decides to change lanes, the vehicles will collide with sometimes deadly consequences. It is also not wise to travel behind a transport truck (if you can avoid it) for any period. Commercial truck tires are retreaded to extend use, and those strips of rubber tire you see on the side of a highway have all fallen off of transport trucks. The probability of being hit by a flying piece of tread is higher if you are traveling directly behind the truck.
2. Passing in Front of a Truck
One of the highest risk areas where motor vehicles collide with transport trucks are on entrance ramps. Cars accelerate through the ramp and gain speed, while preparing to merge into traffic. Depending on the number of cars on the highway, motor vehicle drivers may view entering in front of a transport truck to be the best approach; after all, they move more slowly, and tend to keep ample space between themselves and the vehicles ahead of them.
But what few car and SUV drivers realize is that the space is not a measure of courtesy or an invitation for other cars to enter the lane directly in front of the commercial truck. That calculated space is reserved to assist the truck driver by providing valuable, much-needed time and distance to completely stop the truck if the traffic ahead stops. When cars choose to enter or pass in front of a truck, they are entering that “brake zone," and if traffic ahead stops quickly, the commercial truck will not have the time or distance needed to apply the air brakes to stop the vehicle. The scenario is the leading cause of rear-end collisions between cars and trucks.
3. Sudden Braking
The chances of being hit as a car or SUV driver are high if you stop suddenly in front of a commercial truck. If the truck is carrying a heavy cargo load, the driver may or may not be able to stop (given momentum and the weight of the vehicle) in time to avoid a car that has stopped, without warning, directly in front of it. Drivers should be aware of this lag time and the physics of braking for a truck, and should be prepared to transfer to another lane to allow commercial trucks the space they need to stop fully.
4. Distracted Driving
It is difficult to train drivers (particularly younger ones) to understand the special needs that transport trucks have on the highway. Learning to drive safely with commercial trucks on the road requires attention and an awareness of blind spots, the way that the truck moves, braking limitations, and other risk factors. Those observations are significantly impaired when the driver is engaged in distracted driving practices.
What kind of examples of distracted driving do truckers see on the highway every day? Distracted driving is not limited only to smartphone use, but can include taking a picture while driving, eating, looking for an object in a bag, or reaching into the glove compartment. Unlike cars, transport trucks cannot swerve to avoid with the same agility as smaller vehicles; many ‘jack-knife’ accidents happen when a transport driver is attempting to swerve and avoid a collision with a driver who has wandered into another lane.
5. Parking a Disabled Vehicle Incorrectly on the Curb
Commercial trucks are required by law to travel in the right-most lane on the highway, except for situations where they are attempting to pass one or more vehicles. Many automobile drives think that trucks are required to travel in the ‘slow lane’ because it takes them longer to build up speed, and because their vehicles are more prone to slowing down on large hills.
The truth is that the average commercial truck has an engine that ranges from 400hp to almost 700hp, with torque that averages from 1,400 to over 2,000. The powertrain on most standard commercial trucks is both impressive and required, given the towing demands; achieving a high-speed on a highway may take time, but the engines can build that speed. It is stopping quickly, however, that presents a challenge.
In an emergency braking situation (for instance, if there is an unforeseen amount of traffic congestion on the highway and the truck is forced to stop quickly) the driver may utilize the paved curb if more distance is required to stop. Drivers who use the paved shoulder to pull over and use their smartphone or because of a technical problem with their vehicle can be injured if they do not pull completely to the right, off of the highway, and then deploy safety or hazard lights.
Truck drivers are involved in more than 500,000 accidents per year, on average, in the United States. However, professionally trained drivers are not only at fault; much of the accountability lies with other motor vehicle drivers who can help reduce injuries and fatalities by giving trucks extra space on the road and special considerations.