One of the major dangers in the trucking industry is the threat of adverse weather. Trucking is a 24-hour a-day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year job. As a result of this, every truck driver encounters unfavorable and also potentially hazardous and dangerous weather conditions as part of their job. Snow, sleet, rain, ice, hail, wind, and fog are among the most common weather scenarios faced by over-the-road truckers. When a truck accident occurs during bad weather, one of the first factors that must be investigated is whether the weather conditions at the time of the crash contributed to the cause of the accident.
According to the National Motor Carrier Safety Administration, nearly 28% of truck accidents occurred in conditions other than clear weather. More than 30,000 injuries and approximately 1,500 fatalities resulted from these bad weather truck accidents. In many cases, the victims were occupants of the other vehicle involved. These victims may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time when the truck accident happened. A national truck crash attorney may be able to help.
The following weather conditions are most often associated with truck accidents.
Windy conditions can wreak havoc on a commercial motor vehicle. In some cases, dangerous crosswinds can lead to a treacherous driving situation. Truckers driving through crosswinds must take special care to ensure that their truck and load are stable. Any instability can quickly become exaggerated in high wind conditions, leading to a potentially catastrophic and deadly rollover or cargo shift crash.
In addition, windy conditions can blow dirt, debris, or snow onto the roadway. Not only does this create a hazardous driving surface, but it can also impact the driver’s visibility suddenly and without warning.
Rainy conditions are present in about 10% of nationwide trucking accidents. Rain can pose many possible hazards for a commercial truck driver. Heavy rain creates flooding conditions and can reduce the traction of large truck tires on the road. If a truck’s tires are already worn or losing traction, a wet roadway can exacerbate the problem. A lack of traction may result in the driver losing control, which places the truck driver and all other motorists at severe risk of a major accident.
Foggy conditions reduce visibility for truck drivers and every other driver. Fog is a major issue in certain parts of the country, including the west coast in areas such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and other locations along the Pacific Coast. On the other side of the map, foggy conditions may exist in mountainous regions and also in the northeastern part of the country.
Truck drivers are likely to encounter dangerous fog in the early morning hours. It is easy to overestimate one’s ability to drive in foggy conditions. Because commercial truck drivers need a longer distance to stop their vehicles, the lack of visibility can play a major role in foggy crashes. A trucker may simply not see a car stopped or slowed in front of them until it is too late.
Snowy conditions occur in a large area of the United States in the winter months. Heavy snows in the Midwest and northern areas of the United States routinely leave impassable road conditions for all drivers, including truckers. Even in the southern parts of the country, snow can wreak havoc on a truck driver. In this area, crews may not have sufficient snow removal equipment to make roads safe, even with a relatively small snowfall.
Snowstorms can come up quickly. What may start as light flurries can quickly turn into heavy snow, ice, or a wintry mix can quickly turn into slippery, icy road conditions. These conditions create slick roadways that affect traction, stopping, starting, and turning. With a commercial motor vehicle weighing about 13 tons, these driving maneuvers must always be executed with the highest level of precision.
When the threat of bad weather is present, truck drivers should take certain precautions in order to help them avoid a serious accident.
First, drivers should always check the potential weather conditions along their daily routes. They should be prepared for the forecasted weather. Also, weather can change drastically, especially in certain seasons and in different areas of the country. Drivers must be aware of this fact and should be ready to stop driving in conditions that become too dangerous.
Another preventative step that can be taken is to ensure proper truck inspections and maintenance. Federal regulations require inspections and maintenance at certain intervals. Prior to embarking on their trip, drivers should inspect their trucks for any obvious safety or equipment deficiencies. In the event that the truck is in an unsafe condition, it should not be driven.
In 1978, Congress passed the Surface Transportation Act (STA). The STA is now codified into federal law at 49 C.F.R. 392.14. The STA provides, among other things, that a commercial truck driver should take caution when operating in hazardous conditions, such as:
If conditions become too poor, the trucker must cease driving until the conditions are improved. Under the STA, employers, and trucking companies are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against drivers who take proper action under the STA. Drivers who are fired or disciplined for refusing to drive in dangerous weather may have a legal claim against their employer.
If you were involved in a serious truck accident, there is a chance that poor weather contributed to the crash. A bad weather truck accident must be carefully examined to determine if the trucker was driving improperly under the weather conditions or whether they should have been driving at all.
Here at Burg Simpson, our team of national truck accident attorneys can help in the event of a weather-related truck accident. We have recovered more than 2 billion dollars in compensation for injured victims.
Our consultations are free for all potential and prospective clients. To speak with one of our lawyers, please contact us via our online intake form or give us a call at (866) 695-1236.