Bad Weather or Negligence? How Weather Affects Truck Safety

commercial-trucks-and-bad-weatherThere is no doubt that truck drivers have difficult jobs. In addition to driving massive rigs in all types of traffic across the country, they also have to deal with deadlines, bad weather, and impatient bosses. As a result, truckers are constantly at risk for an accident. Fatigue and tight schedules may cause them to ignore potential hazards, such as bad weather, in order to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Poor Weather Conditions Can Affect Even the Best Drivers

Interstate truckers see all kinds of weather as they crisscross the country each week. The most common weather conditions that can negatively impact a driver include:

  • Rain. Heavy rain can decrease visibility as well as cause flooding and an increased chance for hydroplaning.
  • Fog. Thick fog can drastically decrease visibility down to a field of vision less than five feet.
  • High winds. Strong and fast winds are particularly dangerous for trucks due to the size of their trailers. Since trailer compartments are not aerodynamic, strong winds can jostle, tip, and push them to a point where the entire truck could jackknife or roll over if the driver doesn’t compensate.
  • Snow/ice. Although snow and ice are not common problems for Tennessee drivers, if the temperature drops and snow begins to fall, it can make roads very slippery. Since trucks have a much longer stopping distance than regular vehicles, even the smallest slide could cause a trucker to lose control if he isn’t paying attention to driving conditions.

Although all of these conditions can make driving more dangerous for a trucker, it is ultimately the driver’s responsibility to respond to the conditions and adjust his driving behaviors in the interest of safety.

Bad Weather Regulations for Truckers

In fact, commercial truckers aren’t only expected to drive as conditions warrant, they’re subject to specific federal mandates that require them to do so in hazardous conditions that affect visibility, traction, and vehicle control. Section 392.14 of the U.S. Code of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), states the following when it comes to truckers driving in hazardous weather conditions :

  • Drivers must use sound judgment and drive defensively. No matter how confident a driver may be in his abilities to drive in bad weather, he must still exert extreme caution around other vehicles, whose drivers may not be as skilled. If the weather becomes too dangerous (again, using sound judgment), drivers must pull off and wait for the hazardous weather to pass.
  • Drivers must reduce their speed. No matter the potential hazard, if the weather has affected road traction or visibility in any way, drivers must decrease their speed to prevent jackknives and hydroplaning.
  • Drivers must use their lights. When visibility is even slightly compromised, truckers must use their lights to emphasize their location to other drivers.
  • Drivers must be prepared to stop at a moment’s notice. Since trucks have a longer stopping distance than smaller vehicles, drivers must be able to apply their brakes as controlled and as quickly as possible during an emergency. If a trucker isn’t paying attention and applies the brakes too late, he runs the risk of rear-ending a vehicle in front of him.

When a truck driver ignores these rules and causes an accident, an experienced attorney can help you establish his legal liability for any injuries sustained in the accident—no matter how poor the weather conditions were.

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