March 24th, 2014
Safety Factors Affecting Motorists in the Presence of Tractor Trailors
Thankfully, we are now through the main construction season on most highways. Unfortunately, some of the construction on our interstates and even some of the secondary and state roads continue throughout the winter. It seems to be a never-ending battle to avoid construction jams and messes along the interstates in Ohio and West Virginia. Pennsylvania seems a little better than the other two states.
In considering the great volume of trucks that travel along Interstates 70, 64 and 79 in this area, I must remind you again as I did in a previous blog
that there are a number of items that you should be aware of.
- First, remember when approaching trucks that they have blind spots that are bigger than the blind spots that we have on our motor vehicles.
- Remember that it takes a loaded tractor trailer substantially more time to brake and bring the truck and trailer under control than it does your passenger automobile.
- Remember when you're passing a tractor trailer to give plenty of warning to the tractor trailer that you will be passing and to do it in a prompt manner so as to lessen the danger of the truck coming into your lane.
- Many tractor trailer operators have been driving more hours than they should and carrying heavier loads than they should.
Many of you may recall that there have been a number of articles written on the effects of lack of sleep on drivers' abilities to safely operate their trucks. Some of the authors of these studies have likened lack of appropriate sleep to a person driving while under the influence of alcohol. Certainly both drivers are impaired to one degree or another and we should be cautious around these tractor trailers.
Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a trucking company must make sure that their driver is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. The drivers of these tractor trailers must have completed Driver's Road Test and been issued a Certificate of Driver's Road Test in accordance with the federal regulations. While the trucking companies are required to provide medical examinations and certificates of physical examination in order for the drivers to operate these trucks, based on my experience handling cases against various trucking companies, I am not at all convinced that these regulations are always abided by.
When speaking of motor carriers and tractor trailers, one of the problems that I find most often with tractor trailer crashes is that the vehicle is not in appropriate working order. There are problems with the steering mechanisms, the tires, and oftentimes and unfortunately, the brakes. While this should not be the case based on the very stringent laws that have been enacted to protect the motoring public, it continues to be an issue.
Every motor carrier requires its driver to report in writing the work completed on each vehicle at the completion of each day's work. The report should cover at least the brakes, steering mechanisms, tires, horn, wipers, wheels, rims, emergency equipment, etc. The report should also require the driver to make sure that he is satisfied that the motor vehicle he is operating is in safe operating condition before he drives the vehicle. It is also incumbent on the driver operating the motor vehicle to make sure that the last driver's vehicle inspection report was reviewed. It is also imperative that the brakes be inspected by qualified and competent brake inspectors on these big tractor trailers.
It is the duty of the motor carrier to ensure that all inspections, maintenance repairs, and servicing the brakes of its commercial vehicles are performed in compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The inspectors have to be capable of performing the brake service or inspections by reason of experience, training, or both. This means that the inspector has to have successfully completed an apprenticeship program sponsored by a state or federal agency or labor union or training program approved by the government.
I can't recall a wreck with which my firm has been involved over the past 40 years that we didn't find that there was some issue with respect to unsafe brakes or driver fatigue. The long and the short of this blog is to make the motoring public aware that in spite of the fact that there are strong federal regulations in place to attempt to protect the public from unsafe tractor trailer rigs and unsafe drivers, drivers and companies still oftentimes violate the regulations and unfortunately put the motoring public at risk.
The purpose of this article simply is to tell those of you who frequent the highways in this area to be extremely cautious because you are not only faced with tractor trailers that may have faulty brakes, steering mechanisms and tired drivers, but you also have changing road patterns due to the incredible amount of construction that seems to go on in the tri-state area. Of course, many of you who live in Ohio, Marshall, Brooke and Hancock counties in West Virginia and Belmont and Jefferson Counties and the surrounding counties in Ohio know that one of the most dangerous areas is the Wheeling tunnel, traveling east or west where the lanes change from two to one without a whole lot of warning. There are a number of times we have had traffic jams and tie-ups inside the tunnel that would back the traffic up causing the tractor trailers that had been traveling in excess of 60 mph to come crashing into the rear of an unsuspecting motorist causing significant injury or death.
Do what you can to try to avoid being near the path of a tractor trailer. That path can become dangerous for some of the reasons mentioned above and do what you can to help protect yourself.