Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on December 20th, 2019,
by Zane Cagle

Five Common Trucks on the Road and Three Ways They Cause Serious Injuries

Posted on December 20th, 2019 by Zane Cagle

Think about the last time you were on the road. Did you pass a large truck? Chances are you came across several trucks on your way to your destination. According to the American Trucking Association, there were 36 million trucks registered and used for business purposes throughout the country. Given the increasing demands for products, these numbers have likely increased. Trucks are responsible for a wide array of activities. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident contact the truck accident attorneys at the Cagle Law Firm to discuss your case.

Just one look at your day can tell you how much we, as consumers, rely on trucks. The gas in your car was delivered by a tanker truck. The banana you ate for breakfast likely made its way to the store on a semi, and the computer that you’re typing on was probably hand-delivered by a UPS worker driving a box truck.

To illustrate how much we depend on trucks, consider this: experts predict that most grocery stores would begin to run out of food within just three days if they did not receive regular truck deliveries. There’s no doubt that trucks are important to the economy, but on the road, they present a serious risk. In 2017 there were 927 traffic fatalities in Missouri. Of these, 111 were the result of an accident with a large truck. Nationwide, the trucking industry has seen a rise in the number of traffic fatalities involving trucks over the past few years. If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a truck, you may be eligible for financial compensation.

Common Trucks on the Road

Trucks come in all shapes and sizes and serve different purposes. But what separates one truck from another? Is it its function? The number of wheels? The requirements needed to drive said truck? The answer is all of the above. When you understand the different types of trucks on the road, you can gain a greater appreciation for their primary purpose and where you are likely to find them and how they contribute to different types of truck accidents. Ultimately, this information may help prevent an accident. Common trucks you may see on the road include:

1. Semi-Trucks

When you think of a truck, the first thing that comes to mind is likely a large semi-truck. Semi-trucks go by a variety of names—semi, tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler—which all refer to the same type of truck. Semi-trucks traditionally transport dry goods from one location to another. A semi-truck is made up of two parts: the semi-tractor and the trailer. The tractor holds the engine and the cab, whereas the trailer stores and transports the cargo. The trailer attaches to the tractor via a hitch or mounting mechanism.

Most semi-truck trailers are 53 feet long (not including the cab) and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Understandably, truck drivers have a difficult time seeing past their long trailers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calls the large blind spots around the trailer no-zones. When driving around semi-trucks, give the truck space and avoid driving in the no-zones.

2. Flatbed Trucks

Flatbed trucks usually transport items that are too large to fit in a tractor-trailer. However, it is not uncommon to see an empty flatbed on the road. As the name suggests, a flatbed truck has no walls or roof on the bed. Drivers secure their loads using chains, brackets, and other specialized equipment. When the load is not properly secured, accidents can happen.

In one case, a 44-year-old woman was driving a flatbed truck carrying a 34,000-pound piece of aluminum. The aluminum came loose and hit the back of the truck as it began to fall. The object hit the rear of the truck, causing the entire truck to flip over on the Poplar Street Bridge. The driver and her two sons were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Sadly, a five-year-old girl who was asleep in the truck’s cab at the time of the accident was ejected from the truck and died at the hospital.

3. Tanker Trucks

When you look at a tanker truck driving down the road, you probably think of it like any other truck. Besides the round shape of the trailer, they essentially look the same as a semi-truck. Tanker trucks transport liquid. This liquid is held in a large tank housed behind the truck’s cab. So what separates a tanker truck from a semi-truck besides its shape? To drive a tanker truck, a driver must have a tanker CDL endorsement. There are a few reasons for this. Liquids react differently than dry material when in motion, and as such, the driver must take special precautions when driving a tanker truck.

Additionally, these trucks are often used to transport hazardous materials like gas or chemicals, making them extremely dangerous in the event of an accident. This video shows the scene of an accident after an erratic driver hit a tanker truck carrying fuel on a Kansas City Highway. Miraculously, no one was hurt in the collision but the resulting fire burned for several hours, shutting down the freeway.

4. Box Trucks

If you’ve ever moved from one home to another, you’ve likely driven or been a passenger in a box truck. Box trucks typically consist of a separate cabin and enclosed trailer. At first glance, a semi-truck and a box truck look similar, but their designs are completely different. A semi-truck hauls the trailer and is connected by a hitch. With box trucks, the trailer is mounted permanently to the cab.

The other difference between a box truck and a semi is who drives them. A driver must hold a CDL (commercial driver’s license) if they intend to drive a large truck or commercial vehicle. However, in most cases, anyone with a regular driver’s license can drive a box truck.

This is particularly scary when you think about how big some moving trucks can be. When you rent a moving truck, there is no extra training, no special license. Knowing this, it’s important to take extra precautions around box trucks.

5. Fire Trucks

We don’t often think of fire trucks in the same category as big rig commercial trucks, but they are still trucks. Fire trucks are emergency responders that need to quickly transition from driving in normal traffic to rushing to the scene of an emergency. To make this happen, fire trucks may need to drive through red lights or move quickly into adjacent lanes, sometimes entering the opposite lane of travel. Always pull over for an approaching emergency vehicle and use caution if you are approaching an intersection and hear sirens.

How Accidents Happen

Truck accidents tend to capture the headlines whenever they happen because of the sheer devastation they can cause. Driving a truck takes skill. But even with the most qualified drivers, accidents can still happen. Why? A lot of it comes down to the truck’s design.

1. Blind Spots

We alluded to blind spots earlier, but let’s take a closer look. All vehicles have blind spots. These are areas in which the driver cannot see around their vehicle, even with the assistance of mirrors. The next time you get in your car, look around. Now imagine a small child running around your car. Is there any area where you would not be able to see them? Even in a convertible with the top down, if a small child is immediately in front of the car, the front of the car will hide the child from the driver’s view.

Now think of a large truck. Imagine how hard it would be to see past a large engine and a 53-foot trailer. According to the FMCSA, the average semi has blind spots on all four sides of the truck. In the front, the no-zone extends 20 feet directly in front of the cab. In the back, the no-zone extends 30 feet. On the left side of the truck, the blind spot starts from the driver’s side mirror and extends almost to the back of the trailer. But the biggest blind spot is on the passenger side. This blindspot starts from the front of the cab and stretches past the back of the trailer and out across the two lanes directly adjacent to the truck. You can pass through a truck’s blind spots, but you should never stay long.

2. Braking

In the event of an accident, you rely on your brakes to bring your vehicle to a stop. It takes 133 feet for the average passenger vehicle driving at 55 miles per hour to come to a complete stop. At the same speed, it takes a fully loaded semi 196 feet. Both these numbers are assuming perfect weather road and weather conditions. Ice, rain, and snow can all increase stopping distance.

But it’s more than how long it takes a truck to stop, you also need to look at what happens when they stop. Trucks are not meant to stop on a dime. When a driver suddenly slams on their brakes they run the risk of jackknifing their vehicle. When this happens, the trailer swings and forms a 90º angle with the truck’s cab. This is very dangerous for nearby vehicles and can cause the truck to roll over. To prevent jackknife accidents, never cut in front of a large truck and avoid slamming on your brakes when a truck is behind you.

3. Underride Accidents

Large trucks, of course, sit higher off the ground than passenger vehicles. In most cases, the bottom of a semi-truck’s trailer is higher than the hood of the average passenger vehicle. As you can imagine, this poses a serious threat to passenger vehicles. When a car or small truck collides with the trailer of a semi-truck it may become pinned under the trailer. The impact can be so severe that the trailer rips off the top of the driver’s vehicle. These accidents are very dangerous and almost always lead to fatalities.

Currently, the law requires most trucks to install rear underride guards to prevent cars from becoming pinned under the rear of the trailer. However, efforts to require similar guards on the sides of trucks have failed to make any substantial progress. According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 301 people died in one year as the result of side-impact collisions with a semi-truck.

Pursuing Compensation in the Event of an Accident

When it comes to accidents, truck accidents are often amongst the worst. A collision with a large truck can lead to serious, long-term injuries that may never fully heal. You should not have to cover the cost of these injuries on your own. A personal injury attorney can help you file a claim to recover the costs associated with your injury. While money won’t take away your pain, it can help you pay for medical care and allow you to feel comfortable taking time off work while you recover. Common costs in a personal injury claim include:

  • Medical bills, including medical transport, medication, doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, and other medical treatment.
  • Lost wages for any time missed from work as a result of the accident and related injuries.
  • Future wages/ lost earning capacity, in the event you are unable to return to work.
  • Medical equipment, including wheelchairs, crutches, braces, beds, TENS units, and any other equipment your care provider deems medically necessary.
  • Pain and suffering, including present, future, and chronic pain.
  • Mental distress, including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  • Loss of enjoyment, when you can no longer enjoy the same activities you did before the accident, either because of a physical injury or emotional trauma.
  • Wrongful death, including costs associated with a burial and funeral, as well as outstanding medical bills.

You’re Not Alone

It can be hard to focus on your recovery in the face of enormous medical debt and haggling with an insurance carrier. After an accident, the last thing you should be worried about is negotiating with an auto insurance carrier. A truck accident lawyer can help connect you with qualified medical professionals and arrange for payment after your case concludes. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, your rights matter. If you have questions or need help filing a personal injury claim, contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible.