Operating vehicles that can weigh over 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, 18-wheelers, also known as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers, are an imposing sight on US highways. While critical for transporting goods across the country, these big rigs also introduce risks for other motorists when truck drivers behave carelessly or irresponsibly. By understanding some of the common hazards posed by 18-wheelers, drivers can be better prepared to safely share the road with these giants of freight.
1. Blind Spots Limit Visibility
One of the most treacherous things about driving near a semi-truck is their expansive blind spots. With long trailers that can stretch 70 feet or more behind the cab, truck drivers cannot see what is alongside or behind much of their vehicle. Cars that linger in these blind spots are at high risk for sideswipes or rear collisions if the truck changes lanes or stops suddenly. Being aware of 18-wheeler’s sight limitations can clue drivers into the danger zones to avoid.
2. Stopping Distance Magnifies Braking Hazards
Given their massive weight, 18-wheelers take far longer to slow down and stop than standard passenger vehicles. Even under ideal conditions, a fully loaded tractor-trailer requires the length of about two football fields to come to a complete stop when braking at highway speeds. With wet or icy roads, their total stopping distance can be longer than many highways on-ramps. By not cutting in front of trucks abruptly or braking hard, motorists can minimize crashes.
3. Driver Fatigue Threatens Alertness
To meet delivery windows, 18-wheeler operators often drive long shifts with limited breaks. Trucking companies may even incentivize drivers to push beyond legal hourly limits. Drowsy, distracted driving dramatically increases accident risk, however, as fatigue degrades response times. Drivers should recognize signs of impaired trucker alertness, like drifting, slow reactions, or odd maneuvers, and keep their distance to avoid potential catastrophe.
4. Dangerous Cargo Risks Exposure
Though certainly vital products, some cargo transported by semi-trucks would be hazardous for nearby cars in an accident. Tankers full of volatile chemicals, combustible fuels, or toxic waste could leak, spill, or even explode with severe force in a crash. While pros transport dangerous goods with care, being near an 18-wheeler with hazmat placards gives motorists more reason for caution in close quarters.
5. Challenging Maneuvers Create Collisions
Given their size, 18-wheelers require extra time and space to change directions or lanes. But car drivers often misjudge the necessary room semi-trucks need to operate safely. Attempting turns from tight lanes or poorly timed passing while a trucker downshifts or merges leads to sideswipes and overrides. Allowing semi-trucks extra space relieves the pressure for difficult maneuvers.
6. Equipment Failures Cause Loss of Control
To support heavy payloads across thousands of miles of driving, 18-wheelers rely on specialized equipment from reinforced chassis to powerful diesel engines. But brake defects, ruptured tires, cargo shifts, or critical engine failures turn these vital components into agents of calamity. Such mechanical issues may rapidly trigger extensive damage or devastating rollovers, especially at highway speeds. While truckers aim to prevent breakdowns through diligent maintenance, giving ample buffer room around semis allows motorists to evade disasters if they do occur.
In closing, sharing busy American roads with 18-wheelers inevitably introduces hazards stemming from their hulking presence. But by respecting the operating constraints of these trucks and allowing them sufficient space, drivers can mitigate risks for all.
However, unfortunately, while this may be true, big rig accidents will still occur on our roads. If you’ve been involved in a big rig accident, speak to our team of lawyers at Pencheff & Fraley. You can visit us at:
- Westerville – 4151 Executive Pkwy, Suite 355, Westerville, OH 43081
- Mansfield – 33 S. Lexington-Springmill Rd, Mansfield, OH 44906
Or alternatively, call now for a free consultation on (614) 224-4114.