Accidents involving commercial vehicles are far too common, particularly ones involving large trucks and buses. These types of accidents are extremely dangerous and often result in fatalities.
This guide will help you understand why commercial vehicle accidents are so dangerous and common. Additionally, by learning some tips for driving defensively around commercial vehicles, you can reduce the likelihood that you will be involved in this kind of accident.
Why Are Commercial Vehicle Accidents So Dangerous?
Although large trucks make up only about 4% of the vehicles on the road, they are involved in 12% of all fatal vehicle accidents in the United States. California in particular has one of the highest rates of fatal trucking accidents in the country. In 2020, there were 3,558 fatal crashes in California. This was many times higher than almost every other state, with only Texas being comparable.
Why Are Commercial Vehicle Accidents So Common?
To start, while large trucks are only 4% of the vehicles on the road, they make up around 9% of the total miles traveled. That partially explains their involvement in a disproportionately large number of crashes, but there are other factors as well.
Since trucks spend so much time on the road, there is more wear and tear on parts, and they are more likely to encounter unsafe roads and weather conditions. The drivers of these trucks often work long hours, and driver fatigue also contributes to many accidents. In addition, many other drivers don’t know how to pass and merge around trucks, often creating dangerous situations.
Why Are Truck Accidents More Dangerous?
The size and weight of large commercial vehicles mean that any accident is considerably more dangerous than it would be with a smaller vehicle. The weight causes a more forceful impact and much greater damage.
In addition, large vehicles are significantly less maneuverable, and it is much more difficult for the driver to avoid or lessen the severity of an accident with defensive driving techniques.
What Is A Commercial Vehicle?
Commercial vehicles are broadly defined in California. They include any vehicle that is used to transport people for hire or profit, and any vehicle primarily intended for the transportation of property. Semi-trucks are one of the most obvious examples, but there are many other types, including Uber cars, moving trucks, and garbage trucks.
Commercial Vehicle Classification
Commercial vehicles are categorized based on the weight and size of the vehicle. The larger the vehicle, the more regulations, and rules there are regarding licensing and operation. For example, larger commercial trucks are required to stop at all weight and inspection stations they come across on their route. They are also required to follow specific hours of service laws.
Commercial Vehicle Licensing
To operate a commercial vehicle in California, a driver must be at least 18 years old and must have a commercial vehicle license or CDL.
Three different levels of CDLs are required based on the size of the vehicle. The highest class of license is required for larger vehicles, as well as for any vehicle that carries hazardous materials or sixteen or more passengers.
Are Non-Registered Vehicles Also Commercial Vehicles?
Vehicles such as forklifts, rented Segways, ATVs, and bicycle-drawn trolley cars might appear to fit the definition of commercial vehicle, but they are not considered commercial vehicles under California law. Commercial vehicles are limited to vehicles that are required to be registered as street-legal.
Standards for Commercial Vehicle Drivers
Both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the California Highway Patrol require that commercial vehicle drivers be held to specific safety and operating standards. The standards include mandatory driving record investigations by employers, annual inquiry and review of driving records and traffic law violations by employers, and regular medical examinations of drivers.
These higher standards for commercial vehicle drivers are necessary because of the skill and attention required to drive these vehicles, and because of the increased danger, these large vehicles pose to other drivers on the road.
5 Tips for Driving Defensively Around Commercial Vehicles
Any accident involving a large commercial vehicle is likely to be very serious, and you must take extra safety precautions when driving near a semi-truck and other similar vehicles. Although the driver of a commercial vehicle is responsible for driving their vehicle safely, you are also responsible for driving safely and defensively while near them.
By following some simple safety tips, you can lessen the chance of a serious accident with a commercial truck.
1. Don’t Cut Off a Commercial Vehicle
Large trucks are much heavier than typical passenger vehicles. The increase in weight means that it takes trucks much longer to slow and stop. If you merge into a lane directly in front of a commercial vehicle (or are simply driving with a commercial vehicle close behind you) and are forced to brake suddenly, the commercial vehicle will slow down much more slowly than your car and is very likely to rear-end you.
2. Don’t Tailgate a Commercial Vehicle
There are several reasons why driving too closely behind a commercial vehicle is a bad idea. For one, debris can fall off a commercial vehicle and hit your windshield. But, more importantly, if you were to rear-end a large vehicle, the impact to your car is likely to be at the level of your windshield rather than your bumper, making the crash far more likely to be fatal.
3. Pass Commercial Vehicles Quickly
Commercial vehicles have multiple blind spots, behind and on the sides. It’s safest for you to simply pass a commercial vehicle quickly and not linger in a potential blind spot.
4. Give Commercial Vehicles Room to Turn
Large vehicles cannot turn in the same tight arc that most passenger cars can. They are often forced to use multiple lanes to execute a turn. To be safe, you should leave extra room around a commercial vehicle at an intersection, as well as near the lane it will be turning into.
5. Watch Out for Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts are very common for 18-wheelers. The heavy rubber that flies off the truck’s tire can strike your car, and the truck may swerve during a blowout. You should always keep a close eye on a commercial vehicle, give them extra space, and be prepared to react in case of a blowout.
What to Do Immediately After an Accident with a Commercial Vehicle
The procedure after a commercial vehicle accident is the same as any other car crash, except that you should obtain some additional information.
If you are injured, you should of course focus on getting treatment if necessary. If you are healthy enough, try to obtain the driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information, just as you would after any other accident. Additionally, try to get the name of the trucking company or their employer as well. Other than that, do not discuss the accident with the driver.
Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones Against A Commercial Vehicle Accident
By learning about commercial vehicles and commercial trucks and how to drive defensively around them, you can lessen the chance of a serious commercial vehicle or semi-truck accident. But if the worst should happen, don’t wait to contact or call the experienced attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot at (800) 310-1606. We can help guide your next steps with no money out of pocket and a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.