Commercial trucks are everywhere. You see them on the highway, at the grocery store, and even making deliveries to your home. As consumers, we rely on commercial trucks, a lot. When we get on the road, we tend to take these trucks for granted. For some people, there may be a ping of anxiety as they pass by a large truck, but for the most part, we look at these trucks like any other vehicle on the road. That is, until tragedy strikes.
About 450,000 police-reported accidents involved large trucks in one recent year. In these accidents, 107,000 caused injuries and 4,237 caused fatalities. In one Illinois crash, a trailer tractor slammed into the back of an SUV. The crash involved four vehicles and killed three people. The accident occurred when the driver of the truck failed to stop in time for stopped traffic.
Because of their size, accidents involving large trucks are often deadly. As drivers, it’s important to understand how and why these accidents happen. If you have been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact a Chicago truck accident attorney to learn about your rights.
Types of Trucks on the Road
It’s easy to take for granted how much we rely on commercial trucks. That package you received in the mail—delivered by a truck. Your weekly garbage pickup—another truck. Even the gas that we put in our cars makes it to the gas station via trucks. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common trucks on the road.
Semi-trucks are the large tractor-trailers you see driving down the freeway every day. In 2016 there were approximately 2.8 million registered semi-trucks in the United States. A semi-truck consists of a cab and one or more trailers. These trucks are often called 18-wheelers, referring to the number of wheels between the cab and the trailer. The trailer does not have front wheels and therefore must attach to a cab to move.
A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. That’s approximately 20 times the size of a passenger vehicle. Their sheer size alone makes any collision with a semi-truck a serious accident.
A dump truck consists of the cab and an open-top trailer. The trailer sits on a hydraulic lift that can move up and down to easily load and unload the contents of the truck out of the vehicle. These trucks are often used to transport farm and landscape materials such as gravel, dirt, and bark. Accidents can occur when the lift malfunctions, the driver fails to check their blind spots, or when the load is filled too high, creating a hazard for nearby drivers.
As the name implies, flatbed trucks have a long, flat bed attached to the cab. These trucks generally hold larger items that do not need protection from the elements. These types of vehicles often carry very large items such as heavy machinery, lumber, and other building supplies.
A box truck is smaller than a semi-truck. Like a semi, the cab is generally separate from the trailer. However, these trucks only have four wheels instead of eighteen. The most common example of box trucks are moving trucks, such as those rented by U-Haul or Ryder. There is one major difference between a box truck and other commercial trucks. As long as the truck has a gross weight of less than 26,000 pounds, you don’t need a commercial driver’s license to drive one.
A tanker truck is designed to carry liquid loads. Most often, these loads contain gas or other hazardous materials. However, they may transport other liquids such as milk, water, or even wine. Trucks carrying hazardous materials such as gas are especially dangerous in accidents. A serious collision can cause an explosion.
The Accidents These Trucks Cause
There are a variety of factors that contribute to commercial truck accidents. Mechanical issues, driver error, and passenger vehicle drivers are among the top reasons for large truck accidents. Accidents involving commercial trucks can easily lead to serious injuries. The most common types of accidents include:
- Jackknife accidents: A jackknife accident happens when the cab of the truck stops before the trailer. This is often the result of a driver stopping too fast. When this happens, the trailer swings and forms a 90º angle with the cab.
- T-bone accidents: T-bone accidents happen when one the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. Because the side of a passenger vehicle does not have as much protection as the rest of the vehicle, t-bone accidents often result in catastrophic injuries.
- Underride accidents: Large trucks sit higher than passenger vehicles. This makes it easy for some vehicles to slide under the truck’s trailer in the event of a collision. Underride accidents happen when the passenger vehicle becomes pinned and dragged under the truck. Rearguards are designed to prevent a car from moving under the truck. However, federal law currently does not require guards on the side of large trucks, making t-bone accidents involving large trucks very dangerous.
- Rear-end accidents: A rear-end accident occurs when the front end of a vehicle hits the back end of another vehicle. When a commercial truck hits a smaller vehicle, the force of the collision can push the smaller vehicle several feet ahead. This can cause the passenger vehicle to collide with another object or vehicle.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Commercial truck accidents are different than other types of accidents. Not only does the driver hold responsibility, but their employer may as well. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine liability and make a claim against the appropriate parties. Truck accidents are serious and they deserve to be treated as such. Your injuries matter. If you have been injured in an accident, a Chicago truck accident attorney at Abels & Annes can provide more information.