What Are Tractor-Trailers?You may hear the term tractor-trailer tossed around a lot, but what exactly is a tractor-trailer? The term tractor-trailer does not encompass all large trucks on the road. For example, a box truck is not a tractor-trailer, nor is a dump truck. So what defines a tractor-trailer? Let’s look at the anatomy of the typical truck on the road. The front part of the truck is called the semi-truck. Semi means “half.” The tractor-trailer is the long, metal storage compartment that attaches to the back of the semi. While semi-truck and tractor-trailer both refer to separate parts of the truck, the two terms are often used interchangeably to describe the semi and the tractor-trailer as a whole. A fully loaded tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and extended from 70 to 80 feet long (truck plus cab). In 2016, there were 2.8 million semi-trucks registered in the United States. It should also be known that these trucks drove a combined 175 billion miles across the country. The latest census numbers show that over 3.5 million people work as truck drivers. While many drivers work for independent trucking companies or large corporations, some drivers are self-employed. Over half of all self-employed and employer-owned trucking businesses are classified as long-distance haulers.
The Dangers That Exist With Tractor-TrailersJust look at a tractor-trailer parked next to the standard mid-size car, and you can immediately see where the inherent danger lies. However, the dangers extend far beyond the sheer size of these vehicles. The design, mechanics, and even the drivers can all add additional risk. Take a look at a few facts that illustrate the dangers of tractor-trailers:
- A fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 65 miles per hour takes the length of two football fields to stop. To put that in perspective, that is 65 percent farther than it takes for a mid-size car traveling the same speed to stop.
- In 2017, the year in which the most recent numbers are available, 4,889 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents nationwide.
- In Illinois, tractor-trailers played a role in 3.5 percent of crashes overall, but nearly 10 percent of all fatal accidents, in 2017.
- Semi-truck drivers have blind spots all around them. In the front, the blind spot extends 20 feet in front of the cab. At the rear, the blind spot goes back 30 feet. On each side, the driver has a limited view of the adjacent lanes. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t see the truck’s side mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
Common Causes of Tractor-Trailer AccidentsDriving a tractor-trailer takes skill and training. Not just anyone can drive a large truck. Truck drivers know the responsibility that comes with driving these vehicles, and most give the job the care and attention that it deserves. So why do so many accidents continue to happen?
- Speeding: Truck drivers speed for a variety of reasons. They may be behind schedule, tired, or unfamiliar with the area. Regardless of the reason, speeding is dangerous, especially when it comes to large trucks. Speeding increases the amount of time it takes to stop and reduces the amount of time available to react. This combination can be deadly if a vehicle or other hazard enters the truck’s path.
- Distracted driving: Truckers work long hours, often spending days away from home. Some drivers may turn to their mobile devices to ease the boredom or loneliness. The time it takes to do something as simple as changing the station on a music app is enough to cause the truck to drift into another lane, miss a car move in front of them, or slide into a blind spot.
- Mechanical issues: The law requires drivers to inspect their vehicles before each shift. In addition, they must undergo annual inspections. Sometimes, important flaws are missed, and other times, the inspection gets skipped altogether. Even if the driver complies with all inspections, improper maintenance can still cause an accident.
Determining LiabilityTractor-trailer accidents can cause serious injuries. The cost of these injuries can easily enter hundreds of thousands of dollars. So who bears the responsibility of these costs? The goal of a personal injury claim is to make sure that it’s not you. The law requires all drivers to carry accident insurance. The amount of this coverage depends on the size of the truck and what the truck is carrying. There are circumstances where this coverage may not be enough or where other parties may hold liability. A thorough investigation can determine all potentially liable parties. This may include:
- The driver: Drivers have a responsibility to maintain their truck and to practice safe driving habits. When they fail to uphold this responsibility, their insurance companies may be responsible for covering damages.
- The driver’s employer: The employer is usually the person that owns the truck and hired the driver. If the employer did not ensure that the vehicle was safe, provided inadequate training, pushed the driver to work beyond the legal limits, or knowingly put an unsafe driver on the road, the employer may hold liability. The owner would also typically be liable for damages under an agency theory.
Abels & Annes, P.C. 100 N LaSalle St #1710 Chicago, IL 60602 (312) 924-7575