What Makes Tractor-Trailers So Dangerous?
There are many reasons why tractor trailers are so dangerous to other drivers on the road. But mainly these five:
- Their size and weight: Big rigs can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, compared to the weight of the average passenger car – about 3,500 pounds. The average length of a tractor-trailer combo it is 70 to 80 feet, compared to the average American car length of eight to 12 feet.
- They’re made of two or more pieces: Tractor-trailers consist of two or more independent pieces, the cab (tractor) and the trailer (and sometimes, two trailers). This makes them harder to maneuver and more prone to jackknifing, rollover, and separation accidents.
- They take longer to come to a complete stop: It’s basic physics. Something heavier has more momentum than something lighter traveling at the same speed. Something with more momentum will take longer to stop. Combine this increased stopping time with traveling down hills or on rain-slicked roads, and you have the perfect recipe for an accident.
- They have huge blind spots: Tractor-trailers have large blind spots or “no zones” where they have difficulty seeing the vehicles surrounding them.
- They carry hazardous cargo: Many trucks carry hazardous cargo, such as gasoline, dynamite, or other dangerous chemicals that can catch fire, explode, or spill.
What Laws & Regulations Does New Jersey Have for Trucks?
The laws that apply to large trucks are much stricter than those that apply to cars and smaller trucks. For example, holders of New Jersey commercial driver’s licenses are subject to a legal blood-alcohol-content limit of 0.04% – half of the normal BAC limit – while driving commercial trucks. In addition, any fatal accident, accident with an injury, or accident causing more than $500 in damages must be reported to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. The weight, emissions, and safety equipment on trucks are also subject to regular inspections.
Like ordinary drivers, truckers are subject to licensing and registration requirements. In addition, truckers are also subject to state or federal guidelines, which include:
- Physical fitness requirements: Drivers must submit to regular physical examinations to certify that they are healthy and physically fit to safely perform driving duties.
- Limitations on how long they may drive without sleeping: Long-haul drivers must maintain an hours of service (HOS) log to show the hours driven each day, any breaks that were taken, and the total drive time for the week. Falsifying this log is a serious violation and can result in the loss of a commercial driver’s license.
- Requirements that certain information be visible on the truck: The required information includes the name of the truck owner or lessee and the municipality of the place of business. The gross vehicle weight must also be displayed, and all of this information must be clearly visible in lettering at least three inches high.
- Limitations on which roads and highways trucks may use: As an example, trucks with a gross weight over 10,000 pounds are not permitted on the Garden State Parkway north of exit 105. One of the main reasons for this regulation is that many of the overpasses have low clearance that is not adequate to allow larger trucks to pass under them safely.
- Special state and federal regulations on transporting hazardous materials: Drivers hauling any type of hazardous material must have a special endorsement in addition to the appropriate licensing, and the truck must be labeled to denote the type of material being hauled.
- Size and weight limitations: There are licensing restrictions for drivers that govern the size of the trucks they are permitted to operate. A class C license is required for small buses and commercial trucks. A class B license is required to operate regular buses and medium-sized box trucks. A class A license is required to operate any tractor-trailer combo or a vehicle weighing in excess of 26,000 pounds. Additional endorsements are needed to drive double- or triple-trailer school buses or tanker trucks.
- Much higher minimum requirements for liability insurance: This increase in insurance is required for both independent truck drivers and the commercial trucking companies.
Commercial liability policies range between $750,000 and several million dollars, but trucking insurers are notoriously aggressive in protecting these funds after a crash. They send accident investigators to the scene at once, and circle the wagons to avoid paying anything. They may visit you in the hospital, when you’re weak and confused, and try to get you to sign a settlement agreement for a paltry offer. In these situations, you need a tough advocate on your side.
Even When They Break the Rules, Trucking Companies Don’t Play Fair
Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., has the experience and resources to take on aggressive insurance companies to obtain just compensation for our clients. If you have been injured, please contact us to discuss your options. We can handle the legal issues on your behalf and allow you to focus on your recovery. Call (609) 240-0040 to set up a free consultation immediately. The sooner we can start our investigation, the better our chances of proving what you deserve.
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