Anyone who has driven alongside a big rig truck for any significant distance has probably noticed that the experience wasn’t the same as driving next to a regular passenger vehicle. That is because big rig trucks handle very differently on the road. Compared to passenger vehicles big rig trucks have longer stopping distances, reduced maneuverability, and much larger blind spots. Their extra weight and tendency toward certain types of accidents also affect the road very differently. This article will briefly examine several of the main ways in which big rig trucks affect road conditions.
DEBRIS AND ROAD HAZARDS
Big rig trucks generate a lot of road debris. One of the most common and also most dangerous types of road debris is blown out tires. There’s a reason big rigs are often called “18-wheelers” and that means that any one of those many wheels could suddenly blow a tire. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety lists blown tires as the number one piece of road debris and in North America there are an estimated 25,000 accidents each year with at least 100 deaths due to road debris.
Road debris from 18-wheelers could also be a result of improperly secured cargo that flies loose, debris left over from accidents, or even mechanical parts breaking away. There are reports of whole wheels – not just the tires – detaching from the big rig truck, or of brake drums tearing off. Perhaps most frighteningly of all, if the debris is due to loose cargo or non-essential mechanical parts there’s a good chance the trucker might not even notice that anything has happened at all. This is due in large part to the reduced visibility and elevated noise levels present on big rig trucks.
WEAR AND TEAR ON ROADS
Another major way big rig trucks affect the road is in the physical toll they take on it. A fully loaded commercial vehicle can legally weigh up to 80,000lbs whereas a typical passenger vehicle only weighs about 4,000lbs. That makes the difference in mass about 20 times. Thus, on the surface it might seem logical to assume that a single big rig truck would cause about as much wear and tear on the road as 20 cars. However, because the damage is more significant at higher weights it is actually estimated that one big rig truck does about as much damage to the road as 9,600 passenger cars!
Many roads aren’t designed for commercial trucks in the first place and may not be wide enough or thick and strong enough to endure the extra weight. Meanwhile bridges must also be designed with the extra weight loads in mind and overpasses have to be built to a higher clearance to take these tall vehicles into account.
In many instances big rig trucks also have a negative impact on the flow of traffic. There is the obvious impact that additional vehicles on the road have in general; however, once again because of their size and length big rig trucks often compound the problem. They require greater stopping distances and so must follow further behind other vehicles. They also often take much longer to change lanes, especially during peak traffic times. Their extra length can also easily block intersections and driveways if the trucker is not vigilant.
Some of the worst traffic delays occur when there is an incident involving a big rig truck. For example if the truck was carrying hazardous material (hazmat) it may be dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive to clean up the mess that a spill causes. Even most non-toxic cargo presents an extra challenge to clear away if it is spilled in an accident.
Big rig trucks are also notorious for jackknifing, which occurs when the trailer is at a 45 degree angle with the tractor. In addition to being dangerous for the trucker and others on the road, jackknifing is often difficult and time consuming to correct. Accidents involving 18-wheelers also often block more than one lane of traffic due to the size of these vehicles.
ACCIDENTS AND HEIGHTENED RISK
By far the most serious way in which big rig trucks affect the road is by increasing risk for other motorists and causing accidents. Any car accident is potentially dangerous, but those involving big rig trucks are often the most deadly of all due to the huge disparity in size between the two vehicles as well as the potential presence of dangerous chemicals or other hazardous cargo. Delays in traffic are inconvenient and wear and tear on the roadways may be expensive to taxpayers, but the pain, suffering, and even death that come from serious accidents are immeasurable.
Unfortunately, very often victims of trucking accidents have no other recourse, but to try to seek some sort of financial compensation for their ordeals. That is because these accidents often result in huge medical bills and may rob families of breadwinners. If you or your loved ones have been involved in a trucking accident it is crucial that you protect your legal rights by consulting a qualified trucking attorney.