Drivers of tractor trailers are required to follow the rules specifically written for them to keep themselves and other drivers of vehicles on our roadways safe. If they do not follow the rules, and as a result another driver is injured, the commercial driver is responsible for that injury. The owner of the company and the truck for which the driver works, may also be responsible for that injury.
In bad weather, truck drivers are required to use "extreme caution" or stop driving all together. If the roadways are icy, for example, a truck must slow its speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as possible to avoid a crash. Trucking companies that permit their drivers to continue operating during heavy fog, snow storms, ice storms and torrential rains place every driver on the road at risk of significant injury, including their own driver.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations state as follows at 49 C.F.R. § 392.14:
"Hazardous conditions; extreme caution. Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. . . ."
The drivers of large trucks are called upon to use their training, experience, judgment and any resources available to them to be safe on roads that become unsafe by bad weather. This includes staying apprised of weather reports and pulling off the road when necessary.
Often truck drivers are under pressure to deliver their loads with strict deadlines set by their companies. Regardless of those pressures, ultimately, drivers of commercial trucks are responsible for paying attention to weather conditions. In wet or icy conditions, drivers of 18-wheelers must follow the rules of the road and make safe decisions since their vehicles require increased stopping distance on wet and slippery roadways.
The consequences of unsafe truck driving on snowy, wet or icy roads can be devastating. All drivers need to be especially careful in bad weather, but drivers of commercial trucks have a greater duty to follow the rules of the road in ice and snow.
Lauren D. Fraser, Esq
Lauren is a nationally recognized trial attorney in New Jersey, having been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers organization as one of the Top 100 Trial Attorneys in NJ. Lauren specializes in personal injury law representing people in the community who have been injured through no fault of their own.