Adverse Weather, Truck Drivers and the Law

truck drivers commercial truck drivers weather conditions public safety

Weather can be very unpredictable, especially in the state of Missouri. One day, it is sunny, warm, and dry. The next, it might be rainy, foggy, and cold. Our summers are hot and humid, while our winters can be bitterly cold. Large commercial truck drivers must be aware of the weather conditions they are driving in, keeping public safety in mind.


Liability in Weather-Related Accidents

Truck drivers, actually all drivers, are required to drive responsibly in all types of weather. There is no exception to this based on the conditions of the road or weather.

When determining who is at fault, weather and road conditions will be noted; however, weather alone does not prevent a driver from being found liable.

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Negligent behavior might include things such as:

  • Not using headlights in low visibility conditions
  • Driving too fast for the weather
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • Ignoring road signs
  • Being distracted by cell phones

Common causes of weather-related trucking accidents include:

  • Driving at excessive speeds
  • Driving too fast for the road and/or weather conditions
  • Failing to reduce speed when entering a curve

Large commercial truck drivers must be aware of the weather conditions they are driving in, keeping public safety in mind.

  • Federal regulations require any driver of a tractor-trailer, 18-weeler, semi-truck or another type of large truck to use “extreme caution” when driving in adverse weather conditions.
  • Using extreme caution may mean truck drivers drive slower than the posted speed limit, take turns slowly and with caution, use the hazard lights or even pull over and stop driving.
  • However, because of things such as the deadlines truck drivers have, some will continue on even if the weather gets bad.

Adverse Weather Statistics

On average, there are over 5,891,000 vehicle crashes each year and approximately 21% of these are weather-related. That is nearly 1,235,000 crashes with nearly 5,000 being killed and over 418,000 injured.

Table: Weather Impacts on Roads, Traffic and Operational Decisions, Federal Highway Administration

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Adverse Weather Conditions

Weather-related crashes are defined as those that occur in adverse weather such as rain, sleet, snow, fog, severe crosswinds or blowing snow/sand/debris or on slick pavement.

Precipitation

The majority of weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement (70%) and during rainfall (46%).

truck drivers, commercial truck drivers, weather conditions, public safety,

Rain affects a driver’s ability to see the road and can cause vehicles to hydroplane.

Rain, really all types of precipitation, affects a driver’s ability to see and can create the risk of hydroplaning. A hydroplaning large commercial truck weighing 20-30 times that of a passenger car creates an extreme danger to other vehicles on the road.

Rain, snow and ice make road surfaces slippery. Slippery surfaces affect a truck’s traction. The lack of traction can make it harder to slow down and brake and even make steering/controlling the truck much more difficult, especially for those traveling at a high rate of speed.

Black ice, often found on bridges and overpasses, creates even more danger on the road for truck drivers.

Fog

Fog is another weather condition that can reduce visibility significantly. It reduces a driver’s ability to see long distances thereby impacting the ability to judge the distances of cars in front or behind. An inability to see down the road can reduce a driver’s response time and cause drivers to veer out of their lane.

Wind Speed

Wind causes trailers to become unsteady on the road. The top-heavy structure makes a truck’s chance of tipping over on the road more likely during high winds.

Trucks are more susceptible to crosswinds because of how large the sail area is (this is the exposed trailer sides that catch the wind). Heavy crosswinds can become powerful enough to blow a truck out of one lane and into another or completely off the road.


Regulations: What the Law Says

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

Subpart B: Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles §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. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.

Missouri’s Revised Statutes

Under Section 304.012 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes, “every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.”

Section 304.012 establishes the standard of care drivers must exercise to avoid negligence liability in Missouri. Significantly, the statute does not impose a specific speed limit on drivers. This provision was intentionally done knowing that weather conditions can impact what constitutes safe driving speeds and maneuvers.


WHY HIRE NASH & FRANCISKATO?

Have you been seriously injured in a truck accident? Call Nash & Franciskato at (877) 284-6600. We have a successful track record of helping accident victims collect the compensation they deserve.

In the Kansas City area and across Missouri, the Nash & Franciskato Law Firm will fight for your rights. Contact our legal team today at (877) 284-6600. One of our experienced staff will speak with you personally and will provide you with a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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