You might never think about common trucks on the road unless you hear a country song extolling big rigs, like “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” or “Roll On (18 Wheeler).” Even then, you may pay more attention to the melody than to the subject matter.
But drivers of all vehicles would do well to pay attention to trucks. Because of their size and weight, they can be much more dangerous in an accident than passenger cars. They have wider blind spots, they require far more space to stop in, and they are subject to rolling over or jack-knifing if they’ve been overloaded or not loaded properly, particularly if they are going too fast and the weather is rainy and wet. (A jack-knife accident occurs when one part of the truck is perpendicular to the other part, resembling a jack-knife when it’s open.)
Truck accidents can also result in a truck losing its cargo, and the cargo being spread all over the road. The cargo is an obstacle for other drivers and potentially dangerous to other passersby, such as pedestrians. Cargo by itself can cause accidents and injuries.
Trucks are everywhere, as well. There are roughly 36 million trucks registered and used for business across the country, according to the American Trucking Association. There are approximately 493,730 interstate freight carriers on the nation’s highways and 17,725 intrastate hazardous materials carriers.
Trucks carry an estimated 71 percent of the nation’s freight. Your local mall and grocery store are stocked largely by truck deliveries. So are packages delivered to your door, by Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and other carriers. If you use heating oil, it is delivered by truck. Gasoline is delivered to the pump via truck.
So what are you looking at when you look at common trucks on the road? Let’s review the most common type of trucks.
Terms like big rig, 18-wheeler, or semi imply that these are different types of trucks. They aren’t. Each of these terms refers to essentially the same type of truck, officially known as a tractor-trailer.
A tractor-trailer, as the name implies, consists of a tractor that pulls trailers. The term can also be confusing, though, because many people associate the term tractor with farm tractors and trailers with a type of recreational vehicle. Neither of these associations is valid in the case of tractor-trailers used for freight, though. The tractor is a truck designed to pull semitrailers (yep! They’re the reason semi is an abbreviation for the rigs!). Semitrailers are supported by four of their own wheels and a fifth wheel that is mounted on a tractor.
Tractor-trailers are used to haul freight of all types. They are extremely heavy. In fact, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to become qualified to drive commercial trucks of 26,001 pounds or more, either singly or in combination. In other words, these trucks start at 26,001 pounds, and can weigh as much as 80,000.
Tanker trucks are technically tractor-trailers, because the configuration is the same. However, the trailer isn’t a standard semitrailer, but a tank specifically developed to contain gases or liquids. These are sometimes rounded and spherical rather than rectangular. Some of the cargo these types of trucks carry can be either flammable or toxic.
Great care should be exercised if you’re driving around a tanker truck, just because of the flammable or toxic nature of the cargo. (Flammable or dangerous chemicals are usually indicated by signage posted on the tanker itself.) If the truck is in an accident, the cargo can spill. This can happen with any truck, of course, but flammable liquid can catch fire, especially if the accident is a severe one. Chemical spills can also be very hazardous. Certain types of liquids can make driving dangerous.
As a result, if you are driving and hear of either a tractor-trailer or tanker-trailer crash, it’s wise to route your car to avoid the area. These types of accidents can close lanes and involve multiple vehicles. They can require hours of law enforcement and road crew time to clear. Other vehicles entering the accident scene unnecessarily can cause potential harm to themselves and other passersby. Do the smart thing and avoid the area.
As prevalent as tractor-trailers and tanker trailers are in hauling freight, they are far from the only trucks on the road. Another primary type is known as the box truck.
Box trucks differ from tractor-trailers in significant ways. First, the main body of the truck is connected to the chassis, rather than to a tractor or trailer. In other words, they are all one piece. Pieces can’t be combined and moved around like they can on big rigs. Second, while much larger than a passenger vehicle or even a pick-up truck, box trucks are smaller than a big rig or a tanker.
Box trucks are the type of truck used by delivery companies like FedEx, or by rental moving trucks like U-Haul. Many box trucks are customized for specific cargo. Beverage trucks like those delivering Coca-Cola, for example, are often refrigerated box trucks.
Box trucks have many factors in common with their larger delivery siblings, too. Just like semi’s, they are more prone to rollovers, because their center of gravity is higher than a passenger car. (Fortunately, they can’t jack-knife because there are not multiple parts.) Just like semis, they have large blind spots. Just like semi’s, accidents can cause them to lose their cargo.
What Should I Do if I’m Injured in an Accident Involving One of These Trucks?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a big rig, a tanker, or a box truck, you may have the right to receive compensation for your injuries if the accident was partially or wholly due to the actions of another party.
The amount of compensation depends on your injuries, but typically includes payment for medical treatment, any time lost from work, and pain and suffering.
Establishing legal liability for a commercial truck accident can be complex, because the parties with potential legal liability can include drivers, trucking companies, companies responsible for loading, repair, maintenance, and inspection, and maintenance. Additionally, all of these parties may carry insurance.
If you need information or assistance, contact an experienced Georgia truck accident attorney today.