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John Lowery
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Big Trucks in Fog or on Ice: Federal Safety Regulations Say "Park It. Don't Drive It."

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Recently in Nashville heavy fog and icy road conditions set the stage for a 50 car pile up during the morning work commute. With the onset of winter, it seemed prudent to revisit the topic of a blog last February: interstate trucking regulations prevent the operation of a commercial vehicle whenever hazardous conditions create a scenario causing a hazard to passengers (and other motorists). The applicable trucking regulation is 49 CFR §392.14, which states the following:

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.

Several years ago I was involved in litigation surrounding a truck crash that was blamed on heavy fog when a passenger vehicle collided with a white truck attempting to execute a turn across traffic. Due to the fog, the truck was essentially invisible to approaching motorists. The highway patrol and police simply blamed the wreck on the fog, but an analysis of the trucking regulations in light of the foggy conditions revealed that legally, the truck should not have been on the road in those conditions. If you see a big truck on the highway in icy or foggy conditions that create a hazard, don’t hesitate to alert authorities. Making that call could save someone’s life. If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligent operation of a big truck, contact a qualified attorney to help you and your loved ones hold the trucking company accountable.

1 Comment

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  1. Truckie D says:
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    Hi John,

    It really all comes down to those two words: “sufficiently dangerous”. Who makes the decision of when that occurs?

    For example, trucks that are heavily loaded can operate safely in conditions that would put cars in the ditch. Trucks have other advantages over cars in some situations. For example, from my vantage point that’s about 6 feet higher than a car, I can also see far better than car drivers.

    If conditions are that bad, shouldn’t car drivers be off the road too?

    In my many years of experience, the rule of thumb that I use is, if I don’t feel comfortable driving 25 mph, then I park the truck. Also, ice or slippery conditions is an immediate “park it”. Vehicles crashing also can cause me to park it — even though I may be able to proceed safely, I don’t want to get involved with another driver’s mistakes.

    When it comes to the white truck incident that you mentioned, I’m presuming that the truck in question had his lights on at the time. The DOT required lighting and reflectors are designed to make trucks visible, whatever color the truck is. The problem is, that driver education in this country rarely (if at all) even so much as mentions trucks. As a result, most motorists are unable to properly interpret the lights that they do see. Rather than the truck being at fault in this instance, I would say that the automobile driver was driving too fast for conditions. If it had been a deer in the road rather than a truck, would you have blamed it for being out on the road in violation of Federal regulations?

    Also, highway conditions can change rapidly without any warning. Safe and legal truck parking in some areas is pretty much non-existent, so what then is a truck driver supposed to do when there’s nowhere to park? For more about parking, visit my blog at: http://truckied.wordpress.com/jason/

    td