Truck Accident FAQ

Common Questions About 18-Wheeler Accidents

It is not an uncommon fear to drive next to a large commercial motor vehicle on a road or highway. These trucks can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. Their size and weight make it more difficult for them to brake and change lanes quickly and also make accidents between big rigs and passenger vehicles extremely severe. At Nagle & Associates, P.A., we have handled a number of truck, big rig and 18-wheeler accidents, so we know answers to the question you might be facing.

What is the difference between 18-wheelers, semi-trucks and big rigs?

Although there are many different types of commercial trucks, the terms "18 wheelers," "semi-trucks" and "big rigs" are used virtually synonymously. Some of the specific types of commercial trucks include log carriers, box trucks and hazardous chemical-carrying trucks.

Do truck drivers have to have special licenses?

Yes. In the 1980s, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) started requiring drivers of large commercial motor vehicles to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) in order to operate a vehicle. Tests to get a CDL differ slightly from state to state and can also differ depending on what type of commercial vehicle and/or cargo the driver will carry.

Can a truck driver still operate a big rig after a drunk driving offense or other violation?

According to the FMCSA, employers of truck drivers must periodically submit their drivers to random drug and alcohol testing. Any driver who tests positive for drugs or alcohol could lose their CDL and their employment. Employers are barred from hiring drivers who have a history of drug or alcohol violations such as DUIs on their record. Employers must also take necessary disciplinary action and not allow their drivers to operate commercial vehicles after a DUI.

Are there any laws to prevent truck drivers from falling asleep at the wheel?

Yes. These regulations are called the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. They dictate how much time a driver must take to rest before they can get back on the road again, how many hours of sleep they must have and how many hours of on-duty/off-duty time they should get. Unfortunately, even with enough sleep, drivers are prone to fall asleep at the wheel when driving during night or early morning hours. Currently, there are only sleep and resting break regulations, not time-of-day regulations.

How often do commercial trucks and big rigs have to be maintained?

Commercial trucks must be regularly maintained. To do this, employers are responsible for having technicians monitor their trucks periodically. Drivers must also report any instances of malfunctions so they can be repaired as soon as possible. Truck scales or weigh stations are also placed intermittently on the highways. Law enforcement check trucks to see if they are in good working order. If not, they issue the truck driver a "fix it" ticket, but they can still drive for some time even with the defect.

Can a truck driver's employer be held liable for an accident?

Yes. An employer can be held liable for their employee's negligence. In fact, most lawsuits filed against truck drivers also name the driver's employer as a defendant.

What are some of the most common types of truck accidents?

Commercial trucks are incredibly large. Due to their size, they have bigger blind spots than passenger vehicles do. Because of this, one of the most common causes of truck accidents is when truckers fail to see vehicles in their blind spots. This can cause side impact and underride collisions. Unsafe lane changes and other types of negligent or careless driving are other common causes of accidents.

I hear rear guards aren't that strong and don't usually prevent underride accidents. Is this true?

That is true. Many safety tests have called into question the strength of rear guards. While designed to prevent dangerous and often fatal underride accidents, these rear guards can collapse if impacted at speeds as little as 25 mph.

Do all trucks have to stop at scales/weigh stations?

Most, but not all trucks, have to stop at the scales. Some trucks are given a bypass signal because they are equipped with electronic monitoring systems that essentially give them the "green light" to go by the scales without stopping. Stopping at the scales ensures that the trucks and their drivers are being checked for adherence to the federal trucking regulations.

Ask our North Carolina truck accident attorneys your questions!

If you still have questions about commercial trucking regulations or questions specifically related to your truck accident, please don't hesitate to contact our firm. At Nagle & Associates, we have truck accident lawyers ready to represent clients throughout the state of North Carolina, such as Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Hickory and beyond. Call us today if you or someone you love has been involved in a semi-truck, 18-wheeler or big rig accident and we'll provide you with a free consultation.

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