As with anyone driving a vehicle on a roadway, truck drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must comply with the rules of the road. As CMV operators, however, truck drivers have different rules they must follow. Truckers are professionally trained and licensed to operate large, sophisticated, dangerous equipment on the same roadways as the motoring public.
Large trucks are much heavier than cars, usually weighing close to the 80,000-pound maximum, and they are difficult to maneuver and stop. When a large truck and a car collide, the occupants of the smaller, vulnerable car usually pay the price in the form of catastrophic harms and losses. Because large trucks are not the same as ordinary passenger cars, the safety rules for CMVs are different, and truck drivers are required to follow special rules of the road.
Turning Cases: Left Turns, Right Turns, and U-Turns
The mechanics of performing turn maneuvers are covered explicitly in the Indiana State Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Manual (each state has its own CDL Manual, but the rules and concepts are generally universal from state to state). Safely managing space around a semi-truck is one of the concepts truckers learn and should follow. This safety rule comes into play, for example, in situations where a trucker is executing a turn in a large, semi-tractor/trailer combination. Because of wide turning and off-tracking, large vehicles can hit other vehicles or objects during turns.
Rules and Guidelines for Right Turns
- Turn slowly to give yourself and others more time to avoid problems.
- If you are driving a truck or bus that cannot make the right turn without swinging into another lane, turn wide as you complete the turn and keep the rear of your vehicle close to the curb.
- Don’t turn wide to the left as you start the turn. A driver behind your truck may think you are turning left and try to pass you on the right.
- If you must cross into the oncoming lane to make a turn, watch out for vehicles coming toward you. Give them room to go by or to stop.
- Do not back up for oncoming traffic because you might hit someone behind you.
Left Turn Rules and Guidelines
- Make sure you have reached the center of the intersection before you start the left turn.
- Turning too soon can cause the left side of your vehicle to hit a car because of off-tracking
- If there are two turning lanes, always take the right-most turn lane. Starting in the left-most or inside lane may cause you to swing right to make the turn.
- During a left turn, staying in the right lane will help you see the drivers on your left side.
Allowing Space for Tight Turns
Most car drivers don’t know how slowly you need to drive to make a tight turn in a large vehicle. Give drivers behind you a warning by braking early and slowing gradually.
Communicating Turns: Signal Your Intentions
Signaling what you intend to do is vital for safety. Here are some general rules for signaling. There are three good rules for using turn signals:
- Signal early. Signal well before you turn. It is the best way to keep others from trying to pass you.
- Signal continuously. It would help if you had both hands on the wheel to turn safely. Don’t cancel the signal until you have completed the turn.
- Cancel your signal. Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal after you’ve turned (if you don’t have self-canceling signals).
Commercial Motor Vehicle U-Turns
U-turns are almost universally disfavored in the trucking industry. There is nothing in the State CDL Manual to properly perform a U-turn, primarily because U-turns are deemed risky maneuvers and are explicitly prohibited by some trucking companies.
Here’s a description from a truck company training manual that details precisely why a U-Turn in a semi-truck is so dangerous for everyone on the road:
- It takes approximately 15-30 seconds for an 18-wheeler to execute a U-Turn.
- The trailer will block the highway in both directions for approximately 12 seconds.
- A vehicle traveling at 65 mph will travel 95 feet in one second, and in 12 seconds, that vehicle will travel 1140 feet or almost a quarter of a mile.
- It is unlikely a driver of the 18-wheeler could see an automobile a quarter of a mile away in their left mirror just before starting the maneuver.
- The untrained, non-professional driver looks only about 2 seconds ahead of their vehicle, and they would not have enough time to stop.
- This type of accident is almost always fatal to the driver and front-seat passengers.
- If the U-Turn is attempted at night, the headlights of the 18-wheeler will block out any chance of the driver in the approaching vehicle seeing that there is a trailer across the road in time to avoid a collision.
Stopping and Parking a CMV
As with turning procedures, the rules related to stopping and parking are covered explicitly in the State CDL Manual. There are hazards to truckers and other drivers while pulling to the side of a road, or shoulder, to park. Many truck companies prohibit stopping on the side of the road and state that a trucker should never park on the side of the road unless the truck completely breaks down and is unable to move. Large trucks parked on the highway shoulder, because they are so large, take up the entire width of the shoulder, leaving no room for error for other drivers on the roadway. Even a very mild drift off the side of the road–which is known to happen sometimes–can result in a catastrophic collision with a large, 80,000 pound semi-truck. Trucks on the side of the road, especially at night, can be difficult to see. Therefore, In situations where a semi-truck breaks down and has no choice but to park on the side of the road, there are special rules that come into play, which we cover below.
Parking at the Side of the Road or Divided Highway
When you pull off the road and stop, be sure to turn on the four-way emergency flashers. This is important at night. Don’t trust the taillights to give warning. Drivers have crashed into the rear of a parked vehicle because they thought it was moving normally.
If you must stop on the road or the shoulder of any road, you must put out your emergency warning devices within ten minutes. Place your warning devices 10 feet, 100 feet, and 200 feet toward the approaching traffic.
Parked on the Side of a Two-Lane Road
If you stop on a two-lane road carrying traffic in both directions or on an undivided highway, place warning devices within 10 feet of the front or rear corners to mark the location of the vehicle and 100 feet behind and ahead of the vehicle, on the shoulder or in the lane you stopped in.
Parked with an Obstructed View
If you are parked back beyond any hill, curve, or other obstruction that would prevent other drivers from seeing your CMV within 500 feet, then move the rear-most triangle to a point back down the road, providing a warning.
Placing Warning Devices in Traffic
When putting out the triangle warning devices, hold them between yourself and the oncoming traffic for your own safety. This way, other drivers can see you while you place your devices.
Route Planning for CMV Drivers
Route planning occurs before the driver embarks on mile one of a trip. This is the first reasonable opportunity to recognize a potential problem, leading to a hazard and ultimately a crash. Route planning in advance can mitigate some significant causes for trucking accidents, like reducing the chance, or need, for speeding.
The CDL Manual talks about preventing hazardous conditions from turning into emergencies and always having a plan. With proper route planning, a weather app on a smartphone, and minimal assistance from dispatch, hazardous weather conditions can be anticipated or avoided. Route planning can go a long way toward avoiding a crash when potential hazards that may arise on a trip are recognized, contemplated, and anticipated in advance.
Resources for Truck Driver Rules
There are numerous sources for rules of the road in truck crash cases. The references listed below generally start from the broadest category of rules to the more specific.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of CMVs. The FMCSA mission is to “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”
State CDL Manuals
An excellent source of rules is the State Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) manual. Before obtaining a CDL, a driver must, among other things, pass a written knowledge test and a skills test. The State CDL Manual serves as the would-be trucker’s study guide for passing these tests.
Driver/Company Handbooks, Manuals, Policies, Admissions
Beyond the rules contained in the FMCSRs and the State CDL Manuals, additional rules are in the handbooks and manuals provided to drivers by truck companies. The concepts in these manuals are almost always accepted as the customary practice in the trucking industry.
Sometimes the rules of the road are not explicitly spelled out in a written source but instead come down to a plain and simple common sense, accepted and understood as a reasonable practice not only by truckers and truck companies, but also the public at large. Truckers, as with all motorists, are required to act reasonably when driving on the road. If a trucker does something that you think just “doesn’t seem right,” chances are the trucker was not doing what a reasonably safe trucker should have been doing.
Call the Indianapolis Trucking Accident Lawyers Today
You must get help immediately after being injured in a trucking crash to increase your chances of getting the financial compensation you deserve. At Doehrman Buba Ring, we understand how physically, financially, and emotionally devastating truck accidents are.
We are a team of skilled, experienced, and dedicated trucking accident lawyers, and we have defended the rights of several people who suffered after a truck accident. Contact our attorneys today by filling out a contact form online or by telephone at (866) 467-1454 for a free consultation. We are here to help.