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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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Trucks and Cars Together on the Road: Dangers and Safety Precautions

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An accident involving a commercial truck and a standard motor vehicle is likely to end with serious injuries to the driver and any passengers of the smaller vehicle. There are many factors that increase the risk of personal injury when an accident involves a truck.

One of course is the size of the truck. According to a Consumer Report on crash testing, a “larger, heavier vehicle projects more of its crash energy.” Trucks weigh up to 80 thousand pounds whereas a typical car is only 5 thousand pounds.

Trucks & Brakes

A study published by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) outlines issues with trucking safety and ways to overcome these potential problems.

Brakes: “Brakes must be able to absorb and dissipate a large amount of kinetic energy when a fully loaded truck descends a grade.” The study found brake performance could play a “contributing role” in about one-third of all truck crashes involving medium or heavy trucks. Keeping up with brake maintenance is key to preventing these types of accidents.
Vehicle Rollover: Some trucks have “low rollover thresholds” which obviously makes the vehicle more likely to roll when making turns or taking exits. These types of incidents lead to between 8-12% of all truck crashes, and 60% of those are fatal for occupants of heavy trucks.
• “Rearward amplification”-The rear trailer on a multiple trailer truck is more likely to roll over during quick movements, such as lane changes. The study pointed out that because there are not many of these vehicles on the road there are not many crashes involving these tandem trailers.

Trucks & Blind Spots

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged the NHTSA to take action in April 2014 in regards to several issues including:

• Protecting occupants in passenger vehicles from “underriding” the sides of tractor trailers.
• Traffic safety data improvements involving trailer crashes.
• Keeping pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and passenger vehicle occupants from being hit by tractor-trailers due to blind spots.

Blind spots are dangerous for any driver, but more so for truck drivers due to the sheer size of their vehicles. The NTSB outlined areas that researchers ranked as being the four worst spots for visibility for truck drivers. These include:

• To the right of the large truck cab, five meters behind the front bumper
• Along the side of the truck, behind the cab and out of view of the driver
• About five meters behind the large truck
• Five meters in front of the truck and one lane over to the right

The NTSB recommended that the NHTSA require new truck-tractors over 26,000 pounds to come equipped with new technology to help drivers detect others on the road. These technologies have sensors to help navigate blind spots.