Motorcycles have the highest fatality rate per unit of distance of any motor vehicle. Motorcyclists are the most vulnerable drivers on the road. Most motorcycle operators have undergone training to learn to safely share the roadways with other vehicles, but extra caution must be taken when tractor-trailers, or semi trucks, also occupy the road. The following are guidelines for motorcyclists who encounter commercial trucks:
Avoid Truck Tire Remnants
A safe motorcyclist always watches for debris in the road, but on busy interstates there can be an excessive amount of rubber leavings from semi truck tires that have blown, especially in the summer. Maintain a safe following distance so you have time to react to any debris in the road that you may not see if another vehicle is in front of you. Also, be extra aware when temperatures are hot, as that can contribute to a tire blowing. There is also the additional danger of a truck tire blowing and sending rubber flying when a motorcyclist is in the vicinity. For this reason, keep a distance from trucks and, when passing is necessary, do it quickly.
Be Aware of Trucks’ Blind Spots
In terms of visibility, trucks are nearly the opposite of motorcycles. Motorcyclists can rely on two mirrors and the ability to do a 360-degree “head check” – turning the head to survey the road – to see if the roadway is clear. Commercial truck drivers have an extremely limited view of the road. Due to the height and length of the trailer behind the cab, the blind spot or “no-zone” on a truck is larger than most drivers realize and far more extensive than that of any car or motorcycle. Click here for an explanation and photo of commercial trucks’ no-zone.
Do Not Pass a Truck on a Curve
Truck drivers and carriers are trained to properly load commercial trucks so that their cargo is evenly distributed. However, sometimes cargo is improperly placed, resulting in an imbalance within the truck. When a truck’s center of gravity is thrown off, it may result in a serious rollover or jackknife accident. This is most likely to occur on a sharp curve, especially if the truck driver is also speeding. Give trucks room on curves, particularly sharp ones, and pass on the next straightaway. There is no way to know that the truck’s cargo was negligently loaded until it is too late.
Be Aware of Trucks’ Stopping Distance
Trucks require much more space and time to stop than other vehicles due to their vast weight. Although brakes in trucks are more powerful than those in passenger vehicles, they still have the difficult task of stopping up to 80,000 pounds worth of momentum. At the speed of 55 mph, a semi truck needs 100 yards to stop. A midsize passenger vehicle can stop in half that distance. At 50 mph, a motorcycle only needs approximately 93 feet to stop or one third of the space the truck needs. If you absolutely must make a sudden stop without giving the truck behind you enough room, try to move to the side or get out of the way, as a rear-end from a tractor-trailer is almost guaranteed to be fatal.
Motorcyclists accelerate the fastest of all types of vehicles. Take care when accelerating behind a truck at a light or after a stop. Also, when approaching a truck that has been stopped, anticipate that it will take the truck far longer to start moving and pick up speed than it would a motorcycle or even a passenger vehicle. If you can’t judge the speed of the truck when you’re approaching, always err on the side of slowing down too much. Colliding with the back of a truck may be the last thing you do.
If you are a motorcyclist who has been involved in an accident with a truck or you know someone who has, contact our law office today for a free consultation. We will discuss what happened and explain your legal rights and options to help decide the best course for your case.