Every day, you share the road with hundreds or thousands of other vehicles, including a wide range of big trucks. These trucks transport large shipments and large objects across the United States. They’re vital to our economy and our daily lives. But encountering these vehicles on the road also comes with potential dangers, particularly if you end up in an accident with a truck.
Drivers can often do a better job of protecting themselves and their passengers if they know how to identify, and spot the dangers associated with, the trucks with which they share the road. Here is a review of the most common trucks you are likely to encounter on your next drive.
1. 18 Wheelers (a.k.a. Big rigs, Semis, or Tractor Trailers)
Most of the time, when you think of big trucks on the road, an 18 wheeler probably comes to mind. So-named because of their eighteen wheels, these large trucks carry much of the cargo that moves across the United States each day. 18 wheelers usually consist of two parts: the tractor truck itself and the trailer. Common brands of 18 wheelers include Peterbilt and Mack; however, a wide variety of trucks take to the road every day. All of them pose a similar danger to other drivers. They have large blind spots that make it difficult for their drivers to see other vehicles. They carry cargo that, if not well-secured, can cause their drivers to lose control. They are top-heavy, making them prone to tipping over, especially on sharp curves or on roads with low shoulders. And they have a large stopping distance—much larger than most people realize—that makes them prone to causing catastrophic rear-end collisions in heavy traffic and when road conditions are poor.
2. Cement Trucks
Cement trucks transport cement to work sites. Cement trucks not only carry the raw materials to mix the cement, they also mix it within the cement container on the back of the truck. Through the constant motion of the cement mixer, the cement takes considerably longer to solidify in the truck. This, in turn, ensures that the cement has a longer useful life. Cement trucks often carry heavy loads, which means they may take longer to stop than smaller vehicles. Cement trucks may also pose a substantial danger during an accident, since spilled cement can make rescue more difficult or cause further complications for injured individuals.
3. Car Transporters
When vehicle manufacturers, car dealerships, and scrap yards need to transport large numbers of vehicles at once, they use car transporters. Car transporters resemble tractor trailers in that they consist of a tractor truck and a trailer, but the trailer is specifically designed to carry automobiles. Like big rigs, these trucks need a wide arc to make safe turns. They also have large blind spots (don’t be fooled by the open-air trailer—it can still create difficult sight-lines for the truck driver).
4. Refrigerator Trucks
Many companies use refrigerator trucks to transport goods that need to stay cold during shipping, such as produce, meat, fish, and flowers. Refrigerator trucks use dry ice and liquid carbon to help cool their contents. Refrigerator trucks can resemble tractor trailers, but most typically the “box” part of the truck is attached to the “tractor” part of the truck, making it a single unit. Nevertheless, these trucks pose the same basic hazards as other large trucks, with large blind spots, top-heavy designs, and long stopping distances.
5. Emergency Vehicles
As a driver, you likely know that you must get out of the way any time you see flashing lights and sirens. While ambulances and police cars take up around the same amount of space on the road as a standard vehicle, fire trucks may require a great deal more room. Typically, fire trucks travel at high rates of speed as they race to reach a fire in time to help. Fire trucks often have a full crew of firemen in the cargo space in addition to ladders and hoses. Tanker trucks may also carry a supply of water to areas where the truck does not have ready access to a hydrant or other source of water.
6. Highway Maintenance Trucks
Highway maintenance trucks, in addition to having a larger size footprint than many other vehicles, also frequently carry workers on the outside of the vehicle. Highway maintenance trucks will often crawl slowly down one lane as a worker places traffic cones or other equipment on the road. When passing a highway maintenance vehicle, exercise particular care, especially if you notice a worker on the outside of the vehicle. Simple safety measures can help protect these workers as they endeavor to create better, safer roads.
7. Flatbed Trucks
Flatbed trucks often transport large items, including those too large to transport inside ordinary trailers. Flatbed trucks may transport items that hang over the sides of the trailer, such as prefabricated homes or heavy equipment. Any time the cargo extends over the sides of the truck, drivers must attach flags that make it easier to see where that overhang exists. Pass these trucks with extreme care.
8. Logging Trucks
In many states, logging trucks transport large logs from their origin to the factories that will transform them into boards and other useful items. Logging trucks typically have a cage that surrounds the logs, holding them stable throughout the transportation process.
9. Garbage Trucks
Most garbage trucks take up less space on the road than 18 wheelers, but they do not necessarily pose any less of a hazard. Some garbage trucks may have an open back, increasing the likelihood that garbage will fall out of the truck and onto the road. Workers also frequently ride on the outside of garbage trucks. Giving a garbage truck plenty of following room can decrease the risk that you will suffer an accident with those vehicles.
With any big truck on the road, keep in mind that if you cannot see the driver’s mirrors, the driver cannot see you. While drivers of big trucks receive special training and usually pay a great deal of attention to the road around them, you shouldn’t rely on their decisions alone. Following a few basic safety precautions can help keep you safer. If you do suffer injuries in an accident with a big truck, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible so that you can pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries.