While any auto accident can be extremely dangerous for the people involved, there’s no doubt big rigs make them even more dangerous. When a tractor-trailer collides with a smaller vehicle, the smaller vehicle is more likely to be wrecked, and unfortunately, the occupants are much more likely to sustain catastrophic injuries or die. What’s the science behind tractor-trailers, and what unique types of accidents are more likely when a tractor-trailer is involved?
The Science Behind Tractor-Trailers
A semi-truck’s engine has between 400 and 600 horsepower. Passenger vehicles like cars, pickups, and SUVs have a fraction of this at approximately 100 to 200 horsepower. When passenger vehicles crash with tractor-trailers, the “weaker” vehicle is coming to the equation without as much force. In addition to having greater force, tractor-trailers also take longer to stop. When fully loaded, an 18-wheeler takes 20% to 40% more road space than a car to come to a full stop. In the event of inclement weather or slippery roads, a truck can take even longer to fully stop. Why? Their massive weight. While these trucks can weigh up to 40 tons, passenger vehicles weigh approximately 5,000 pounds. In a collision, the momentum created by the larger mass of a tractor-trailer will result in more damage to the smaller vehicle. But one of the biggest risks with tractor-trailers isn’t the truck itself. Truck drivers must follow the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s Hours of Service (HOS) rules pertaining to how long they spend on the road. The most truckers should be behind the wheel in one stretch is 11 hours. This is already a very long time for anyone to control a large, clumsy, and inherently dangerous vehicle, but many truck drivers skirt HOS regulations, opting to drive longer to make more profit. Chronic fatigue is an ongoing problem for most truckers, and it’s easy to see why fatigued truck drivers cause thousands of crashes every year.
Unique Accident Risks of Semi-Trucks
In addition to the inherent dangers that come with long-haul trucks, these vehicles are also more likely to get into worse types of accidents:
- Jackknife accidents occur when the trailer of the truck skids outwards, and comes to rest at a 90-degree angle to the front of the truck’s cab. In this slide, and vehicles beside the trailer can be hit and knocked into other vehicles, often causing a multi-vehicle crash. These types of accidents most often occur when the truck driver brakes too quickly, and with too much force.
- Rollover crashes also happen more commonly with tractor-trailers than smaller vehicles. When a tractor-trailer rolls, it’s often due to the truck going around a curve or down a steep hill. Once a truck starts to roll, the driver will no longer be able to control the vehicle, and everyone in its path is in danger. Rollovers are also caused by tire blowouts, another hazard associated with tractor-trailer trucks and their many sets of wheels. In addition to the increased possibility of causing a rollover accident, the tire itself can hit other vehicles. These tires are heavy and can also cause a great amount of damage.
- Underride accidents are brutal and unique to tractor-trailers. In this type of accident, a smaller vehicle is caught under a truck, getting trapped under the rear of the truck, the side, or even the front. These accidents, more often than not, are fatal for the occupants of the smaller vehicle.
While these crashes are more likely with tractor-trailer trucks, a truck can still hit you in a head-on collision, T-bone, sideswipe, or rear-end collision. There’s little doubt that semis pose a greater threat to other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the road, and the science behind these vehicles increases the chances of injury when a crash does happen. When you’re on the road with a large commercial truck, be aware of these hazards, and stay as far away as you can. If you can’t, and you get into a crash with a tractor-trailer in Phoenix, The Husband and Wife Law Team is here to help you get all the compensation you need to heal. Call (602) 267-1280 for a free consultation, and if you’re ever too hurt to come to us, don’t worry—we’ll come to you. We have fought and won hundreds of truck accident claims in Arizona, and we know what to do.