Long-haul truckers work in all kinds of weather. Delivery deadlines do not automatically get delayed just because the weather turns bad. But driving in poor weather conditions can greatly increase the risk of a truck accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says nearly a quarter of fatal truck accidents in 2018 were in less than “clear” weather conditions. Even more truck accidents that caused injury (29%) had less than ideal weather conditions cited afterward.
FMCSA regulations (§392.14) instruct commercial drivers to slow down and get off of the road in dangerous conditions. In its Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which dictate how many hours a truck driver may spend behind the wheel without a break, the FMCSA provides an adverse driving conditions exemption (§395.1(b)) allowing a trucker up to two hours of additional driving time to reach an intended destination or a secure location to get off of the road in inclement weather.
If a truck accident that has injured a passenger car driver or other innocent people was blamed on inclement weather, it deserves further scrutiny. Truck drivers know they should get off the road in inclement weather. Truckers who are negligent may be held accountable for accidents that follow.
For more than 30 years, our experienced truck accident lawyers at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC have investigated weather-related causes of truck accidents and helped accident victims seek full compensation. Based in part on their extensive experience handling semi truck crashes, two members of Craig, Kelley & Faultless have earned board-certification from the National Board of Trial Advocacy in truck accident law.
Weather Hazards Truck Drivers are Instructed to Avoid
FMCSA regulations specify the hazardous weather conditions that require extreme caution. The regulations instruct drivers to reduce speed when hazardous driving conditions exist. “If conditions become sufficiently dangerous,” the driver is to stop “until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated,” the regulations state.
Commercial truck drivers are responsible for operating their tractor trailer safely and for getting off the road when hazardous conditions warrant.
The specific hazardous conditions cited by the FMCSA as adversely affecting visibility or traction are:
Any driver in Indiana understands how snow, ice and sleet can make roads dangerous. Large trucks on slippery roads can easily lose traction and skid into collisions or jackknife accidents and potentially rollover. The FMCSA reported 81 fatal crashes in snow in 2018. Another 2,000 injury crashes and 11,000 property-damage-only truck accidents were reported in snow.
Rain can create slick roads and puddle in low spots to cause truck tires to lose traction and hydroplane. Heavy rain also reduces visibility. The FMCSA reported 370 fatal truck accidents during rain in 2018 and 10,000 injury crashes and 36,000 property-damage-only crashes.
Winter Driving Tips for Truckers in Indiana
In addition to FMCSA regulations, Indiana’s Commercial Driver’s License Manual has sections that address driving in fog and driving in winter weather conditions. Among its instructions for winter weather driving are:
- Slippery Surfaces. Drive slowly and smoothly on slippery roads. If it is very slippery, you shouldn’t drive at all. Stop at the first safe place.
- Start Slowly. When first starting, get the feel of the road. Don’t hurry.
- Adjust Turning and Braking to Conditions. Make turns as gently as possible. Don’t brake any harder than necessary, and don’t use the engine brake or speed retarder. They can cause the driving wheels to skid on slippery surfaces.
- Adjust Speed to Conditions. Don’t pass slower vehicles unless necessary. Go slowly and watch far enough ahead to keep a steady speed. Avoid having to slow down and speed up. Take curves at slower speeds and don’t brake while in curves.
- Adjust Space to Conditions. Don’t drive alongside other vehicles. Keep a longer following distance. When you see a traffic jam ahead, slow down or stop to wait for it to clear.
- Wet Brakes. When driving in heavy rain, your brakes will get wet. Water in the brakes can cause the brakes to grab or apply unevenly. This can cause a lack of braking power, wheel lockups, pulling to one side or the other, and jackknifing if you pull a trailer.
These rules are among many others on a knowledge test that a truck driver must pass to get a CDL in Indiana.
Is the Truck Driver At Fault in a Bad-Weather Crash?
Each case is different, but every truck accident in bad weather that left someone significantly injured should be examined carefully. When a truck driver has failed to exercise a reasonable level of care, and their failure has led to an accident, the trucker may be held liable for injuries and property damage to others. In cases involving commercial drivers, employers also may be liable for their drivers’ negligence.
Truck drivers have been instructed at the state and national level to use caution when driving in ice, sleet, rain and snow and to stop when driving conditions are dangerous. If a truck driver disregarded the need to reduce speed in winter weather and subsequently crashed, it’s likely that there will be evidence to prove it.
After a crash, if an attorney is alerted quickly enough, the attorney can move to preserve and obtain data from the truck’s “black box” event data recorder (EDR), which records acceleration, engine speed, braking and similar information just before a crash. Evidence such as the length of skid marks or the amount of vehicle damage can also be used to demonstrate that a truck was moving at an inappropriate speed at the time of a crash. There are other methods that may be available to prove a negligent truck driver’s liability for an accident claim, as well.
What’s crucial is that you contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as you are able after being injured in a crash. An attorney can move promptly to ensure that driving records and other evidence is preserved and to build a claim for you. Then they can press insurers to pay you the compensation you deserve.
Contact Our Indiana Attorneys About a Bad Weather Truck Accident
The dedicated legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC has the experience and skills needed to investigate a truck accident. Contact us online or by telephone at (800) 746-0226 for a free consultation about your accident and how we can help you.
Since 1999 the Indianapolis legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless, LLC have been dedicated to helping individuals and their families who have been injured or have lost a loved one as the result of someone’s carelessness. The firm was founded by three attorneys, David Craig, William ‘BJ’ Kelley II and Scott Faultless, since then they have added attorneys and legal professionals to the team and opened four additional office locations to better serve their clients.