What’s the Big Deal with Big Vehicles?

October 17, 2017

With buses, trucks and tractor trailers, everything is bigger. A truck can be 20-30 times the weight of the average vehicle, and with that factor, all the forces at play in an accident are magnified. The margins of error are smaller as increasingly congested interstates see increasing use by trucks.

Distracted drivers, jockeying for position on crowded roads, with truck drivers who may be lacking sleep thrown in the mix. This leads to plenty of opportunities for calamity, and confuses the issue of responsibility.

A tractor-trailer requires 20-40% more distance to break than a standard vehicle, and this is greater if road conditions are wet.

Eleven percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2015 occurred in large truck crashes. SOURCE

The Economics Fight Against Safety

Truckers are typically paid by mile rather than by hour. It’s a built-in incentive to cram more distance and more time traveling into a day. That means driving as fast as possible and not get pulled over, and as long as possible without becoming exhausted. They drive a vehicle that is designed to move the most goods with the least amount of fuss – not handle well or arrive in safety like a passenger vehicle. The pressure is on to push the limits to eek out returns on their investment. That leaves them with a massive, unwieldy situation that competes on the same roads as cars. It’s not an enviable responsibility to place on a person and perhaps that’s why there is such a high turnover rate in the industry.

Ninety-seven percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2015 were occupants of the passenger vehicles. SOURCE

When the Worst Happens

Unlike a normal vehicular accident, there’s more force and mass involved. A tractor trailer is more likely to involve multiple vehicles and damage surrounding road and property. Our normal advice to document whatever you can with a smart phone, is tempered with concern as you should put yourself in a safe area until police can secure the scene. When an officer comes to the scene, be calm and cool and state as best you can the order of events. Wait your turn if the other driver is talking; being the calmest will increase your credibility in the eyes of the police. Let the officer know if you are in pain – it will be better for your case if it is on the accident report. Though it’s not a fact of law in a court; the impression of the officer is often key circumstantial evidence. Even if they are wrong on the incident report, it’s an uphill battle to correct later. Be firm and calm and if you are too anxious, let the officer know you need a little time to collect yourself. Forcing the issue will almost never work.

McGahren Law is familiar with the intricacies of vehicular liability, and will help you navigate the laws and find all the compensation allowed.


With an accident involving tractor-trailers and other large vehicles, there are many more factors that need to be examined. To start; the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) maintains safety ratings on all carriers, and we would look at where this particular vehicle and driver were rated against that standard.

Maintenance and service aspects such as tire pressure, tire wear, hours since rest, audit driver’s log, break service, even a properly installed rear guard which is designed to keep cars from passing under the truck need to be checked.

Often, the driver is not just representing themselves in the accident. The issue of liability is complicated with independent vs. contract drivers. Carriers can get in trouble if they try and skirt regulations by using unlicensed or poorly maintained vehicles by third parties to shift the cost of maintenance. While a driver is moving a payload for his carrier, he is acting as a “company driver”, but it is up to a jury to debate the fiduciary responsibility of the carrier if he is not carrying a payload. Some of this may be determined by the mere fact that a truck was displaying a company logo on its mud flaps.



DISCLAIMER: The information herein is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For any legal matters, we urge you to take the advice of an attorney familiar with your case.