According to a report, multiple tractor-trailers crashed on Interstate 95 in Hardeeville, South Carolina after one of the trucks hydroplaned. The truck hit a tree and fell into the roadway. Then, another tractor-trailer following the intital truck was unable to stop in time, along with six other cars, which caused a pileup.
Safe Stopping Distance
Maintaining a safe stopping distance from other vehicles is important, particularly for large trucks with heavy loads. Several factors can contribute to accidents: first is the truck’s speed. The faster the truck is moving, the greater the stopping distance. Whenever a driver doubles his or her speed, it takes about four times as much stopping distance, which also means the truck has four times the destructive impact if it crashes. Another factor that affects safe stopping distance is perception/reaction distance, which is the amount of time it takes a driver to perceive his or her situation. The faster that the truck is moving directly effects the time and distance a driver needs to safely stop the vehicle.
A truck’s weight can also affect stopping distance. When a truck is heavier, its brakes must work harder to stop it. The government regulates weight restrictions on truckloads. These regulations are enforced because, if a truck has more weight than it can reasonably carry, the operator will be unable to maintain a safe level of control over the truck. Furthermore, overloaded trucks have a significantly shortened distance to safely stop the vehicle. Truck drivers are required to stop at weigh stations during their routes to ensure they are within restrictions set by government. However, these weigh stations may be closed or a truck driver may intentionally pass by a station knowing that the load will be in violation of the law.
Ironically, an empty truck also comes with it’s own risks. A truck’s braking system is designed to work with a full load. If a truck is empty, it requires more stopping distances because it has less traction. Road conditions can reduce traction and, therefore, require lower speeds to safely bring the truck to a stop.
If a road is slippery, it can double the stopping distance for a large truck, and often wet roads require slower speeds. Water left on the road can lead to hydroplaning, which creates a hazardous environment for everyone on the roads. When a truck hydroplanes, it loses its contact with the road and has little to no traction. A trucker who is attentive can regain his or her control over the truck by releasing the accelerator and pushing in on the clutch. This will slow the vehicle and let its wheels turn freely. Additionally, hydroplaning is more likely if a truck’s tire pressure or low, or if the truck’s tire treads are worn.
If a trucking company fails to maintain the truck’s tires, they may be liable for injuries if a truck hydroplanes and hits a pedestrian or another vehicle. This maintenance duty also includes the performance of pre-trip tire inspections.