Sharing the highway with the large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) known as big rigs, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, or 18-wheelers can be daunting—and for good reason. Passenger vehicle drivers know that smaller cars, SUVs, and pick-up trucks are no match for these giant commercial cargo transporters.
There are a number of factors that make trucking accident scenarios different from other types of traffic collisions. Things like truck size, weight distribution, the center of gravity, vehicle components, braking distance, and volatility of cargo cause truck accidents to be an altogether different type of incident from something like a car vs. car collision.
So what are the most common types of truck accidents? Our truck accident lawyers break down the top 6 most common truck accident scenarios most often seen in CMV crash cases.
Top 6 Most Common Truck Accident Scenarios
Knowing the way tractor-trailers most often crash can help you avoid a collision when traveling on some of the most highly truck-populated highways in Bernalillo County—like I-40, I-25, and the interchange known as the “Big I” northeast of downtown Albuquerque.
Here are the truck accident scenarios to watch out for when navigating around 18-wheelers.
#1. Jackknife Accidents
A jackknife accident occurs when the truck cab and trailer move in separate directions, forming a shape like a jackknife, similar to an “L” or “V” shape.
This can happen when the truck driver hits the brakes too hard on a wet or icy road surface, causing the trailer to swing wide and continue moving after the front of the truck has braked. Poor management of downhill grades and rough road surfaces can also lead to a jackknifing incident.
Give trucks plenty of room during inclement weather, on steep downhill inclines, and in areas where gravel and other road debris can cause hazardous conditions for large trucks. Never ride alongside a truck during these conditions. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least three seconds (or more) ahead of or behind the larger vehicle.
As the name implies, a rollover is when a truck rolls over onto its side or roof. Accidents like these can be caused by improperly loaded cargo, tire and other mechanical failures, or loss of vehicle control due to distraction, speeding, substance abuse, or unskilled truck handling.
When traveling near a semi-truck, be aware of any signs that the driver is not in full control of the CMV. Watch out for truck operators who are swerving, speeding, driving too fast for conditions, drifting out of lanes or onto shoulders, or traveling too fast around curves.
#3. Wide Turn Accidents
It takes a lot of skill to safely turn a vehicle that is 70 feet in length with multiple moving components. When truck drivers aren’t properly trained, licensed, or practiced, a difficult (or even simple) turn may be mishandled.
To make a 90-degree right turn, a truck must often occupy two lanes of traffic to complete the wide radius the vehicle requires for turning. Making a turn from the right turn lane, as smaller cars do, is not possible for most large commercial vehicles. Trying to take a turn too quickly or within too tight a radius can cause a collision or rollover.
Never try to pass a truck on the left when it is making a right-hand turn. Be patient and allow the truck to complete the turn as slowly as it needs to before you proceed past. Similarly, never try to squeeze through the right lane as a truck is turning. If you are in oncoming traffic and you notice a truck signaling to make a right turn ahead, be aware that the truck may move toward your lane of traffic as it turns. Slow down, wait, or move over if needed to avoid a head-on accident scenario, even if you have the right of way.
#4. Tire Blowouts
The tires under a 40-ton vehicle that travels thousands of miles a week take a lot of wear and tear. When tires aren’t properly changed or rotated when they need to be, they are highly vulnerable to explosion under even moderate pressure.
Whether a tire blowout is caused by a manufacturing defect or improper truck maintenance, the results can be catastrophic. Worse yet, a tire blowout accident is not something other drivers can easily anticipate and avoid. Blowouts usually happen suddenly and unexpectedly, causing the driver to lose control of the semi. There are many reasons it’s not a good idea to “hang out” in the lane beside a tractor-trailer, and the risk of a tire blowout is one of them.
#5. Rear-End Collisions
Just as it’s not safe to travel parallel with a truck in the adjacent lane for any long distance, it’s equally dangerous to let a truck ride too close to your rear bumper. If a trucker tailgates you, the vehicle may not have enough time to stop when you step on the brakes. Rear-end collisions often occur when vehicle operators don’t take braking times and distances into careful consideration.
A typical passenger vehicle driving at 65 mph generally requires about 300 feet to stop. A fully-loaded 18-wheeler needs about twice that distance. Keep this in mind when traveling in front of or behind a large CMV. If a truck driver continues to ride your bumper, pull over and let them pass rather than risk a serious accident.
#6. Underride/Override Accidents
Similar to (but even worse than) a rear-end collision, an override or underride accident is when the smaller vehicle becomes trapped underneath the larger truck. In an underride scenario, the car slides under the back of a trailer that stops abruptly in front of it. In an override scenario, the car is crushed under the front of a truck cab that doesn’t stop in time and rolls over the vehicle in front of it.
Both of these types of accidents can result in devastating, fatal injuries like crushing and decapitation. Maintaining a safe following and leading distance of at least three seconds is critical to highway safety when traveling near 18-wheelers.
What To Do After an Albuquerque Truck Accident
Even with knowledge of common truck accident scenarios, collisions still happen. Despite your best efforts to stay safe on the roads of Albuquerque, you can still be injured by trucking negligence. If you were hurt or lost a loved one because a truck driver or trucking company did not uphold their duty to protect those who share the road with their CMVs, you have legal rights.
The medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages of a truck accident can be compensated through a truck accident claim under New Mexico civil law. You’ll need a skilled and experienced truck accident lawyer to help you navigate this complex process.
To discuss your rights after a New Mexico truck accident, contact Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm right away. We’ll set up a free case evaluation to walk you through the steps to take to reach recovery after involvement in a truck accident scenario.
Who’s Responsible for a Work-Related Car Accident?