Illegal Truck Stops: The Problems & Accident-Related RisksJuly 3, 2018
Motor vehicles parked on the shoulder of a road or highway are not an uncommon sight. Flat tires, crashes and other incidents can result in the need for drivers to stop on the side of the road and deal with a situation before they can keep traveling.
In some cases, however, these stops can be illegal, problematic and highly risky. This is especially true when truck drivers park on highway shoulders to take rest breaks.
A Closer Look at the Problem & Risks Associated with Illegal Truck Stops
On the surface, parking a truck on a highway shoulder may seem innocuous. It may even come across as a safe move for tired truckers, who may argue that they have to pull over to comply with federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules, which limit the number of hours tuckers can be behind the wheel (in a given day and week). After all, tired truckers can experience the same perception, coordination and judgment impairments as intoxicated motorists.
This reasoning has resulted in many illegal truck stops popping up across the nation, with some areas becoming hotspots for these stops.
Despite arguments used to try to rationalize illegal truck stops, they are NOT the solution to HOS compliance and/or getting fatigued truckers off the roads. In fact, they seem to trade off one risk, namely the risk of tired truckers, for another, the risk of a serious traffic crash.
Some specific ways in which illegal truck stops can elevate the risk of accidents include by:
- Limiting or eliminating the shoulder space motorists may need to maneuver around debris or objects in the road
- Forcing drivers to hug the right sides of lanes or even partly enter the adjacent right lane, which may lead to collisions with motorists.
- Surprising motorists with unpredicted challenges and obstacles, especially around sharp corners, in bad weather or in conditions resulting in poor visibility. Drivers may not see parked trucks until the last minute (when there’s little, if any, opportunity to avoid crashing into them).
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Who’s Liable for Accidents Caused by Illegal Truck Stops?
When illegal truck stops play a role in causing crashes, parties like (but not necessarily limited to) the following may be liable:
- A motor carrier – Trucking companies are responsible for planning safe routes for their drivers. Part of this planning should include legal, safe rest spots so that truckers are not compelled to pull over wherever they end up at the end of a shift. Failing to plan safe routes or planning risky, unfeasible routes that lead to illegal truck stops and accidents can open motor carriers up to liability for those wrecks.
- The trucker – Like other motorists on the road, truck drivers are responsible for complying with basic traffic ordinances, including regulations that prohibit parking on highway shoulders. Truckers who violate traffic laws and end up contributing to crashes can be liable for the resulting damage.
- Others – This can include parties like (but not limited to) other motorists when their negligence plays a role in causing an accident; automotive equipment manufacturers when wrecks may be caused by malfunctioning equipment; and/or municipalities when their failures to put up signage, maintain safe roads and/or ticket the truckers who make illegal stops contribute to wrecks.
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