If you live in the Syracuse area, you likely see many tractor-trailers on the road as you go about your daily business. Tractor-trailers travel on local highways like I-81, and on smaller local roads like Erie Boulevard, delivering cargo to businesses and residences. They’re an important part of daily life here on the shores of Onondaga Lake. But they also bring with them potential hazards for Syracuse drivers.
Learning to identify and share the road safely with tractor-trailers helps to address accidents when they do occur. Here is the important information you need to know about tractor-trailers and the accidents they can cause in Syracuse
Syracuse Tractor-Trailer Basics
A tractor-trailer has two components: a tractor truck (the part with the engine and cab), and one or more trailer units attached to the tractor by an articulating hitch. In the standard tractor and single trailer configuration, a tractor-trailer measures about 70 feet long, give or take a couple of feet. Tractor trucks that pull two, smaller (or “pup”) trailers in combination, known as double trailers, measure closer to 80 feet. Standard tractor-trailers are usually 8.5 feet wide, and 13 to 14 feet high.
The length, width, and height of tractor-trailers that feature specialized trailers (such as tankers, flatbeds, or car-carriers), or that carry oversized loads, can vary from these standards, making them less predictable to drive and to share the road with.
Federal regulations govern the operation of tractor-trailers in interstate commerce (trucking that crosses state lines or international boundaries). New York State regulations supply rules for operating trucks exclusively in intrastate commerce (trucking only within the state’s boundaries). City of Syracuse ordinances also rule the operation of trucks on local roads.
What Types of Accidents do Tractor-Trailers Cause on Syracuse Streets?
Tractor-trailers can cause a wide range of accidents. They have a much greater mass than the average passenger vehicle, which increases the damage they can cause in a serious collision. They also typically require more distance than a smaller vehicle to slow down and stop, which can make it more difficult for truck drivers to avoid road hazards.
Here are some common types of accidents involving tractor-trailers in Syracuse.
#1. Blind Spot Accidents
Big trucks like tractor-trailers have large blind spots. While modern technology does offer some solutions to those blind spots, including larger mirrors and cameras that can help display the view from the sides of the truck the driver cannot see on his own, that technology does not offer a perfect view of the vehicle. Many trucks in Syracuse also still lack that technology.
In a blind spot accident, the truck driver may attempt to merge, change lanes, or complete a turn without realizing a smaller vehicle has occupied the truck’s blind spot. The collision may result in sideswipe damage or even a T-bone collision with the vehicle in the truck’s blind spot. Trucks also have very large blind spots at the front and rear of the vehicle. Those front blind spots can lead to collisions with pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and the drivers of small passenger vehicles.
#2. Jackknife Accidents
In a jackknife accident, the tractor truck and trailer fold against each other, resembling the blade of a pocketknife. Often, this happens when the weight and momentum of the trailer overwhelm the tractor, pushing it aside. Once jackknifed, a driver cannot control a tractor-trailer. It will come to a stop only through road friction or collision with other vehicles or an obstacle. This is known as a jackknife accident.
Syracuse’s often-icy streets can prove particularly hazardous for truck drivers. Slick roads can cause the trailer’s tires to fail to hold the road. On a long stretch of ice, the trailer might spin out even while the truck’s tires remain on solid ground. Since Syracuse sees an estimated 104 inches of snow per year, well over the United States average, the area faces a greater-than-usual risk of jackknife collisions.
#3. Rollover Accidents
A rollover accident occurs whenever a tractor-trailer rolls onto its side. Sometimes, “rollover” may mean that the tractor-trailer ends up on its side, but a truck can also continue to roll (such as when it rolls down a roadside embankment).
Tractor-trailers are particularly susceptible to rollovers because of their relatively narrow width, high center of gravity, and wide, flat profiles that catch crosswinds like a sail. They often occur when truckers fail to navigate sharp curves on a road, such as a highway exit ramp, at unsafe speeds. They can also occur during high crosswinds or on highways with soft, narrow shoulders that fall away from the road surface.
Rollover accidents can cause severe crushing damage to any vehicles the truck hits as it rolls. They carry a high risk of death for the truck driver and occupants of other vehicles struck in the collision.
#4. Head-On Collisions
Typically, head-on collisions occur as a result of serious driver error. Most of the time, vehicles travel in separate, clearly marked lanes. In a head-on collision, one vehicle either leaves its lane on a two-way road, or goes the wrong way down a one-way street, and collides with the front of an oncoming vehicle.
While modern GPS devices make it easier for drivers to determine their routes and avoid going the wrong way down a one-way street, drivers who do not use GPS or who grow distracted and make the wrong turn can still end up going the wrong way. Syracuse has many one-way streets Clinton Street, Bank Street, and Water Street to name just a few particularly in the downtown area, which can be difficult to navigate safely in a tractor-trailer.
Head-on collisions may also occur if a tractor-trailer leaves its lane while traveling on an undivided highway, which often happens due to driver distraction. Big trucks frequently take up more of the lane than smaller passenger vehicles, which means they have less margin for error. A distracted truck driver who loses track of the position of his truck or has a hard time keeping his truck in its lane can quickly end up in a head-on collision.
#5. Read-End Collisions
Many drivers underestimate the amount of time it takes to bring a tractor-trailer to a controlled stop. As a result, they can put themselves at risk of a rear-end collision by failing to distance their vehicle from the front of the truck behind them. Trucks simply cannot brake as quickly as passenger vehicles. A tractor-trailer that strikes a passenger vehicle from the rear will cause catastrophic damage and may trigger a chain reaction of rear-end collisions.
Rear-end collisions can also happen when a smaller vehicle collides with the rear of a tractor-trailer. These accidents may occur due to the distraction of the driver of the trailing vehicle, or because the tractor-trailer obstructs views of the road ahead, making it difficult to anticipate when the tractor-trailer might come to a stop.
#6. Underride Accidents
Trailers sit higher off the road than the average passenger vehicle. Tractor-trailers have larger tires, larger profiles, and more overall mass. When a car hits a big truck’s trailer from behind, especially at a high rate of speed, that car may get wedged underneath the trailer. This is known as an underride accident.
An underride collision can shear off the top of the passenger vehicle or crush its passenger compartment, causing catastrophic and fatal injuries.
#7. Tire Blowout Accidents
Most tractor-trailers have multiple tires that keep the vehicle on the road and provide it with less chance of a tire blowout causing serious damage to the truck. The force of a tire blowout can, however, cause a loss of control, which may, in turn, lead to a collision, a rollover, or another potentially deadly crash on a Syracuse road.
Sharing the Road with Syracuse Tractor-Trailers: What You Need to Know
Keep these facts in mind to stay safe while sharing the road with tractor-trailers in Syracuse.
Tractor-trailers need more room to maneuver.
Most truck drivers will signal their intentions and try to leave themselves plenty of room to complete turns or come to a full stop. Drivers who fail to heed those signals or to leave the truck adequate room to maneuver, however, can trigger a dangerous truck accident.
When sharing the road with tractor-trailers in Syracuse, pay careful attention to the driver’s signals and intentions. Make sure to allow adequate room for the truck to maneuver. Sometimes, that may mean backing off and signaling that the truck driver has adequate room to change lanes or make a turn. In other cases, you may need to get out of the way to allow more room for the truck driver to turn.
Some drivers find sharing the road with tractor-trailers inconvenient, especially if they have to slow down or delay their plans as they wait for a truck to complete a complicated maneuver, like turning a sharp corner or backing into a driveway. But slowing down for a few minutes and giving a truck the room it needs will help everyone reach their destinations more safely.
Tractor-trailers have large blind spots.
Sharing the road with a tractor-trailer means acknowledging those blind spots and, whenever possible, trying to stay out of them. If you find yourself in a truck’s blind spot while passing on a highway or sitting at an intersection, try to move out of it as quickly as possible. Remember, if you cannot see the truck driver’s face in his rearview mirror, he cannot see you.
Also, pay particular attention to the driver’s turn signals. You should see those lights along the side of the vehicle. If you think a truck driver does not see you and you cannot escape a blind spot, do everything you can to signal your presence, such as turning on your headlights or high beams, or honking your horn.
Remember, too, that blind spots exist on all four sides of a tractor-trailer. Driving too close to the front or rear of a tractor-trailer is just as dangerous as driving in a lane to the truck’s immediate left or right.
Finally, pay special attention to blind spots when sharing the road with tractor-trailers transporting oversized or irregularly shaped cargo. The size and location of the blind spots around those vehicles are difficult to predict and may hide your vehicle from the driver’s view without you realizing it.
If a Syracuse tractor-trailer driver causes an accident, you may have the right to compensation.
Even the best tractor-trailer drivers can cause an accident through a moment’s inattention or a lapse in judgment. The more tractor-trailers fill the roads in the Syracuse region, especially with the increased demand for many goods across the nation, the greater the likelihood of a serious accident.
If a tractor-trailer accident harmed you due to the negligence or recklessness of the truck driver, you may recover compensation for your losses.
A Syracuse truck accident lawyer can represent you in a legal action seeking that compensation. Through skilled advocacy and careful preparation of your case, the lawyer may obtain payment for your medical bills, funds to replace the wages you lost because of your injuries, and compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured.
If you suffered injuries in an accident with a Syracuse tractor-trailer due to the negligence or recklessness of the truck driver, do not wait to seek the compensation you deserve. Contact a Syracuse truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to learn about your rights and the potential range of compensation you might expect to recover through legal action.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.