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What exactly is “extreme caution,” when driving a commercial truck in winter weather?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 8th, 2016

Winter weather is rarely an excuse for a wreck when FMCSRs require all truckers exercise “extreme caution” when driving in hazardous road conditions

winter truck driving

As winter sets in, the excuses defense lawyers make for truck drivers who rear-end stopped cars on highways and streets turns to weather.  Winter weather, that is.

Unfortunately, weather does make bad driving decisions worse because it takes away that extra safety cushion. But, as any experienced truck accident lawyer knows, bad weather is never an excuse for a serious truck crash. In fact, bad weather driving is explicitly addressed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

In § 392.14 of the FMCSRs, the rules are clear:

The regulation reads that “[e]xtreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions” exist.

But maybe it’s not clear enough.

Although the rules state that a driver must exercise “extreme caution,” the FMCSRs do not explain what extreme caution is. So what constitutes “extreme cautions” when driving a semi-truck in poor weather conditions?

The answer to this question can be found in the AAMVA’s Model CDL Manual. The AAMVA is a Model CDL manual produced by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. This manual sets out the industry standard for safely operating a big-rig.

In fact, the FMCSRs actually require that the states “must provide an FMCSA pre-approved driver information manual to a CLP or CDL applicant [that] must be comparable to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ 2005 CDL Test System (July 2010 Version) Model Commercial Drive Manual.”  (See § 383.131).

So what does the AAMVA Model CDL Manual say about driving in bad weather?

§ 2.6.2 states that when driving on wet roads, a trucker should “[r]educe speed by about one-third…on packed snow by half, or more…[and] on ice reduce speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you can safely do so.”

So, the next time you’re deposing a truck driver and he says that he was exercising extreme caution, find out if he reduced his speed by at least one third.  If he or she did not, and the drivers almost never testify that they do, then they are not following industry safety standards.

Related info:

Bad weather is never an excuse for a trucker who causes a wreck

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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