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FMCSA regs compel truckers to warn other drivers of stopped trucks

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 31st, 2013

Fair warning: Practicing proper safety procedures including displaying hazard lights, placing warning devices when stopping a semi-truck can prevent crashes

With millions of commercial motor vehicles and semi trucks on the roads today, the highway can sometimes be a perilous place.  These large commercial vehicles can be dangerous and difficult to operate, but something that often gets overlooked is that these large trucks can be just as dangerous off the road as they are on the road.

Truckers need to pull off the road periodically to rest or sleep, to inspect their cargo, inspect their vehicles, or do any number of other activities. The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA) Regulations require truck drivers to park their trucks a certain way, and to take action to adequately warn other motorists that there’s a stopped commercial truck ahead.

Unfortunately, there are many truck drivers  out there who do not follow the rules by not warning other motorists of a potential hazard put others at risk.

One example from my own law practice is a terrible death case I litigated recently that was caused by an inexperienced truck driver.  The driver got lost and instead of exiting the highway and getting back on in the correct direction, he made an illegal U-Turn in the median and stopped his truck. It was a foggy morning, his truck was white and part of his truck was sticking out in the roadway. An oncoming driver  could not see the  stopped white truck in the fog, barreled into it and was killed.

Each of the three founding members of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable have litigated similar crashes.  These happen when unsuspecting motorists crash into the trailers of illegally parked trucks.

Stopped vehicles are regulated under subpart C of § 392.2 of the FMCSA Safety Regulations as follows.

Hazard lights: Every time a truck is stopped on the traveled portion of the highway, or even if it is stopped on the shoulder of the highway for any reason other than traffic, the truck driver is required to immediately activate his hazard lights.  (§ 393.22(a)).

Warning devices: Furthermore, the truck driver “shall as soon as possible” (but within 10 minutes) place warning devices on the road surface behind the stopped truck.  (§ 393.22(b)(1)).  This is not an option. The truck’s hazard lights must remain flashing at least until the warning devices have been placed.  FMCSA regulations also mandate that trucks shall be equipped with the warning devices.  (§ 393.95(f)).

Placement of warning devices: The warning devices must be placed a specific way in accordance with the Safety Regulations.  The rules specify different placements where the truck is stopped on a curve as opposed to being stopped on a straightaway, and in some instances, the daytime versus at night.

But, when truck drivers ignore these rules and fail to activate their hazard lights or adequately place warning devices, other drivers are left with little to no warning of the dangerous condition.

If you are a truck driver, please follow the proper safety procedures when you stop your semi-truck; activate your hazard lights and promptly place the warning devices as required.  If you are a motorist, please be aware of a truck flashing its hazard lights, and be aware of safety devices to warn you of a stopped truck.

Related information:

8 tips to consider after an accident with a commercial truck

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls for stronger rear truck underride standards

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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