A truck driver’s responsibility in hazardous weather

Winter is here, and inclement weather comes with it. Snow, sleet, or other wintery conditions make it harder for all vehicles to maneuver or stop, but tractor-trailers are especially affected. However, wintery weather is no excuse for a collision. If commercial truck operators follow the industry standards, then their vehicles should not be more likely to cause a collision in inclement weather.

large truck driving up snowy mountain

Adverse weather conditions are specifically addressed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). FMCSR 392.14 reads that “extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions…exist.”  The regulations also state that speed should be reduced. The issue with this FMCSR is that it does not specifically define “extreme caution,” nor does it specify how much speed should be reduced in hazardous conditions. Thus, the proper actions for a tractor-trailer driver to take are open to interpretation.

While the FMCSR does not lay out specifically how much speed should be reduced in these circumstances, the Virginia Commercial Driver’s Manual does give specific speeds in different conditions.  It states in section 2:6:2 that on wet road surfaces, speed should be reduced by one-third; on packed snow, reduced by half; and, if the surface is icy, speed should be reduced to a crawl and to stop driving as soon as possible.

There is a dispute on whether that manual and its speeds are binding on the tractor trailer operators, or whether they provide mere suggestions. The argument for a plaintiff’s attorney to make is that the Commercial Driver’s Manual specifically sets forth what the term “extreme caution” means as used in the FMCSR, and therefore it should be followed.

When a commercial vehicle causes a collision while operating in hazardous conditions, the operator should be asked whether he/she was operating with extreme caution. If the answer is yes, they should be asked about his/her speed in relation to the conditions. If the speed does not match what is set out in the commercial driver’s manual, then it can be argued that the operator was not following industry safety standards.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, the attorneys at Allen & Allen are here to help.