When you think of a big truck accident, you might have a tractor-trailer or big rig in mind. However, several other types of trucks are just as harmful as those big rigs in the event of a collision. While a tractor-trailer has the added complication of a long trailer—usually 48 feet or 53 feet—other trucks, such as large box trucks, garbage trucks, cement trucks, and tanker trucks, are also dangerous due to their heavy weight and large size.
Types of Trucks
While you should remain mindful of all types of trucks, those with trailers and those that are high off the ground are more likely to lose control for many reasons. Weather, truck maintenance, and other drivers may cause a trucker to lose control and cause an accident in which you’re involved. If you are not aware of a truck’s blind spots, you may cause an accident if the truck driver does not see you. The most dangerous time when passing and merging in front of trucks is while you are in their blind spots.
Semi-trucks are also referred to as tractor-trailers or big rigs. The first piece of a semi-truck is called a tractor, which is the truck that pulls the trailer. The trailer may be:
- An enclosed box trailer that is usually 48 feet long or 53 feet long
- An enclosed tank that may haul flammable liquids, milk, or other liquids
- Open-top box trailers
- Intermodal trailers
- Low-boy flatbed trailers
- Tandem trailers
- A flatbed trailer for hauling large equipment and other large loads
- A vehicle hauler that hauls two decks of vehicles
The trailer is attached to the truck by a fifth-wheel mount. The rear of the trailer may be supported by two, three, or even four axles. Different types of trailers pose their own problems. Intermodal trailers are removable boxes that are used to ship cargo via different modes of transportation, such as trucks and ships. The cargo is never unpacked during the truck delivery. Once delivered, the box container is removed from the trailer and stacked on a ship or other form of transportation.
Open-top box trailers may have debris that flies or falls out of the trailer, especially if the truck is carrying sand or gravel. Should an open-top trailer tip, the load will spill all over the ground and anything else in the way—including your vehicle. A low-boy trailer rides very close to the ground and is usually used to transport large construction equipment. A tandem trailer is actually two trailers that are hooked together. In Virginia, tandem trailers cannot be longer than 28 feet and 6 inches, including the load. Tandem trailers are even banned from some roads.
You may see two types of tanker trucks on the road. One usually has the tank attached to the truck, and the other is a tanker trailer. These trucks carry liquids, and often those liquids are flammable or toxic. Hazardous materials are prohibited from going through tunnels, though some types are allowed through certain tunnels if the loads meet federal regulations or if the tunnels are water tunnels.
If you need to pass a tanker truck, do so with extra caution. If you notice a tanker leaking, call 911 immediately and be prepared to give your location, a description of the truck, and the nearest mile marker. If you are passing an accident that involves a tanker truck, take extra caution as you pass the accident. Fumes are often more flammable than the liquid. One spark could set off an explosion. Under no circumstances should you be smoking as you pass a tanker accident, and you most certainly should not throw a lit cigarette out the window.
Fire trucks may consist of a box truck frame or may have a trailer. Either way, a fire truck or even an ambulance could do some serious damage if involved in an accident. Not only are these vehicles larger than passenger cars and trucks, but also they are often speeding on the way to an emergency. Emergency vehicles are permitted to run red lights, speed, and even drive on the wrong side of the road, as long as they take due care and do it as safely as possible.
Virginia requires passenger vehicles to move over to the side of the road and stop to let emergency vehicles through. The driver of the emergency vehicle must exercise enough caution so that he or she gets to the call safely without causing an accident. You should also take special note of driving around emergency vehicles. Don’t rubberneck as you go by an accident and slow down considerably. Also, you should take care when you pull over to the edge of the road and stop—ensure that you are as far over as possible without putting yourself in danger.
Finally, never just hit the brakes and stop in the middle of the road, and never assume that emergency vehicles will go around you. Just as with semi-trucks, emergency vehicles are heavy and cannot stop on a dime, which also means that you should not merge in front of them if you cannot see the truck in your door mirrors.
Box trucks carry their cargo in a container attached to the chassis. This category of trucks includes moving trucks, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and construction vehicles. Box trucks have large blind spots, and they may have drivers who are not trained as well as tractor-trailer truck drivers.
Another danger with box trucks—construction trucks in particular—is that some of their loads, such as gravel or sand, could potentially fall out of the truck and cause an accident.
Always leave extra car lengths between you and construction trucks. Many of these trucks even have signs warning following cars to keep back painted on the rear of them. Even though they are shorter than tractor-trailer trucks, they are just as dangerous. Their height makes it easy for them to tip over.