Truck Accidents

Unsafe Lane Changes


Trucks have large blind spots

Most lane change crashes involving large trucks are due to blind spots.

Truck drivers must follow strict rules to prevent lane change accidents

Truck drivers have a duty to make sure their blind spots are clear before changing lanes.

The rules governing reasonable care for a commercial truck driver are different than the rules governing drivers of passenger cars.  A driver in a car typically has a nearly unobstructed view of traffic on all sides. In addition, a driver of a car can often feel and hear the presence of a large commercial vehicle that is close by.
To acquire the knowledge of a CDL operator and to respond to safety instructions is critical to maintaining the safety of the roads. To be qualified a driver must be able to “read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.” Section 391.11(b)(2).
The Motor Carrier is required to make sure that their employees and this includes independent contractors observe all prescribed duties and prohibitions under the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Act. Section 390.11. It is an offense for any person to aid, abet or encourage a motor carrier or its employees to violate these rules. Section 390.13.

Federal Rules for Safe Driving Apply to Large Trucks

Every State has a Commercial Driver’s License Manual and that Manual covers driving skills mandated by the Federal Government.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are applicable to commercial vehicles that weigh 10,001 pounds or more.  Commercial drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  Section 383.3(a).  The FMCSR mandates that commercial truck drivers receive training to comply with the FMCSR.  Section 383.1(b).  The FMCSR mandates that each state tests the required skills and knowledge for each commercial driver license applicant which meets the federal standards.  Section 383(b)(7).   Each state is further required to set forth the federal standards for procedures, methods, and minimum passing test scores to license commercial drivers.  Section 383.1(10). “The purpose of this part is to help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities and injuries by requiring drivers to have a single commercial driver’s license and by disqualifying drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles in an unsafe manner.”  Section 383.1.
Section 383.1 is the legal mandate that led to each state creating a Commercial Driver’s License manual that identifies the Federal Requirements and trains drivers how to comply with those requirements.   Section 384.214 provides that a CDL issued by one state is to be honored in all states. Code of Maryland Regulations 11.21.01.02 incorporates 49 CFR 40, 382, 383, 387, 390-393, 399 and 1572 as amended to the Maryland transportation records. Title 19 Virginia Code Section 30-20-80 provides that every person and commercial motor vehicle subject to the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations operating in interstate or intrastate commerce within or through the Commonwealth of Virginia shall comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations found in 49 CFR Parts 390-397.
The FMCR identifies the required driving knowledge and skills for a commercial driver.  The required knowledge driving rules is listed under Section 383.111.  A driver must have knowledge of “[b]asic control. The proper procedures for performing basic maneuvers, including: (iv) Turning the vehicle, e.g. basic rules, off tracking, right/left turns and right curves.  383.111(a)(4).  In addition, a driver must know how to conduct a visual search.  “The importance of proper visual search, and proper visual search methods, including: (i) seeing ahead and to the sides, (ii) use of mirrors; and (iii) seeing to the rear.”  383.111(a)(7).  Drivers must also exercise space management.  “The procedures and techniques for controlling the space around the vehicle, including: (i) the importance of space management; (ii) Space cushions, e.g., controlling space ahead/to the rear; (iii) Space to the sides; and (iv) Space for traffic gaps.”  383.111(a)(10).
Commercial truck drivers must have knowledge of “Hazard Perceptions. The basic information and clues for recognition of hazards including: (i) Road characteristics; and (ii) Road user activities.” Section 383.111(a)(13). The required skills of a driver include the “[a]bility to choose a safe gap for changing lanes, passing other vehicles, as well as for crossing or entering traffic.” Section 383.113(c)(4).

The Federal Highway Administration as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered a review of commercial motor vehicle accidents for the purposes of creating a manual of countermeasures to prevent such accidents. This publication is called Commercial Vehicle Preventable Accident Manual, A Guide to Countermeasures. The manual was created by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The manual describes the applicable problem as follows: “Lane use and lane changing accidents primarily involve sideswiping and rear-end collisions. The existence of blind spots around large vehicles is a major contributing factor. Drivers must maintain a proper following distance and take note of countermeasures involving right-of-way.” Under driving tips, the manual provides: “Blind spots to the right of large vehicles are well known. However, automobile drivers may not know you cannot see them as they pass you on the right. Scan to the right thoroughly before steering into the next lane. Give right-of-way, don’t take it.” Pg. 28. The manual further advises drivers to “[c]lean mirrors and check adjustments frequently.” Id.

CDL Manuals Require Truck Drivers to take multiple steps to prevent lane change crashes.

Did the Truck Driver follow the Rules?

The FMCR identifies the required driving knowledge and skills for a commercial driver.  The required knowledge driving rules is listed under Section 383.111.  A driver must have knowledge of “[b]asic control. The proper procedures for performing basic maneuvers, including: (iv) Turning the vehicle, e.g. basic rules, off tracking, right/left turns and right curves.  383.111(a)(4).  In addition, a driver must know how to conduct a visual search.  “The importance of proper visual search, and proper visual search methods, including: (i) seeing ahead and to the sides, (ii) use of mirrors; and (iii) seeing to the rear.”  383.111(a)(7).  Drivers must also exercise space management.  “The procedures and techniques for controlling the space around the vehicle, including: (i) the importance of space management; (ii) Space cushions, e.g., controlling space ahead/to the rear; (iii) Space to the sides; and (iv) Space for traffic gaps.”  383.111(a)(10).
Commercial truck drivers must have knowledge of “Hazard Perceptions. The basic information and clues for recognition of hazards including: (i) Road characteristics; and (ii) Road user activities.” Section 383.111(a)(13). The required skills of a driver include the “[a]bility to choose a safe gap for changing lanes, passing other vehicles, as well as for crossing or entering traffic.” Section 383.113(c)(4).
To FMCR identifies the important areas to evaluate the conduct of a commercial driver.  Each state is required to provide an FMSCA preapproved driver information manual to a CDL applicant. Section 383.131(a)(1). The CDL and Industry Commercial Driver manuals provide the techniques, methods and industry standards to comply with FMCR.  The J. J. Keller Tractor Trailer Driving Manual is based on the Federal Highway Administration Model Curriculum and follows the Professional Truck Driver Institutes curriculum standards. The following instructions are found in the J.J. Keller Tractor-Trailer Driver Training Manual:
Scanning to the sides
When on the road, you should be periodically scanning to the sides, but there are certain situations where scanning to the sides is critical including crosswalks, intersections and school zones. Pg. 126.
. . .
Use of Mirrors
Mirrors provide your only view of the rear of your vehicle.  You must check your mirrors before changing speed or position in traffic.  You should check your mirrors about every four seconds.  Also, use mirrors to assist in checking your vehicle’s blind spots.  Pg. 126.
. . . . .
Remember that mirrors do not allow you to see everything.  There are blind spots on both sides of your vehicle.  This makes lane changes, passing, and other maneuvers risky.  Tight turns can also pose a problem.  You can’t see smaller vehicles or pedestrians that are next to the vehicle.  Along with using your mirrors, signal and wait a moment before changing directions or lanes.  Pg. 127.
Adjusting Mirrors
Proper adjustment is important.  It ensures that you have the best view possible to the sides and rear of your vehicle.
Pg. 128.
Seeing to the Rear
Continually use your mirrors to monitor the rear of your vehicle . . .
Use your mirrors to check for vehicles beside your tractor and trailer.  Be alert.  Know what is always going on.
Use your mirrors when changing lanes.  Check your mirrors:
• Before you change lanes (making sure there’s room to change lanes);
• After you signal (Making sure no one/nothing moved into your blind spot);
• Right after you begin the lane change (making sure your path is still clear); and
• After you complete the lane change.
Also check your mirrors when you slow down, merge or turn.
The techniques that are instructed under the CDL manuals for Maryland and Virginia are consistent and similar.  All industry and state CDL manuals instruct drivers as to the techniques and methods that are to be used to comply with the required commercial driver skills of Section 383.111.

I would highly recommend George Patterson. I was very pleased with how he conducted himself and handled my case. He prepared me for all stages of the process but especially for the deposition. He was very responsive and always available to speak to me. He offered sound advice on the settlement process and helped me obtain a better settlement.

Rhonda

A Motor Vehicle Accident Client

The average personal injury lawyer evaluates commercial truck accident cases with the same rules that apply to passenger car drivers. This is a big mistake. Driving an 80,000-pound vehicle on our roads is a privilege and for that privilege truck drivers must follow rules that are designed to anticipate and avoid accidents.

George Patterson, Truck Accident Lawyer

what to do

Our Successes

Patterson Law takes pride with every client that recovers. Recovery is more than the settlements and verdicts obtained for our clients. Each and every one of these clients had been shepherded through a process where powerful insurance companies fought to defeat or minimize their claims. Each result represents a client’s dignity being affirmed.

View All

George Patterson is an Advocate Attorney member of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys. Advocate attorney membership is limited to lawyers that have passed a test demonstrating that they have documented their capability to competently handle trucking litigation.

The truck accident lawyers at Patterson Law serve clients in Prince George's, Montgomery, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Howard, Anne Arundel, Queen Anne's and Baltimore Counties. Our clients are from Silver Spring, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Forestville, Prince Frederick, Leonardtown, Annapolis, Edgewater, Rockville, Mayo, Bethesda, Germantown, Olney, Beltsville, Deale, Bethesda, Severna Park, Largo, Landover, Oxon Hill, La Plata, Waldorf, Crofton, Columbia and Chevy Chase.

Get Started Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident call a Board-Certified Truck Accident Lawyer at 301-888-HURT for a free consultation.

Schedule a consultation