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Safety Rules for Commercial Vehicle Operation Part 4

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

As noted in our last three podcasts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations set out the rules for commercial vehicle operation.

In parts 1-3, we defined a motor carrier and a motor carrier employee. We also described that the regulations require extreme caution when a CMV driver encounters hazardous conditions, such as snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, that diminish visibility or traction.

In part 4, we discuss the requirement of commercial drivers to scan the roadway ahead to keep a lookout for other vehicles that may present a danger to the safe operation of a truck.

The requirement to keep a lookout ahead differs from the average car driver’s expectations.

As every driver understands, there is a duty to look ahead for traffic. The typical jury instruction on the law applicable to keeping a lookout reads: Every driver must maintain a proper lookout to see or hear what should be seen or heard through the exercise of reasonable care.

Heavy commercial vehicles have an extended stopping distance, and because most drivers sit higher and can see above non-commercial vehicles ahead, the requirement to keep a lookout is more demanding.

Training materials for CDL drivers routinely state that a good commercial driver will look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead. At low speeds, 12 to 15 seconds is about the length of a city block. At highway speeds, 12 to 15 seconds extends ahead of the truck about one-quarter of a mile. Commercial drivers are trained to shift their attention between closer and distant objects.

Why must commercial vehicles keep such an enhanced lookout? So, they can change lanes and adjust speeds as needed to avoid traffic and adjust to curves and visibility challenges.

While reaction distance may be the same for commercial and non-commercial drivers, the braking distance is far longer for large, heavy vehicles. A heavy vehicle’s braking distance at 55 mph may be as high as 400 feet, and for a typical car, the braking distance may be 80 feet.

Truckers also need to manage the space around them to adjust when things go wrong.

While braking distance is extended for heavy vehicles, vehicle weight also adversely impacts acceleration.

Slow acceleration and truck length limit a heavy vehicle’s ability to maneuver in and out of traffic like a car.

The fifth podcast in this series will discuss commercial truck driving schools.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”