One of the accident trends we have seen in recent months involves trucks that have pulled over to the shoulder of the highway. Due to the higher speeds involved in highway driving and the large number of distracted drivers, these accidents can and usually do have serious, or even fatal consequences.
The first thing to remember in a situation where a driver needs to get off the highway is to determine if this is an emergency or not. For example, if a driver receives an important phone call that demands the driver’s attention, it is the right decision to get off the highway, but this is a non-emergency and the driver should wait and get off at the first available highway exit. In contrast, if a truck tire blows out and the driver is having trouble controlling the truck, then that is an emergency. In that situation, try to remain calm and determine if there is an exit ramp close enough to safely reach, as it is safer to stop on an exit ramp than it is the shoulder of the highway. If no exit is close enough, and the shoulder is your only option, remember these tips to keep you and others safe:
- Put your flashers on and try to ease over to the right shoulder of the highway, avoiding any oncoming vehicles as you make your way over. Never try to pull off on the left shoulder, as the left lanes are typically vehicles that are travelling at even faster speeds and passing other vehicles, increasing the chances of a serious accident. Keep your flashers on the entire time the truck is on the shoulder. This may be more than is technically required, but it helps other drivers see your truck, which lessens the chance of an accident.
- Make sure your truck is all the way off to the right shoulder, and not over or close to the line dividing the highway from the shoulder. If any part of the truck is sticking out into the highway, a passing vehicle that is not paying attention could clip that part of the truck.
- After putting the truck in park, check your mirrors carefully before exiting the truck to ensure that there are no vehicles passing by at the time and you can safety step out of and around the truck. Do not make any sudden movements or steps near the moving traffic while out of the truck.
- Be sure to place warning triangles or flares. 49 CFR 392.22 requires that these triangles or flares be placed within 10 minutes in three locations – 1. On the traffic side of the shoulder, approximately 10 feet from the truck, in the direction of approaching traffic; 2. In the center of the shoulder, approximately 100 feet from the truck, in the direction of approaching traffic; and 3. In the center of the shoulder, approximately 100 feet from the truck, in the direction away from approaching traffic. If using flares, the driver must make sure that the flares stay lit as long as the truck is stopped.
- If not already known, try to quickly determine what the problem with the truck is and whether it is something that can be easily fixed or not.
- Contact your dispatcher to let them know what is going on and determine best way to handle from there. Stay in the truck until help arrives so there is no chance of being hit by another vehicle while out walking or standing around.
- Take some deep breaths and remain calm.
As always, we are happy to discuss safety and answer your questions. Please do not hesitate to give us a call at 913-451-3900, or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you many safe and accident-free miles!
Director of Risk Management
Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company
1 – MacMillan, C., 2019. Truck Driver Tips For Handling A Big Rig Breakdown. [online] Smart Trucking. Available at: https://www.smart-trucking.com/big-rig-breakdown/ [Accessed 25 June 2020].
2 – 49 CFR 392.22