Bad Weather and duty of semi truck drivers

We all know when we are driving in bad weather we should be extra careful.  Semi truck drivers and some other commercial drivers have an increased duty to protect others by law.  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations state:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured. 49 CFR 392.14 Hazardous conditions; extreme caution. (Code of Federal Regulations (2019 Edition)) (Emphasis added)

Not only should a semi truck driver exercise “extreme caution” they must decrease their speed and may need to stop driving until conditions improve.  Semi truck drivers are held to a higher standard that non-commercial drivers. This requirement makes sense when we think about the potential harm that can occur when these large vehicles are not operated safely.  

The Virginia Supreme Court in looking at the regulation found that it “creates an expanded duty of care for the operation of commercial motor vehicles under the conditions stated therein.”  Kimberlin v. PM Transport, Inc., 264 Va. 261, 563 S.E.2d 665, 668 669 (2002). Any time a collision involves a semi truck or other commercial vehicle the question of whether visibility or traction were adversely affected needs to be asked.  If conditions did affect visibility or traction, did the commercial driver meet their expanded duty of care? If they did not meet this duty to exercise extreme caution, then they can be held liable for the injuries and damages they cause.

If you want to discuss a collision involving a semi truck, call lawyer Todd Willhoite at (918) 341-3101 for a free consultation. This law is current as of January 29, 2019 in Oklahoma but is subject to changes after the date of this article and in different jurisdictions.