Today, local news organizations have reported that an 18-wheeler jack-knifed and is clogging traffic on the East Loop 610. Just four days ago, another tractor-trailer was involved in a crash with a Smart Car. The result was not the inconvenience of a traffic jam; instead, the driver of the car was sent to the hospital in critical condition.
Once again, we can see the hazards of the trucking industry. Tractor-trailers form a vital link in our country’s distribution chain. Yet, they also involve significant risks. As a start, the weight of a loaded 18-wheeler vastly exceeds that of a sedan. In a collision between the two, motorists in a passenger car are at heightened risk of serious injury due to the differential in mass. In addition, the weight dramatically affects the performance and maneuverability of big rigs. A last-second turn that could avoid a collision in an automobile may be impossible in an 18-wheeler. Moreover, visibility is different, too. Trucks themselves are comparatively easy to see; and with their higher seats, truck drivers can often see over traffic and down the highway better. But, they also may find it harder to see cars that are low to the ground, alongside of them, or in their blind spots.
Certainly, drivers of passenger cars must be aware of and careful around tractor-trailers. But truck drivers must be ever vigilant, too. They are given the privilege of driving significant pieces of equipment, and of earning a living by hauling freight on public roadways. With that privilege comes the responsibility to take every reasonable step to ensure public safety. Because what’s at stake is much more than the inconvenience of a traffic jam: it is the life and health of you and your loved ones.