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A big rig truck, also called a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, are large trucks that haul containers of freight around the country. These big rigs vastly outweigh a normal car which in turn vastly outweighs a cyclist. A fully-loaded big rig can weigh upwards of 20,000 pounds depending on the cargo, whereas the average passenger car is around 5,000 pounds. So when one hits a largely unprotected cyclist, the injuries are going to be substantial often leading to death. There are many reasons why a truck driver might hit a cyclist.

What do Big Rigs Do?

Though they are a safety hazard on the streets that are shared with cyclists, these big rigs are essential for businesses. They carry larger items and greater quantity than the box delivery trucks. This saves the businesses such as Safeway money which is passed on to the customers. Also, if the inner cities only accepted smaller vehicles, then this would put many businesses at competitive disadvantage with their urban competitors.
Many cyclists in inner cities might favor rules that restrict access to the inner cities. There are pilot programs in New York and D.C. that give incentives to businesses who accept delivery at night. San Jose has no such restrictions and most deliveries occur during the day.

Big Rig and Cyclist Fatalities

In 2016, across the country, over 4,000 people died in big rig accidents. Out of these, 16 percent, or roughly 650, were cyclists and pedestrians. The reason for this is primarily the size and mass of the big rigs compared to unprotected cyclists. There are a few factors that contribute to these accidents.

Blind Spots

A blind spot, which are called “no zones” by the carrier industry, are areas around the rig that can’t be seen by the driver. The larger the truck the more no zones there are. Though there are extended mirrors or curved blind spot mirrors on these vehicles, not all blind spots can be eliminated. Many trucks have cameras attacked to the mirrors and around the vehicle to further reduce blind spots. However, the vast majority of these trucks don’t have them yet.
According to the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, there are precautions one can take to limit risk from blind spots:

  • A commercial motor vehicle has large blind spots around all four sides.
  • Take extra care in passing and being passed by large trucks and buses.
  • Stay out of blind spots when a truck or bus is turning, backing up or changing lanes.
  • Large vehicles need longer following distance to see vehicles behind them. If you can’t see the driver in his or her side mirror, the driver can’t see you.

Right-Hand Turns are Deadly

A right-hand turn, often called the “right hook” for cyclists and pedestrians, happens when a large truck makes a right-hand turn striking a cyclist. There are two basic types of right hooks. The first is when a large truck passes the cyclist on his or her left then turns right suddenly usually giving the cyclist no time to react.
The best way to avoid this is by riding far enough into the lane to make drivers change lanes to pass. If a truck driver wants to turn, then they will be more likely to wait until you pass the intersection before turning.
The other occurs when a truck is making a right-hand turn at an intersection. As motorists, most have seen the big-rig driver take a wide swing to the left when making a right turn. This is to avoid the back wheels from hitting a telephone pole or ride up on the sidewalk. The longer the vehicle, the more the driver has to swing out.
When this happens, unsuspecting cyclists often see that extra space and move into it believing the truck is going to go straight or even turn left. When this happens, tragedy often results as the cyclist is knocked down and unable to avoid the back wheels.

Other Issues with Big Rigs

Because of their size, there are other issues that come up with big rigs:

  • Longer braking times: A loaded big rig can take almost 50 percent more roadway to stop. Many cyclists don’t consider this until it’s too late.
  • Fatigued driving: There are restrictions by law regarding how many hours a truck driver can be on the road. However, many of drivers ignore these. Companies like Safeway are often left to enforce these rules as the government doesn’t have the manpower to regulate every truck driver.
  • Distracted driving: This can be by the truck driver or the cyclists. In either case, not staying alert is a major factor in these crashes.

What Should I do if I get hit by a Big Rig?

If you are involved in an accident involving a big rig truck, Safeway truck or other delivery truck, call the attorneys at Bay Area Bicycle Law. They have the knowledge and experience dealing with delivery companies and their insurance carriers. They also know bicycle law as they are the only law firm that deals exclusively with bicycle law in the San Jose area as well as all of northern California.
Commercial trucks and the companies that own them, have large insurance policies, but they also have experienced attorney’s that protect the company’s bottom line. So don’t go it alone. Start putting someone on your side, call us at (415) 466 8717 or click here to contact us online. If you still wonder if we’re the right firm for you or even if you need an attorney, read this this for help answering these questions.