Today in Massachusetts, the heart of the trucking industry showed its beautiful truth as hundreds of tow truck drivers gathered at the scene where just a week ago a fellow tow truck driver was struck and killed during a breakdown. The deceased tow truck driver, Daniel Coady Jr., was responding to a highway breakdown that resulted from two cars interacting unexpectedly with each other. He was busy loading one of the disabled cars onto his flatbed when a drunk driver came speeding down the highway and struck the other disabled car, pushing it into Coady.
The drunk driver and two other people were injured during the encounter, but Coady himself unfortunately died of his injuries on the way to the hospital.
What Should You Do When You’re on the Highway and Need to Make an Emergency Stop While on a Haul?
When you’re driving over 4,000 miles every week, you’re bound to need to make an emergency stop sooner or later. No matter how well you inspect, maintain, and prep your truck, you may end up over terrain or roads where some sharp object causes a flat. The question is, what do you do?
Every seasoned truck driver will tell you never to stop on the shoulder of a highway. If you read their testimonials, they’ll tell you how dangerous it is. The most common complaint is how you can’t finish placing your emergency triangle reflectors before some of them get run over by passing cars. Some have even reported that the back of their truck gets smashed by an oncoming car – without any serious injuries apart from vehicle damage.
But the worst that can happen is that someone dies from ramming into your truck while it’s on the shoulder. This happened recently in Missouri on March 16, when a Freightliner Conventional truck was parked on the shoulder and a car merging onto the highway didn’t see the parked truck and struck it full speed. The crash left the car’s driver dead with her passenger in critical condition, while the truck driver thankfully suffered minor injuries.
But you’re probably wondering what you should do if you end up with a flat tire while on the highway. If you’re driving a company truck, you know you have the professional obligation to keep the truck in tip-top shape. You know that driving with a flat tire may damage the tire and rim a lot more than if you changed it out promptly.
But would you really be willing to risk a truck accident or worse just because you wanted to make an emergency stop at the shoulder? It’s not just stories that truckers tell – the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 8 percent of truck accidents happen when a truck is parked or stopped on the shoulder or in a traffic lane.
That said, a truck accident attorney will advise you that the trucking industry standard is not to stop on the shoulder of a highway because most truck drivers don’t unless it’s absolutely necessary. The documented risks duly outweigh any benefit when it comes to fixing a simple flat. Experienced truck drivers say they’ve even been compensated for any rim and tire damage on their owner-operated trucks when they chose to drive to a safe location with the flat. They say that the best course of action is to drive under 65 miles per hour with the flat with your hazard blinkers on until you reach a gas station, truck stop, or other suitable safe location to change the tire.
HOS Regulations Allow for the Two-Hour Extension for Emergencies
But then there’s the question that often comes up – what if your Hours of Service (HOS) are up for the day and you get a flat?
A truck accident attorney would bring up the regulations that house the HOS. There’s a specific provision in those same regulations, 49 CFR 395.1 (b)(2), that speak to emergency conditions. The provision stipulates that if you run into an emergency, like a flat tire, then you’re allowed to drive two hours past the 11-hour limit. The provision goes so far as to allow you to complete the haul if it doesn’t take longer than the extra two hours you’re allotted.
The bottom line is that you should never risk parking on the shoulder of a highway if your truck can feasibly make it to the safety of a location for vehicle repairs. Your trucking company won’t charge you extra for any extended damage from driving to safety. You also won’t be in violation of HOS regulations due to their emergency clause.