It’s no surprise that large truck accidents can be more dangerous than other types of car accidents. Commercial trucks like semis and tanker trucks are large, heavy, and tough to handle. They’re more vulnerable to tipping than smaller passenger vehicles. And they take a long time to stop compared with your car.
But the statistics on truck accidents may come as a surprise. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), more than 38% of fatal truck accidents in one recent year involved cargo vans and box trucks. That percentage wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was lower than the same figure from the two previous years.
Why are Box Trucks and Vans Dangerous on the Road?
Moving vans, box trucks, and even large passenger vans present a greater risk than many other vehicle types. There are several reasons for the increased danger, but one core factor aggravates all the other risks: The people who drive these vehicles.
In Ohio, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 pounds or more. That’s because of all the special challenges associated with operating larger vehicles, including:
- Differences in visibility, including larger blind spots;
- Needing additional space to turn, change lanes, or otherwise maneuver the vehicle;
- Increased braking time;
- A vehicle structure that may be more likely to tip.
Of course, there’s no magic weight limit where those issues begin to emerge. But Ohio legislators had to pick a number. That means a commercial driver’s license is required at 26,001 pounds, but not at 25,996 pounds. And there’s virtually no difference in what it takes to safely and successfully operate those two vehicles.
Who Drives Large Vans and Box Trucks?
As long as the vehicle is under the 26,001 pound limit, the answer to the question of “who can drive a large van or box truck” is “anyone with a valid driver’s license.” This includes:
- People who are moving and rent an unfamiliar truck or van, though they may rarely or never have operated a similar vehicle before;
- Employees of churches, schools, and other organizations who may occasionally check out or rent a large passenger van for a group outing;
- Commercial drivers whose trucks come in under the limit, and so aren’t required to hold a commercial driver’s license or have any special training;
- Families who rent a large van for an extended family vacation.
Each of these scenarios presents certain risks. Inexperience is among the most significant, since the one-off or occasional renters are often unprepared for issues like increased blind spots, the longer time required to slow or stop the vehicle, and the amount of space required to change lanes.
While these risks may be mitigated by time behind the wheel in a commercial setting, the training and qualifications for drivers not required to hold a CDL vary depending on the company they work or contract for. And many companies that put a lot of trucks on the road–including UPS and FedEx–don’t require commercial driver’s licenses for most delivery drivers.
These risks are often increased because other drivers on the road aren’t aware that these vehicles may pose some of the same threats as a larger commercial vehicle might. Most of us know to give a tanker truck or semi-trailer truck sufficient space when they’re changing lanes and understand that they may not be able to see us. But many drivers don’t apply that same caution to a U-Haul truck or cargo van sharing the road.
If you’re inexperienced with operating larger vehicles, be very cautious about getting behind the wheel of a cargo van, large passenger van, or box truck. Before taking the vehicle out in traffic, make sure you’re comfortable with visibility, braking time, turns, lane changes, and other aspects that may be different than you’re used to. And when you’re on the road in your own vehicle, treat this type of vehicle the same way you would a large truck, making adjustments for the possibility that the driver can’t see you, the fact that the truck or van may take longer to stop, and other risks described above.
Who is Responsible for a Large Van or Box Truck Accident?
Liability for a van or box truck accident is determined like liability in any motor vehicle accident case: A driver whose negligence caused or contributed to the collision is generally wholly or partly responsible. However, there are some additional elements in this type of case.
First, simply operating the vehicle may constitute negligence if the driver doesn’t have the required skills and experience and knew or should have known they couldn’t operate the vehicle safely.
Second, these vehicles are often company vehicles or rentals. An experienced truck accident attorney will want to explore the possibility of liability on the part of the owner of the vehicle. This analysis can be complicated. For example, federal law relieves rental car companies of liability for motor vehicle accidents involving their vehicles. However, that protection doesn’t apply if the rental company was negligent or engaged in criminal activity. So, for example, if the vehicle was negligently maintained and that negligence contributed to the accident, the rental agent might be responsible. Similarly, an employer may be liable for an auto crash caused by its employee. But the analysis will be different if the driver was an independent contractor rather than an employee.
If you’ve been in a traffic crash with a van or box truck, your best next step is to speak with an experienced Ohio motor vehicle accident lawyer. The attorneys at Plevin & Gallucci have been representing Ohio car and truck accident victims for decades. We know how important it is for you to have accurate information as soon after your injury as possible. That’s why we offer free consultations to Ohio injury victims.
You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-4-PLEVIN or filling out the contact form on this page. There’s no obligation, and you pay no fees unless and until we settle your case or secure a verdict at trial.