Semi-trucks are one of the most dangerous vehicles on our highways. The negligent operation of a semi-truck is even more dangerous than a car because of its sheer weight and potential velocity. Trucks can reach high speeds and act like battering rams when they get into a collision. A trucker's reckless driving can lead to severe injuries or even wrongful death in a serious accident.
You need to know what to do if you see a semi-truck driving poorly. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you will be injured or killed. Following these simple steps can make a major difference for your safety and the safety of others.
Identifying Poor Truck Driving
What is poor truck driving? Many kinds of bad truck driving are negligent. This is a failure to follow the reasonable duty of care of another truck driver when operating their vehicle. This is also a violation of traffic laws or truck-specific regulations in many cases. Violations of these laws or regulations often constitute poor truck driving.
Other signs of dangerous truck driving could include, but are not limited to:
- Weaving in the lane or crossing over lane lines
- Unpredictable braking or other driving behavior
- Aggressive driving or road rage incidents
- Failure to check blind spots
- Violations of merging rules
- Driving excessively fast or slow
- Issues because of defective truck parts
- Rude behavior or gestures by truck drivers
When you see these types of behaviors or others, you should follow the tips below to make sure you and your passengers stay safe.
1. Give the Truck Driver Space
Trucks are large, heavy, and exceptionally dangerous. You will not win in an "I had the right of way" argument. The reality will be a major accident that causes you harm or even wrongful death. You do not want to get close to a driver who seems unpredictable or is making unsafe decisions.
The best course of action is to:
- Give the truck driver lots of space (even more than you usually would)
- Pass two or more lanes over if possible
- Have a passenger keep an eye on the truck driver to help you
- Stay behind the truck if this seems like the safest place
- Pass quickly but safely if you must pass
- Do not hang out in the truck driver's blind spots or no-zones
- Don't antagonize or be rude to a truck driver (even if they were doing something wrong)
The best first step is always to keep a safe distance. Just because you are allowed to drive near the truck does not mean you will be safe doing so. Always err on the side of caution if you notice poor truck driving.
2. Call the Appropriate Authorities
When you see unsafe or erratic truck driving, you should report it to the authorities as soon as it is safe to do so. Do not put yourself in danger by taking your eyes off of the road. If possible, have a passenger call the authorities for you. If you don't have a passenger, you may have to pull off of the road or take an exit if on the highway.
The right authority to call will depend on where you are when you see the poor driving. Possible law enforcement you should call includes:
- The Highway Patrol
- State Police
- Local law enforcement in the city
- County sheriff or county law enforcement
- 911 in emergency situations
Only use 911 to report emergency issues, not just poor driving. Other forms of illegal or dangerous conduct that is not an emergency should be reported directly to law enforcement.
3. Identifying the Specific Truck
If and only if it is safe to do so, you should try to get the identifying information for the truck. Most trucks have various identifying information listed on them. By noting these key identifiers, you can make an accurate report both during and after the poor driving incident.
Identifying information contained on semi-trucks will often include, but is not limited to:
- The license plate number, state, and type of license
- The company name for the trailer or cab
- A contact number on the vehicle
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) number
- Legal name or trade name of a motor carrier that operates the truck
- Any other unique identifying marks you can identify
This information can help identify a truck and ensure that the specific driver who committed the offense is held responsible for their poor driving.
4. Report Bad Driving to Headquarters
Ever noticed the "How Am I Driving?" sticker on the back of a truck? Ever wanted to call in? This optional step can be a great way to report poor driving. This reports back to the truck driver's employer or company that owns the truck. Hopefully, this will help to hold the driver accountable for their actions behind the wheel. Most companies pay attention to this feedback. It may even require the driver to undergo more training or recognize that their behavior is unacceptable.
Again, you should only do this if it is safe to do so. Don't get in an accident trying to read a phone number or calling that number. Have a passenger help you or if it is unsafe to do it yourself—just don't. Always follow Tip 1 and keep a safe distance to protect yourself and others on the road.
5. File a Complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Another option is to report the driver to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This federal agency oversees and regulates truck companies and drivers. It dictates their behavior and the types of conduct they should avoid. Negligent behavior should be reported within 90 days of the incident you are reporting, but it is always best to report it as soon as possible.
A complaint to this administration is especially useful to report poor driving due to:
- Distracted driving (texting, watching videos, etc.)
- Intoxicated driving
- Hours of service violations
- Maintenance-based driving issues
- Speeding or reckless driving
Violations of FMCSA regulations are a big deal. Companies do not want to be on the administration's bad side so a report can help to hold their drivers accountable.