“Sunday storms blamed for I-85 semi collision,” shouted a headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last Monday.
The accompanying article stated that heavy rain
…could be to blame for a tractor-trailer crash near Spaghetti Junction. Driving rain may have caused two tractor-trailers heading north on Interstate 85 to crash and overturn in DeKalb County late Sunday night. Police shut down northbound lanes of I-85 for several hours, backing up traffic for miles. Two people were injured in the crash.
That is a simplistic way of reporting a tractor trailer collision in adverse weather conditions. After all, bad weather is a common occurrence, entirely foreseeable in the course of operating a trucking company. That is why the issue is clearly covered in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that govern interstate trucking, and which have been adopted in all states to govern intrastate (within the same state) trucking.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation § 392.14, Hazardous conditions; extreme caution, provides:
Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.
This is stated simply in the Regulatory Guidance: “Under this section, the driver is clearly responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle and the decision to cease operation because of hazardous conditions.” Moreover, the Commercial Drivers License handbook for every state in the US clearly explains the rule and specifies that in rain the driver should slow down by at least one-third below the speed limit, and if necessary pull over.
So when you are crawling along the highway in heavy rain and see a tractor trailer flying past you at or above the speed limit that is posted for dry road conditions, you know that he is clearly and intentionally violating a federal safety regulation on which he has been trained.
And when tractor trailers crash in heavy rain, one should not just blame God for making it rain. Take a look at whether the trucker was breaking the rule requiring “extreme caution” in adverse weather conditions.