One of the most dangerous things I see out on the road are trucks unnecessarily parked on the shoulder of the interstate. Some safety directors don’t allow this dangerous practice and with good reason. The shoulders are there for breakdowns and moving vehicles after a fender-bender, but not for bathroom breaks, inspections and map reading as I’ve often seen.
Let’s review the regulations governing trucks parked on the shoulder. Firstly, the FMCSA doesn’t list the valid reasons to pull on the shoulder so we must use common sense here. If a vehicle is parked on the shoulder, the driver must immediately employ the four-way flashers. And if the vehicle is parked there for over ten minutes, reflective warning triangles must be put in place.
Pulling over on the shoulder should be your LAST choice. If you can get to the next exit safely and without damaging your equipment, it’s much safer to do so. A tire repairman doesn’t want to change your tire on the side of an interstate – especially if it’s on the driver’s side. If you’ve ever been on the side of a busy interstate with a broken down truck, it’s not a pleasant experience.
The stopped truck on the shoulder has caused many crashes over the years. Some personal injury lawyers call this the “moth into a flame” effect where cars and trucks will often crash into the rear of a stopped semi for no valid reason other than they’re trying to “follow” that vehicle. Even when a stopped truck is ready to get back on the interstate, the risk for a crash is high. The motorists see a truck gaining speed on the shoulder with a left turn signal on and feel in danger and often force their way into the left lane to make room. All of this risk is usually unnecessary if the trucker would’ve planned his stop at an authorized location.
In the future, let’s make sure we don’t stop unnecessarily on the shoulder of the interstate. We must plan our stops in authorized rest areas and truck stops. Even when there are flat tires or other maintenance problems, a professional driver can usually get to a safe space – away from the dangerous interstate.
A special thanks to TruckStockImages.com for the use of this photo.