FMCSRs Mandate Extreme Caution for Truck Drivers Operating in Hazardous Weather Conditions

Truck driving in wet weatherAfter the recent accident on Route 78, where three people were killed when 64 vehicles collided in heavy snow, local and federal officials are reminding truck drivers that federal trucking regulations require that the use “extreme caution” in these types of conditions. Authorities say that at least a dozen large commercial vehicles were involved in the pileup. Penn State Lehigh officials said 12 members of the school’s basketball team, as well as three coaches, were on a charter bus that was struck by a tractor-trailer. None of the players or coaches was seriously injured.

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (the “FMCSR”), which lays out guidelines for commercial vehicle operators, “extreme caution” is to be used any time truck drivers encounter hazardous conditions. The regulations specifically identify “snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust or smoke” as constituting potentially hazardous conditions, but also generally refer to any conditions that “adversely affect visibility or traction.” According to the regulations, drivers should always reduce speed when such conditions exist, and, should conditions become “sufficiently dangerous,” drivers are instructed to stop driving until such conditions no longer exist. The regulations do allow commercial drivers to stay on the road and go to the nearest point where they can ensure the safety of any passengers, should stopping actually increase the risk to passengers.

The massive pileup took place on Saturday, February 13, around 9:30 am., in Bethel Township, about 75 miles from Philadelphia. Police say the accident shut down both sides of the interstate overnight. In addition to the fatalities, at least 73 people were hospitalized, some in serious condition. Authorities say more than 20 emergency personnel arrived on the scene to treat the injured.

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