Because of my professional experience involving semi-truck crash cases, when I drive my car I am constantly pointing out dangerous situations involving semi-trucks to anyone riding with me. I know my wife gets annoyed, but it comes from seeing firsthand how a family is forever changed in an instant, all because a truck driver (or most often the trucking company) is cutting corners and not following basic safety rules.
In the past few years I have noticed more semi-trucks parked on the shoulder of the interstate as I travel around North Dakota and Minnesota. This is especially dangerous for the traveling public, as hitting a stopped 80,000-pound semi-truck at interstate speeds, that sits higher than the profile of your vehicle, is often deadly. That’s why the industry has recognized for decades that semi-trucks should not park along the shoulder, except in true emergency situations.
There is no specific federal rule or guideline stating that semi-trucks are not allowed to park on the shoulder of the interstate. In part, I think that’s because it has been the industry standard for decades to not park on the shoulder of the road unless there is a true emergency.
How do we know it’s the industry standard? For one, there are many trucking companies with policies and procedures that have had a no parking on the shoulder of the road (except in a true emergency) policy for decades. The industry often refers to it as a “sitting duck” policy. For instance, a simple Google search on this pulls up Landstar’s policy that is titled “Don’t be a Sitting Duck”. Here is what the publicly available policy states:
As part of its policy, Landstar acknowledges that there may be some true emergencies that require a stop, but then references “392.22.” What is 392.22?
49 C.F.R. § 392.22 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 392.22)
While there is no federal regulation stating a semi-truck is not allowed to park on the shoulder of the interstate, there is a regulation that governs semi-truck drivers who need to stop on the traveled portion of a highway or along the shoulder. As the industry acknowledges, there may be times when a semi has a true emergency (certain mechanical issues for instance) and has no choice but to be on the shoulder. In those limited circumstances, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (“FMCSR”) 392.22 requires the following:
- Immediate activation of hazard warning signal flashers;
- Placement of warning devices “as soon as possible”, but in any event within 10 minutes at the following locations (on the traffic side of the semi) in the direction of approaching traffic on interstate:
- One at 10 feet from the back;
- One at 100 feet from the back; and
- One at 200 feet from the back.
This assumes that there is not a hill, curve, or obstruction within 500 feet of the stopped semi. If there is any obstruction, in addition to the first 10-foot warning device, there has to be a warning device placed 100 to 500 feet from the stopped semi-truck in a spot to afford “ample warning to other users of the highway.”
The North Dakota CDL manual provides two helpful diagrams, one for no obstruction and one for obstruction situations:
While it should be a rare occurrence that a semi-truck is parked along the shoulder, there are special safety measures for truck drivers to follow when there is a true emergency. If you are a truck driver, please don’t stop on the side of the road unless it is a true emergency. If you run a trucking company and do not have a policy on this issue, please adopt one. It is something that is easy to implement, easy to follow and saves lives. Maybe even one of your own family members’ lives.
If you or your family are reading this because a tragedy struck involving a parked semi-truck on a shoulder or in the lane of any highway or interstate, it is very important you hire an attorney who knows trucking industry standards, laws, and regulations. Our personal injury team at SW&L Attorneys understands, knows, and handles all trucking and commercial motor vehicle accidents. To get in touch with our team, call (701)297-2890, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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