What responsibility do commercial truck drivers have in icy road conditions?

By Michael Guajardo

The loss of life and catastrophic injuries from today’s 100+ vehicle collision during icy road conditions on I-35W in Fort Worth is a tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved. What makes the situation worse is knowing that the scope of the tragedy may have been preventable.

Driving on ice-covered roadways is always a dangerous scenario, especially for the average driver.  But truck drivers and other commercial motor vehicle operators are required to have extensive training and experience on what to do in conditions just like those in place on I-35W today.

Both the State of Texas and Federal Departments of Transportation have specific safety rules and regulations that govern the operation of commercial motor vehicles when hazardous conditions exist.  Section 392.14 for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations mandates that “Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet…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.”

Under this federal safety regulation, all trucks and other commercial motor vehicles traveling down I-35W this morning should have been aware of the hazardous conditions.  Consequently, they were required to reduce their speed, and most likely, pull over and stop until the road conditions were safe to travel on.

As experienced, trained professional drivers, truckers are in a better position to know and appreciate the dangers of driving during hazardous road conditions.  More importantly, state and federal law requires them to know that, and instructs them how to deal with it so tragedies like this morning do not occur.