We’ve talked before about the reasons that trucking accidents are especially dangerous. Large commercial trucks are heavier than other vehicles, which means they take longer to slow down or stop and cause more damage on impact with a smaller vehicle. Some types of trucks also have special vulnerabilities, such as the risk of tanker truck rollovers.
Box trucks are obviously larger and heavier than passenger vehicles like cars, SUVs and pickup trucks. But, they’re smaller, lighter, and somewhat easier to manage than a semi-tractor trailer or a tanker truck. So, it may come as a surprise that the most recent three years of data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) show that 38.6-42% of annual fatal truck crashes involve cargo vans and enclosed box trucks.
Drivers Play a Key Role in Cargo Van and Box Truck Accidents
One variable that helps account for the high percentage of fatal truck accidents attributable to vans and box trucks is who operates these vehicles. In Georgia, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate any vehicle that weighs at least 26,001 pounds. That’s gross weight, which means it includes any contents of the vehicle when it’s being operated.
If the loaded vehicle weighs less than 26,001 pounds, you generally don’t need any special license to operate it. In fact, you may be able to add a trailer to your 25,000-pound vehicle, as long as it weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
These cargo vans, box trucks, or combinations have a lot in common with larger commercial trucks. They may be seven or eight times as heavy as a car, or up to five times as heavy as an SUV. That means they can cause a lot of damage when they collide with these smaller vehicles on the road.
At the same time, the length makes box trucks harder to manage on the road: blind spots are larger and it takes more time and space to change lanes or even turn a corner. It also takes longer to brake than it would in a smaller vehicle. In other words, many of the risks associated with large commercial vehicles are in play with a box truck–at least to some degree.
But, there’s one big difference.
A driver operating a semi or tanker truck in Georgia must have a commercial driver’s license. That means the driver is experienced in operating larger vehicles and has been tested specifically on the skills required to manage a large, heavy piece of equipment. Since no commercial driver’s license is required for trucks under 26,001 pounds, any licensed driver can operate one.
That means a new driver with little experience on the road can get behind the wheel of a moving truck. It means a driver who has previously only operated a Chevy Spark or a Mini Cooper can hop behind the wheel of a 24’ box truck loaded to 25,000 pounds and hit the road. Unsurprisingly, this means that many people operating box trucks on Georgia roads don’t really have the training and experience necessary to skillfully adapt to the length and weight of the vehicle.
Even Commercial Drivers May Not Have a CDL
It’s easy to imagine drivers who aren’t fully qualified to operate such a large vehicle renting a U-Haul to move to a new home–locally or across the country. But, what about commercial drivers? You may assume that a commercial driver would require a commercial driver’s license. It’s right in the name, after all. But, in fact, the rules are the same for professional drivers as the rest of us. If the truck fully loaded weighs less than 26,001, no commercial driver’s license is required.
That means many of the commercial drivers you see on the road may have no special training in operating those large vehicles. Most UPS and FedEx Express drivers, for instance, aren’t required to hold a commercial driver’s license. What type of vetting, testing or training a driver goes through may vary from one company to the next.
Liability for Box Truck Accidents
Though a commercial driver’s license isn’t required to operate many box trucks and cargo vans, it’s still negligent to get on the road with a vehicle you aren’t equipped to operate safely. And, it may be negligent to entrust a vehicle to someone who can’t operate it safely, even if that person has the appropriate license. That means a box truck driver, the driver’s employer, the owner of the vehicle, or another party may be legally responsible for a box truck accident.
To learn more about your rights after an accident with a rental box truck or a smaller commercial truck such as a box truck or cargo van, speak with an experienced Georgia truck accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have been injured through someone else’s negligence, including truck accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, product liability claims, slip and fall injuries and more. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.