Driving a big rig is unlike driving a car. Large trucks, typically composed of many different parts, are built differently and have much larger mass than smaller vehicles. Tractor-trailers have pivot points, making them especially vulnerable to jackknifing. Truck accidents occur, but there can be significantly more damage when big rigs are involved.
A 59-year-old tour bus driver of Millstone, New Jersey suffered fatal injuries after the bus he was driving hit a jackknifed tractor-trailer in Vermont around 8 p.m. on February 21. Police said the truck, driven by a 34-year-old man from Scotrun, PA, was stopped on Route 22A in West Haven when the northbound tour bus crested a hill, careened into the guardrails, and collided with the tractor-trailer. The tour bus, with 32 people on board, was heading to Sugarbush and Stowe, Vermont.
The bus driver suffered severe injuries and was trapped in the wreckage. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Thirty people were taken to hospitals, including the bus driver. Two passengers in the bus suffered moderate injuries and the others sustained minor injuries. A spokesperson for the New Jersey-based tour bus company said the driver prevented many passengers from being injured with his skilled operation as he faced the 53-foot jackknifed truck blocking the roadway. Police said the icy road conditions contributed to the crash.
Drivers are required to maintain a safe speed at all times. This means adhering to the speed limit in good weather conditions, and driving at a significantly lower rate on snowy or icy roads so that drivers are able to stop in time to avoid accidents. The braking systems of big rigs are different from smaller vehicles. When faced with emergencies, truck drivers have three braking options: axle brakes, drive axle brakes, and trailer axle brakes. When the drive axle is locked as the truck approaches a slick area of the road, a jackknife accident can occur because the trailer continues to roll forward and swings to one side.
The family of the killed tour bus driver and the injured bus passengers are likely considering compensation claims for their losses. To win a wrongful death claim or personal injury claim in a truck accident, it is necessary to prove negligence on the part of the trucker or any other parties. Having a jackknifed tractor-trailer blocking a road is not enough to demonstrate negligence. The truck might have jackknifed because it swerved to avoid striking another vehicle or a pedestrian who unexpectedly ran in front, or if there was mechanical failure. Such scenarios do not always entail negligence on the part of the trucker.
In this type of situation, an experienced truck accident attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident to see if other parties, such as the trucking company, the truck manufacturer, or the truck maintenance company were negligent.