Crashes Involving Trucks Parked on the Shoulder Expert Article

Parking or stopping a tractor trailer on the shoulder of a roadway creates a hazard for the motoring public, and is generally prohibited by trucking company safety policies. In this article, trucking operations expert, Brooks Rugemer discusses the dangers of shoulder parking, and issues that should be considered when investigating these incidents.

Truck Shoulder Parking Expert

Crashes Involving Trucks Parked on the Shoulder

Under typical roadway conditions, shoulders are intended to provide a space of relative safety beyond the travel lanes for vehicles that break down. They also serve as a clear zone for drivers to take emergency maneuvers to avoid a crash. Shoulders can only satisfy these critical safety purposes if they are clear and unobstructed; for this reason, motorists are not permitted to park or stop along the shoulder of a highway unless there is an emergency.

As a result of their size and limited acceleration capabilities, tractor trailers create an even greater hazard than conventional passenger vehicles when parked on the shoulder. The crashes associated with shoulder parking generally fall into two categories:

  • Crashes on the Shoulder – It is not uncommon for motorists to crash into vehicles stopped along the side of the roadway. Especially in conditions with reduced visibility, the presence of a vehicle along the side of the road can confuse drivers, guiding them off the intended travel lane resulting in collisions.
  • Re-Entry Crashes – Motorists on the highway are typically travelling at high speeds and don’t expect to encounter merging vehicles without notice. Since heavy trucks are slow to accelerate, they often re-enter travel lanes at significantly lower speeds than prevailing traffic, which can lead to a variety of crash scenarios.

In both of these accident types, the greater the difference between the mass and velocity of the colliding vehicles, the more severe the consequences of an impact will be. Please see our related article for more information on Heavy Truck Crash Reconstruction.

Prohibition on shoulder parking

As a result of known hazards associated with shoulder parking, most motor carriers prohibit their drivers from parking along the side of the road or the shoulder (including entry and exit ramps), except under specific conditions:

  • Mechanical breakdowns
  • Medical emergencies
  • Assisting other motorists in distress
  • Blocked or prohibited from moving forward

Safety policies vary from carrier to carrier, but restrictions on shoulder parking are common among industry leaders. Our trucking operations experts can help you interpret the policies in your case and how they compare against the industry standard of care.

Safety training & enforcement

Policies and procedures set expectations for how drivers should conduct themselves, but serve little purpose unless they are effectively trained and enforced. Safety programs vary widely across trucking companies, but should include:

  • Training on policies & procedures at the time of initial hire
  • Ongoing training for reinforcement of policies & procedures
  • Remedial training & consequences for policy violators
  • Documentation of training completion and safety performance

Through the course of our forensic investigations, our trucking operations experts can evaluate the adequacy of training and enforcement as it relates to the matter at hand. In instances where new drivers are on-boarded with a known history of safety violations, our experts can also address company hiring practices.

Special considerations - looming

In rear-end highway collisions involving a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, it is common for the driver of the striking vehicle to say that they did not realize the lead vehicle was stopped or moving very slowly until it was too late to avoid the crash. In scientific circles this phenomenon is known as “Looming” and can be quantified by specially qualified scientists in the field of human factors. If this topic is relevant to your case, please review our article describing the Perceived Rate of Closure in Vehicle Crashes.

Trucking Operations Investigations

Among our trucking and warehousing experts you will find professionals who have spent years as truck drivers, warehouse terminal managers, transportation safety managers, and fleet managers.

Our trucking industry experts are frequently tasked with evaluating truck driver actions, driver logs, hiring practices, drug and alcohol testing programs, load securement, loading dock operations, lift truck operations & training, fleet management, and much more.

For more information submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.

Featured Expert

Brooks Rugemer, Commercial Trucking Expert

Brooks Rugemer

Commercial Trucking Expert
Brooks is an experienced Transportation Manager specializing in trucking, warehousing, intermodal, and logistics related claims. After 13 years and 1.4 million miles as a CDL tractor trailer driver,… read more.


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