Truck Accidents – Types of Trucks
Experienced South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyers Fight for Clients After a Truck Crash
In everyday conversation, people use the word “truck” to mean everything from a small pick-up truck to a fully loaded tractor-trailer. Yet, many different truck types exist. These trucks serve different purposes ー and pose different risks of serious injury in a collision.
US Truck Classifications
United States federal agencies classify vehicles differently. For commercial trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) uses a classification system based on the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sorts the FMCSA’s categories into three groups. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a system that classifies trucks by their emissions ratings.
Commercial Truck Classifications
FMCSA uses numbered classes to organize commercial vehicles. The FHWA sorts these classes into three broad categories: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty trucks.
FMCSA and FHWA classifications are based on the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle. A truck’s gross vehicle weight rating is set by its manufacturer. It is the maximum weight of cargo and passengers a truck can haul plus the weight of the truck itself.
Light duty trucks include FMCSA Class 1 and 2 trucks. Trucks in Class 1 may have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to 6,000 pounds.
Examples of light-duty trucks include many small pick-up trucks, such as a Ford Ranger and a Toyota Tacoma. When gathering truck accident statistics, crashes that involve Class 1 trucks may be included under statistics for passenger vehicles instead of statistics on commercial truck crashes.
Class 2 pick-up trucks have a GVWR between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds. Examples include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2500, as well as the Ford F-150 and F-250.
The “medium duty” truck group includes pick-up trucks and some box or cargo trucks. It encompasses Classes 3-6 of the FMCSA ratings.
Pick-up trucks in the medium-duty category include trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado 3500, the Ford F-350, and the Ram 3500, all considered as Class 3. These vehicles have a GVWR between 10,001 and 14,000 pounds.
Commercial trucks in Classes 4-6 include the Ford F-550 and F-650, as well as trucks built by commercial truck companies like Isuzu, Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, and Mack. Gross vehicle weight ratings for trucks in these classes include:
- Class 4: 14,001 to 16,000 pounds
- Class 5: 16,001 to 19,500 pounds
- Class 6: 19,501 to 26,000 pounds
Classes 7 and 8 cover heavy-duty trucks. In Class 7, a truck can have a GVWR of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds. In Class 8, a truck’s gross vehicle weight rating can be as high as 80,000 pounds for trucks with standard diesel engines. For electric trucks, the GVWR rises to 82,000 pounds to accommodate the weight of the vehicle’s batteries.
Most well-known semi companies, like Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt, and Mack, all produce trucks in Classes 7 and 8. The Tesla Semi is a recent all-electric addition to Class 8, with a GVWR of 82,000 pounds.
Trucks in Class 7 or Class 8 may be tractor-trailer vehicles or single-unit trucks, like a dump truck or a fire truck. Buses also fall under Class 7 or Class 8, depending on their GVWR.
A truck in Class 8 may have a total weight of 80,000 pounds (more for electric trucks), which means more momentum and more damage can occur in a crash. Even a Class 1 pick-up truck, however, may weigh as much as 6,000 pounds fully loaded. The added weight of cargo raises a truck’s ability to commit severe damage in a crash.
Special License Rules for Particular Truck Classes
Drivers of Class 7 or Class 8 vehicles must meet special licensing requirements set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) when driving in interstate commerce. For tractor-trailers, also known as “combination vehicles,” drivers must have a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers of all other Class 8 vehicles and some Class 7 vehicles must have a Class B CDL.
The FMCSA does not require a Class B CDL for driving emergency vehicles or vehicles used only for recreational or agricultural purposes. However, the federal government does allow states to set CDL requirements for driving these types of vehicles. Trucks that carry more than 16 passengers, including the driver, or that transport hazardous materials must also be operated only by drivers with a valid CDL, no matter how much the vehicle weighs.
Which Types of Trucks are Most Dangerous?
In 2020, 4,588 truck and bus crashes claimed lives nationwide. That year, the FMCSA estimated that over 10.5 million straight trucks and over 2.9 million tractor-trailers were licensed to travel on US roads. Large trucks accounted for 10.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled that year.
As of December 2021, 757,7652 motor carriers used trucks to ship cargo in the United States. They employ approximately 8.7 million commercial truck drivers nationwide, and they range from large trucking companies to individual owner-operators.
Not all eight classes of trucks are involved in crashes ー or in causing deaths ー at the same rate. For instance:
- 81 percent of all Class 8 truck crashes that cause injuries involve a truck crashing into another vehicle.
- 76 percent of crashes that only cause property damage involve a Class 8 truck crashing into another vehicle.
- 74 percent of all fatal Class 8 truck crashes involve a truck crashing into another vehicle, such as a car, SUV, or smaller passenger truck.
Overall, motor vehicle crashes have decreased in frequency during the 2020s. But, the rate of crashes involving large trucks is increasing. When a truck is a tractor-trailer or weighs more than 26,000 pounds (Class 7 or 8), the risk of causing death in the crash rises by 5.8 percent.
Factors that increase the risk of death or serious injury in a truck crash include:
- Truck weight and height. A fully loaded truck can do more damage in a collision than an empty one, no matter the truck’s size. Since larger trucks typically have higher gross vehicle weight ratings, they can do more damage.
- Neglected maintenance or hidden defects. The single most common cause of a truck crash is a mechanical defect, often in the brakes or tires. Neglected maintenance can raise the risk of a crash, as can hidden defects in mechanical systems.
Why South Carolina Truck Accident Cases Can Be Complicated
When two passenger vehicles collide, each driver may need to deal with their own insurance company and the other driver’s insurance. While passengers may be involved, the total number of parties with an interest in the case is often limited to those who were in one of the crashed vehicles.
Commercial truck crashes can be more complicated. Parties who may become involved when a truck crashes with another vehicle include:
- The driver and passengers in the car collided with the truck.
- The driver of the commercial truck.
- The company that employs the driver of the commercial truck.
- A company that rents or leases the truck for use by the driver or the driver’s employer.
- The company that owns the trailer the truck may be pulling.
- The team or company responsible for loading and securing cargo on the trailer.
- The person or company responsible for doing maintenance on the truck and ensuring that needed repairs are completed on time.
- The manufacturer of the truck, the trailer, or both.
- Any party responsible for ensuring the driver remained compliant with license laws, including the need for regular Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals and Hours of Service (HOS) compliance.
Each of these parties may have insurance coverage as well, which can involve even more people in a truck accident case. When several insurance companies are involved, delays may happen as insurers each try to avoid paying your bills ー and leave another insurer with that responsibility. To navigate this complexity, work with an experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can handle your case so you can focus on healing.
Speak to an Experienced South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer Today
After a truck crash, you may feel as if your life has turned upside-down. You may struggle to recover from severe injuries. You may worry about how you’ll make ends meet. You may feel frustrated that you’re unable to help around the house, play with your children or grandchildren, or enjoy your hobbies. You may fear nothing will ever be the same again.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Speak to a dedicated South Carolina truck accident attorney at the Steinberg Law Firm today. Our legal team focuses on understanding the details of your case and fighting for the compensation you need. To learn more, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.
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