When tractor trailer drivers attempt a U-turn, they place all other drivers on the road at risk. In fact, tractor trailers making U-turns are so dangerous, most major trucking companies in the United States ban them entirely. For many trucking companies, attempting a U-turn is grounds for immediate termination. However, other trucking companies argue that U-turns are legal and ignore industry standards that say otherwise.
“It can take the average tractor trailer around 40 seconds to complete a U-turn, during which time the trailer is blocking multiple, if not all, lanes of traffic,” says Yarborough Applegate’s David Lail, a trucking accident attorney in Charleston, South Carolina. “A driver cannot make sure that the turn can be completed without impeding traffic, especially at highway speeds where a vehicle can travel a half a mile in less time than it takes to make the turn. Tractor trailer drivers cannot see a half a mile ahead or behind them on most roads. And if there’s not enough room to make the turn, the driver must put the truck in reverse and block travel even longer. Safe trucking companies ban U-turns for good reason—they don’t make any sense for tractor trailers.”
Due to factors like lack of visibility and inadequate road width, the maneuver is simply a recipe for disaster. Even with lights and reflective markings, other motorists traveling at highway speeds do not expect a tractor trailer to make this kind of maneuver and often do not appreciate the truck until it is too late to avoid.
Earlier this year, Lail reached a $1.79 million settlement for a driver who was seriously injured when he rear-ended a tractor trailer attempting a U-turn on a four-lane highway. This result was achieved despite law enforcement determining that the tractor trailer U-turn was legal and determining that our client solely at fault for causing the collision.
“The defendants also argued that U-turns were safe for tractor trailers and they had no safety policy prohibiting such a maneuver, despite a completely contrary position taken their own paid trucking expert at deposition,” Lail says.