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Tail-Swing Crashes

Imagine it is a sunny and clear day, and one of your company trucks is traveling on a four-lane, divided roadway. The driver isRight turn behind the wheel of a sleeper unit pulling a 53-foot dry van trailer with tandem axles slid to the upmost forward position. This is to provide easier cornering and movement. While traveling in the right lane, the driver recognizes the need to make a right turn at the next four-way intersection. As the unit comes to a stop at the red light, there is a four-door car in the adjacent left lane.

Next, the truck driver determines it is safe and legal to make the right turn. The driver looks left, right, and left again with no traffic in sight before starting the maneuver. The truck proceeds straight into the intersection then initiates a sharp right-hand turn, the driver carefully checks the passenger-side mirrors to make sure the rear of the trailer clears the curb. Once the maneuver is complete, the driver is now heading east. Moments later, a car races up on the driver’s left, honking and directing the truck to pull over and stop. This is the same white car from the previous intersection. After stopping and parking in a safe area, the driver of the car explains that the trailer swiped the right side of the vehicle, knocking off the passenger-side mirror. 

Sharp right turns are common maneuvers professional truck drivers perform on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a sideswipe incident such as this is one a motor carrier cannot ignore. This crash might have been prevented with a proper pre-trip inspection and proper placement of the trailer tandems. In this case, moving the tandems closer to the rear of the trailer could alleviate overhang and prevent tail-swing incidents such as this. Now, the motor carrier is facing losses in the form of lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, decreased revenue, and costly repairs. 

In addition, motor carriers should train drivers to prevent other right-turn related crashes, such as a right-turn squeeze. These incidents can often be prevented if the driver uses the buttonhook method to ensure the rear of the trailer stays close to the curb while initiating a sharp right-hand turn. Keeping the rear of the trailer close to the curb discourages trailing vehicles from moving forward into the right lane that appears empty. 

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