Can Big Rigs Park on the Shoulder of the Road?

Can big rigs park on the shoulder of the road?

When you’re traveling along a highway or interstate, you’ve probably seen semi-trucks parked on the shoulder of either the highway itself or the off-ramp service road. You may have noticed that a number of these trucks have their lights off and appear to be empty with no apparent emergency taking place.

That’s because truck drivers are required by federal regulations to stop and sleep after a certain amount of time on the road and they tend to pull off wherever is most convenient for them. But are big rigs allowed to park on the shoulder of a roadway?

Read on to find out what the law says about semi-trucks parking on the shoulder of roads and the dangers they create when doing so.

Is there a Law for Parking Semi-Trucks on the Highway?

Unless it is an emergency no vehicle should stop on the shoulder of any road. This applies to all vehicles, including semi-trucks.

Public highways and interstates are designed with a shoulder area for emergency use only. That space is not intended to be used to park a vehicle for the night or any unspecified amount of time, especially one as large as an 18-wheeler.

Commercial drivers are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and one federal regulation specifically addresses the issue of semi-trucks parking on the shoulders of highways. Under federal regulation 49 CFR 392.22, commercial motor vehicles can be parked on the shoulder of a highway only if specific rules are followed, most notably:

Turning On Warning Hazard Signals

When stopping on the shoulder or traveling a portion of a highway for any reason other than a traffic stop, a truck driver must immediately turn on the trailer’s hazard warning signal flashers.

Those warning signals must remain on during the entire time the vehicle is in repair until warning devices are picked up and stored and the vehicle is about to be moved.

Setting Up Warning Devices

Within 10 minutes of stopping for an emergency on the shoulder of a roadway, a truck driver should place warning devices such as reflective triangles or flares:

  • On the traffic side, four paces from the truck in the direction of oncoming traffic
  • 40 paces from the truck in the center of the shoulder in the direction of oncoming traffic
  • 40 paces in the direction away from oncoming traffic

If the truck has stopped on a shoulder within 500 feet of a curve, hill, or other visual obstruction, then the driver must place an additional warning device in the direction of the obstruction at a distance of 100 to 500 feet from the truck.

And, if the truck is leaking any type of fluid, no warning device that emits flames of any kind should be used.

So, if you see a truck parked on the shoulder of a highway, and none of the above-mentioned rules are being followed and there’s no law enforcement officer making a traffic stop, there’s a good chance that the truck isn’t supposed to be there.

Why Do Truck Drivers Park on the Shoulder?

You’ve probably heard the term “sitting duck” before. It’s defined as something or someone who is sitting, blissfully unaware of any danger, and with no protection against any danger that may present itself.

Accidents involving semi-trucks parked on the shoulder are often called “sitting duck accidents.”

One of the main reasons, or main complaints from the drivers themselves, for trucks parking on the shoulder is that there isn’t enough space at truck stops. Due to the strict Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations required by the FMCSA, truck drivers are required to stop and rest, regardless of whether there is room to safely park at a proper rest stop.

Yes, this puts other drivers as well as the truck driver at risk for potentially fatal collisions, but for the truck drivers who don’t want to violate the HOS rules, they simply cannot continue driving.

However, there is an equally simple solution to this problem.

Due to the HOS rules in place and the likelihood of a truck driver receiving a violation for parking on the shoulder of a road, truck drivers should plan their routes better. With consideration for traffic flow and where rest stops are located, truck drivers can plan accordingly so they don’t put themselves or anyone else in danger while also adhering to the HOS rules.

It’s not up to other drivers to make sure that truck drivers follow the law, but the truck drivers themselves must do so.

Just the same, if a passenger vehicle collides with a big rig that is illegally parked on the shoulder of a roadway, the driver and passengers of the smaller car shouldn’t have to pay for injuries or damages they sustain due to that truck driver’s negligence.

At the Trucking Injury Law Group, we specialize in all types of truck accidents, and if you’ve been involved in a “sitting duck accident” with a big rig, we’re here to help.