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The Dangers of Unladen Trucks


One of the primary dangers of being involved in a truck accident is the increased likelihood that the truck in question will spill its cargo upon impact. Even if the cargo doesn’t spill, fully loaded trucks often weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, meaning that any impact with a smaller vehicle is typically catastrophic. Although it comes as a surprise to many, collisions with unladen trucks, however, can be just as dangerous. 

What is Deadheading?

Often, when we think of semi-trucks, we imagine them pulling massive trailers. The reality, however, is that these trucks aren’t always loaded. In fact, we are just as likely to see a truck pulling an empty trailer, a practice known as deadheading. While many assume that carrying no cargo is safer than pulling a fully loaded trailer, the truth is that because of the way they are designed, semi-trucks are often safest when fully loaded. With an empty trailer, for example, a commercial truck still retains its speed and power, but lacks the added weight to slow it down. 

Deadheading is Dangerous 

Some researchers have reported that a truck pulling an unladen trailer is twice as likely to crash than a truck that is hauling cargo. This is partly due to the fact that the weather conditions have far more effect on empty trucks, with even a single gust of wind causing a trailer to sway and even roll over. Deadheading trailers are also lighter, which means that their drivers are more likely to speed or brake too heavily when attempting to come to a stop. When not carrying cargo, semi-trucks also lack the same stopping power. In fact, the weight on unladen trucks often ends up pushed to the front of the truck’s wheels, meaning that it is much more likely to skid on sharp turns. 

Deadheading vs Bobtailing

Deadheading is often confused with the term bobtailing, which is used to describe a semi-truck that doesn’t have a trailer attached at all. This happens most often when a driver is either on his or her way to pick up cargo at the start of a shift, or when the cargo in question has already been dropped off. Again, though they lack a bulky trailer and heavy cargo, bobtailing trucks remain dangerous because they are a lot harder to maneuver and stop. 

This can be attributed to the fact that commercial trucks have a significant amount of braking power in the rear axle, which helps when pulling a heavy trailer. When there isn’t a lot of weight over this axle, because there is no trailer attached, braking power is substantially reduced. Instead, most of the vehicle’s weight ends up over the front wheels, the primary purpose of which is to steer, not to brake. Bobtailing trucks are a lot more likely to skid when turning and have a longer braking distance even though they weigh less. 

Truck Accidents Cause Severe Injuries 

A collision with an unladen truck is still more likely to result in serious injuries than a collision between two passenger-sized vehicles. Even without cargo, commercial trucks are larger than most passenger cars, so anyone involved in a collision with one can expect a more significant impact and the corresponding higher risk of blunt force injuries, such as:

  • Broken or crushed bones;
  • Internal injuries;
  • Head trauma; and
  • Spinal cord injuries.

Truck accident victims also often suffer severe lacerations, some of which even result in amputations, and in the event of an engine fire, could also sustain devastating burns. Diagnosing and treating these kinds of catastrophic injuries is extremely expensive, which can be frustrating for those who weren’t at fault for their accidents. Fortunately, injured parties who can prove that a truck driver, trucking company, or third party was at fault for an accident, could recover reimbursement for these costs, as well as compensation for lost wages, property damage, and even pain and suffering. It’s important to remember, however, that trucking companies are typically well-funded and well-represented, which can make recovery more complicated. Having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of this kind of case. 

We Answer 24 Hours a Day

To learn more about the ins and out of navigating a truck accident claim, please call the dedicated Miami truck accident lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein today. Call us at 305-371-2692 to set up a free consultation with a member of our legal team, or reach out to us via online message – we answer 24 hours a day.