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Why Do Semi Trucks Stop On The Side Of The Road? (Solved!)

Everyone is familiar with the feeling when a huge vehicle like a semi truck suddenly stops on the side of the road.

It can be terrifying if you’re too close to the semi truck.

Let’s find out why semi truck stops on the side of the road…

Here’s a short summary of Why Semi Trucks Stop on the Side of the Road:

Semi trucks stop on the side of the road if the driver has reached the maximum legislated driving hours and there are relatively far and few truck stops in between. A semi truck will also stop on the side of the road in poor road conditions, if the driver is tired, or if the truck has a breakdown.

Why do Semi Trucks Stop on the Side of the Road?

Truck drivers will not stop on the side of the road without any trigger or cause. There must be reasonable reasons.

In some cases, truck drivers suddenly stop because they are tired and have reached their maximum driving hours, road conditions, and during emergency situations

Some common reasons include:

  • A driver has reached his 11-hours of service (HOS) provided by ELD rules
  • To attend to his necessities (meal or toilet breaks)
  • Tired and sleepy
  • To load or unload cargo
  • Vehicle malfunction
  • Traffic congestion
  • Lack of parking space
  • Obstacles in the road

Unfortunately, when a driver stops on the side to prevent hazards, it often creates a danger to other vehicles.

It may lead to severe accidents, especially when drivers don’t observe a safe distance.

Is the Truck Driver Tired or Sleepy?

Being tired and sleepy is one common reason why a truck stops on the road.

It’s also the reason why most semi trucks have a sleeper cab.

The eleven hours of full service is too long for any commercial truck driver. As such, they are prone to getting tired and drowsy while driving. 

In most cases, truck companies set deadlines to deliver cargo across great or unreasonable distances.

The amount of pressure a driver gets from their employers motivates them to meet their deadlines. 

Hence, you cannot blame a driver for sleeping in the vehicle. Being a truck driver is exhausting, after all.

But most drivers know that fatigue management is beneficial to ensure road safety. Fatigue management will relieve sleepiness, so drivers stop and rest behind the wheel.

Does the Truck Driver Stop to Comply with Driving Hours?

Since the effectiveness of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rules, it’s easier to monitor a working and non-working driver while on the road. 

The ELD mandate imposed a maximum of 11 hours of service after a 10-hour rest period. It aims to ensure drivers’ safety and prevent worker exploitation.

For this reason, any truck drivers should stop working once they reach the driving hour limitations.

Anyone who is not compliant has to face legal consequences. It may also affect employment as employers or truck operators may have legal liabilities, too.

Is there a Problem with the Semi Truck?

If there is one inevitable incident a semi truck has to deal with, it is the fact that sometimes it may experience vehicle malfunction.

This incident will compel any driver to stop and fix the issue on the side of the road.

Truck problems are the most common issue in the transportation world. Some common semi truck issues include:

  • Steering wheel problems
  • Starter Failure
  • The engine overheats
  • Brake failures or brake fluid leaks
  • Wheel bearing problems
  • Poor wheel alignment
  • Failure of U-joints

Are Semi Trucks allowed to Stop on the Side of the Road?

Semi trucks are allowed to stop on the side of the road. However, if the truck stops for a long time, say a driver has to sleep, it can be illegal. 

In most US state laws, it’s illegal for bigger trucks like 18-wheelers or big rigs to park on the shoulder of the highways. 

Parking or sleeping in a semi truck on the shoulder of a highway violates the law. It is not a parking zone but a recovery area.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has imposed stopping rules for 18 wheelers utilizing the recovery zone or the side of highways.

Is it Bad if a Semi Truck Stops on the Side of the Road?

It’s more dangerous than bad to stop on the side of the road. Whatever reason you have, you can only stop on the side of the road for a while.

If you stop for 24 hours, chances are the police will likely remove the vehicle with a tow truck. If not, the authorities will inform you how long you can park on the side of the road.

The rationale for this is that any vehicle on the side of the road, especially on the highways, may cause road accidents. 

The truck or the driver can be hit by a fast-moving vehicle and may lead to severe damage or injuries. 

Why do Truckers Park on Off-Ramps or Exit Ramps?

In a study conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDT), exit ramps ranked third as the most famous parking area for semi trucks.

The reason behind is the lack of parking area for semi trucks in the United States that drivers are compelled to park in unsafe sites such as the off or exit ramps.

The perceived shortage of parking lots has made fatigued drivers left with no choice but to park on exit ramps every time they are tired or sleepy from driving. 

If there are enough parking spaces for truckers, parking in off or exit ramps will never be a choice.

Are Semi Trucks allowed to Park on Off-Ramps?

While it is common for semi truck drivers to park on off-ramps, doing such is illegal. 

The federal state laws are uniform in prohibiting the parking of a vehicle on off-ramps.

The reason is simple. Parking on off-ramps can be hazardous because of unsafe lane changes.

It may lead to a vehicular collision, and other rear-end related accidents.

Can Truckers Sleep on the Side of the Road?

Legally speaking, truckers cannot sleep on the side of the road.

Sleeping on the side of the road is less safe. A fast-moving vehicle may hit or collide with the truck.

The result can be fatal if the accident involves a semi truck and a smaller vehicle.

Besides that, there are a lot of crimes that involve a sleeping driver overnight. 

Most of all, the federal regulations expressly prohibit parking and stopping in areas where it may constitute an obstruction to other vehicles or hazardous to public safety.

Aren’t there Enough Truck Stops for the Truck Driver to Rest?

In general, there aren’t enough truck stops in the US. Hence, many truckers utilize the side of the road when they reach their maximum hours of service.

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the US has more than 36 million registered semi trucks. In contrast, as confirmed by the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), the available truck stops are approximately 2,500.

With these statistics, it’s clear that there is a truck stops shortage in the US.

Moreover, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many trucks stops in some states have stopped operating after being tagged as non-essential businesses.

Fortunately, the US Department of Transportation has categorized truck stops as an essential industry. After all, truck stops are too important to shut down.

What do the Regulations Say?

The federal regulations prohibit stopping, standing, or parking on any roads that will obstruct other vehicles. 

Not only is it hazardous to the driver and vehicles, doing such is punishable by law. 

The laws have limited the prohibition to any highways, roadside, intersection, bridge, and on or off-ramps.

However, if the driver cannot avoid stopping on the roadside because of semi truck problems, he may allowed to park momentarily.

If the semi truck stops working, the driver is required to remove the truck promptly. If not, a police officer may intervene to remove the vehicle for him.

How can Truckers Avoid Stopping on the Side of the Road?

As mentioned, serious road accident may happen while a semi truck is stopping on the side of the road.

Of course, to prevent horrible incidents from happening, one has to stop the occurrence of the cause – to avoid stopping on the side of the road.

Here are the many ways a trucker can avoid stopping on the side of the road:

  • Have enough time to rest before reporting for duty as a truck driver
  • Make sure that the 10-hour rest period mandated ELD rules is actually used for resting or sleeping
  • Ensure that the semi truck is in good condition before driving it
  • Utilize the public parking spaces or truck stops
  • Keep in mind that stopping on the roadside is prohibited by law and has legal consequences
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