Rules about operating a vehicle not always the same

by | Jun 7, 2011 | News & Research | 0 comments

commercial transport truck with red cabWe tend to think about injuries arising from vehicle collisions as simply the result of “motor vehicle collisions” and that the rules associated with driving are the same whether the vehicle involved in a collision is a motor cycle, sports car, family van, snow plow or semi trailer vehicle.

It is true that there are many similarities, but the rules around operating a vehicle are not always the same in every case!

Professional truck driver

The standard of care required of a prudent professional truck driver operating a commercial tractor hauling a trailer may well be different than the standard of care required of a driver of an average passenger car. That was the recent finding of Justice Ehrcke in the case we won at trial last year; MacEachern v. Rennie.
Mr. Rennie was a professional driver with a class 1 license when he struck our client in broad daylight as she cycled down the side of the road with her friends.

In allowing us to present expert evidence to the court on the expected standard of a professional driver, the judge said:

“In the present case, while most adults in British Columbia may have some experience in driving motor vehicles, few have experience in driving large commercial tractor-trailers. Few would know from their common experience what the handling characteristics of such vehicles are, or what the visibility is from the perspective of a driver in the cab, or what the common driving practices are of professional drivers of such rigs.

Not only have most persons never had the experience of driving such vehicles, most persons would not even be legally permitted to drive them, since to do so one must first satisfy the requirements to obtain a special class of driver’s license.”

MacEachern v. Rennie , 2009 BCSC 585

With the help of a driver training expert, we were able to show that Mr. Rennie was negligent in failing to take reasonable steps to avoid our client who would have been obvious to any driver who was approaching her and her companions. The court agreed:

“Mr. Rennie, as the driver of a large commercial vehicle, had a duty to provide enough room for pedestrians and cyclists to proceed safely along the shoulder. It was not enough for him simply to keep his vehicle from encroaching onto the nominal fog line. Any reasonably prudent driver in Mr. Rennie’s position would recognize that even the best cyclists do not always ride in an absolutely straight line and in a completely upright position… All reasonable prudent truck drivers would, if possible, leave some buffer space between their vehicles and passing cyclists to allow for the fact that cyclists will inevitably sway to the left and right. In addition, it is reasonably foreseeable that a cyclist may from time to time lose his or her balance, and a reasonable prudent truck driver would leave some space between his vehicle and a cyclist to allow for that possibility.”

Bringing legal actions against truck drivers and trucking companies involves complexities that may not be understood by everyone. For example professional drivers are limited to the number of hours they can remain on the road, the trucks they drive may be equipped with a “black box” data recorders that can offer vital data about the accident, the vehicle may also have onboard freight tracking data, logistics planning equipment, and even fax machines, in addition to the usual on-board distractions such as cell phones.

Snow plows are another area where expert evidence on operating standards may be heard by the courts and where our firm has had experience.

It is important that drivers, particularly those who operate commercial vehicles, large recreational vehicles, or motorcycles, be aware of the standard of care they are obligated to maintain when driving. In the case of MacEachern v. Rennie the court agreed with us that Mr. Rennie did not display the necessary care when driving a large commercial vehicle.