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Thousands of trucks on a weekly basis call at a large port facility in Portsmouth, VA. The Portsmouth International Marine Terminal (PMT) is a large intermodal facility, which handles a tremendous amount of container traffic from all over the world, most of which enters and leaves PIT by tractor trailer, or railroad. This amount of truck and rail traffic often leads to semi-trailers clogging the downtown or midtown tunnels or on I-64 or I-264 between Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA. The amount of traffic depends on the number of container ships calling port at the Portsmouth, Virginia facility (PMT) at any given time.

Because of this increased tractor-trailer traffic on the interstate, those traveling in passenger vehicles should learn about the dangers these large transport vehicles pose to the average driver. There are some known dangers involving trucks when drivers in Portsmouth or neighboring Norfolk, VA are beside them on the highway or local interstates such as I-264 or I-64 which intersect the area.

One danger is limited visibility while driving at night or in inclement weather. Under these conditions, the cargo of long tractor-trailers can be difficult to see. Sometimes there is insufficient reflective material along the side of the truck to reflect headlight beams, making it difficult for passenger vehicle drivers to gauge the size of a tractor trailer traveling on the highway. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations require lamps and reflective devices to be installed on commercial motor vehicles, but the requirements vary depending on the type of commercial motor vehicle. However, retroreflective sheeting and/or reflex reflectors are required for all trailers and semitrailers of a certain width and weight manufactured prior to December 1, 1993.

Another great concern is underride with passenger compartment intrusion (“PCI”). This term describes the crash configuration where the front of a passenger vehicle collides with the rear of a truck trailer, where the bed of the trailer is higher than the passenger vehicle bumper. Because of the increased height of the trailer bed, in the event of a collision, the trailer bed may intrude into the occupant compartment of the passenger vehicle. Needless to say, this results in great harm to occupants of the passenger vehicle. Underride protection is now required under the FMCSR, which requires the installation of rear impact guards. These guards must meet structural standards to withstand the force of impact, but they are useless if installed at the wrong height.

If you are driving your car in the Portsmouth or Norfolk area, it is not always possible to avoid driving near tractor trailers at night or in inclement weather. Given the size and weight of these semi/big rigs, a collision with a tractor trailer could result in substantial injury to those traveling in cars or even SUV’s. Please use extra caution when sharing Berkley Bridge, one of the tunnels, or Hampton Blvd with a long line of tractor trailers, give them lots of room to brake and turn, and keep a lookout for hazards that may endanger you and your passengers’ safety.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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