On July 13 at 6:15 AM, a tractor-trailer overturned and burst into flames after it crashed on a New Jersey Turnpike northbound ramp. The crash occurred in Bergen County. At the time of the incident, the 16W interchange was closed for cleanup in both directions.
It may be “just another day on the Turnpike” for most NJ commuters, but this incident is part of a much larger problem. Tractor-trailer catch on fire more often than you might think. They don’t always elicit the response as a car fire does, but they happen. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 181,500 highway-type vehicle fires throughout the country in 2018.
The dangers of these types of accidents involving large trucks are magnified to a new level when the trucks are carrying hazardous materials, such as dangerous chemicals and fuel. Trucking companies and their drivers have a responsibility to carry these materials with the highest level of safety concern in mind. These materials can easily catch fire and explode, potentially causing serious injuries and even death to drivers and passengers on the road, in addition to the drivers of the hazardous cargo.
The majority of fires involving 18-wheelers involve fires that happened at or shortly after the moment of impact. Large commercial trucks designed to carry fuel, do so with the fuel tank located outside the frame of the truck. That means these huge gas tanks are more easily exposed to impact, particularly if the trailer tips over in an accident.
Other causes of tractor-trailer fires
Sometimes, big trucks catch fire without a collision as the primary cause. Electrical arcs in the engine and worn away fuel lines can lead to a towering inferno on the side of the highway. Presentations at the 2018 Technology & Maintenance Council reported that most trailer fires are caused by:
- Brakes (32%)
- Wheel bearings (32%)
- Air leaks (24%)
- Tires (23%)
What to do if you are hit by a truck that catches on fire
It you are hit by a commercial truck that catches on fire, your first step should be to get out of your car and move as far away as possible. Depending on what the truck is carrying, the potential for a devastating explosion is real. Always exit the vehicle on the shoulder side, when possible. Make sure to stay on the shoulder – preferably on the grass if you can – to avoid being hit by another vehicle. Once you are far away, call 9-1-1.
The New Jersey truck accident attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP understand the dangers caused by truck fires. If you or someone you love has sustained injuries resulting from a truck accident, we are here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. To arrange a free case evaluation, give us a call today at 732.777.0100, or complete our contact form. We serve clients from our offices in Toms River, Red Bank, and Edison.