For access reasons, power lines are found along most roads and highways. If an accident causes your tractor-trailer rig to collide with a power pole with sufficient force, it can bring power lines down on the rig. Getting out of your vehicle, which is the usual thing to do in an accident, can cause electrocution.
Roadside power lines typically carry about 7,200 volts of electricity, which is more than enough to cause electrocution. The “rubber” in the soles of your shoes or boots is insufficient insulation for this kind of voltage. In fact, the additives used in shoe sole material may increase electrical conductivity. Common layman knowledge about electricity doesn’t apply to high voltages. Even wood can conduct electricity of sufficient voltage.
If you get into an accident involving a downed power line, assume it’s energized, even if you don’t see sparks or smoke. Energized lines don’t always spark.
What to do if your rig knocks down a power pole:
- Stay inside your rig. Attempting to leave the vehicle can cause electrocution. You and your rig could be energized with electricity, and contact with the ground outside could cause a lethal flow of power through your body. For this reason, any injured passenger should remain in the vehicle with you.
- Call 911 with your cell phone and report your situation. Ask them to notify the local utility company.
- From inside your cab, assess whether your vehicle or others are leaking flammable fluids. Note the downed lines and poles. Are there any fires? If remaining in your commercial or owner operator truck is life threatening because of a fire or other reason, you will have to exit from a door farthest away from the downed power line. From the lowest step, jump from the rig, landing on both feet together at the same time. Do not touch the ground and your rig at the same time. Either hop with both feet together, or take very small shuffling steps away from the power line. Continue until you’re at least 30 feet from the downed line.
- Assuming you’re in your rig, which is by far the safest option absent a fire, warn other people to stay away from you and the power lines.
- Finally, don’t leave your commercial or owner operator truck until the local utility person says it’s safe to do so.