What are the Dangers of Poor Truck Maintenance?
February 16, 2021
Proper truck maintenance is essential to preventing accidents caused by vehicle-related factors. The dangers of poor truck maintenance include worn tires, faulty brakes, fuel system problems, and unexpected decoupling of trailers. Truck breakdowns in high traffic areas create dangerous hazards for other vehicles nearby. According to the latest annual Large Truck Crash Causation (LTCC) study, vehicle-related factors cause more than 250 fatal truck crashes annually and result in thousands of accidents involving serious injury.
What Types of Vehicle-Related Factors Contribute to Truck Accidents?
The LTCC study cited that tires and brakes are the most frequently coded vehicle-related factors for large trucks involved in fatal crashes. Trucks require more time and distance to come to a complete stop due to their large size and weight. Even minor problems with tires and brakes can greatly increase the risk of accidents. Other vehicle-related factors that contribute to truck accidents include:
- Power train failure
- Broken headlights
- Faulty turn signals
- Suspension problems
- Running out of fuel, which damages diesel engines
- Poorly maintained coupling devices
Accidents in which a tractor trailer jackknifes are more likely to occur if the vehicle has a broken or worn coupling device. Because trucks are extremely heavy and spend a lot of time on the road, diligent maintenance is the only way to ensure safe operation.
What Types of Injuries are Caused by Truck Accidents?
About half of all truck accidents cause injuries serious enough to require emergency room treatment, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Common injuries resulting from truck accidents include the following:
- Broken bones
- Chronic back pain
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Musculoskeletal damage
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
These injuries may require hospitalization, physical therapy, and costly ongoing treatment. The physical effects may be long-term or permanent, resulting in lost wages and a reduced quality of life. Federal laws require trucking companies to inspect and maintain their vehicles to reduce the risk of accidents. Trucking companies may be deemed liable for an accident if records indicate that regulations were ignored, and the truck was not properly maintained. Accident victims have the right to seek legal representation and file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages to pay for these expenses if the accident was due to the negligence of the truck driver, trucking company, maintenance company, or other third party.
What Laws Regulate Truck Maintenance?
Federal and state laws regulate truck maintenance. In many cases, state laws either parallel or extend federal laws. When state laws do not exist, trucking firms are bound to abide by federal laws. Federal laws are specified by the FMCSA, which include the following:
- Every commercial motor vehicle must be inspected every 12 months by a qualified inspector who has training or certification to inspect and maintain commercial motor vehicles.
- Each unit of a tractor trailer must be inspected, including the tractor, semitrailer, and the full trailer.
- Each component of every truck must also be inspected at least once a year.
When applicable, trucking companies must also comply with any additional state requirements regarding vehicle inspections. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 700 specially trained state and local officers who inspect commercial vehicles for compliance with safety regulations. During inspection, officers may also weigh the truck to ensure it is compliant with load limits.
Which Truck Components Must Be Inspected?
According to the federal register, the following truck components must be inspected annually by a qualified inspector:
- Brake systems, including shoes, lining, pads, springs, and other parts
- Coupling devices, including fifth wheels, hooks, drawbars, towbars, and safety devices
- Exhaust systems
- Fuel systems
- Condition of loading
- Steering mechanisms
- Tires; any tire with tread or sidewall separation of less than one-eighth inch tread will fail inspection, the weight of the truck also cannot exceed the tire load limit
- Wheels and rims
- Windshield glazing
- Windshield wipers
- Motorcoach seats
While the maintenance of all components is critical, studies have shown that tire problems account for about one-fourth of all truck breakdowns and are the second most common cause for a violation.
How Often Should Truck Drivers Inspect Their Vehicles?
While qualified state and local inspectors must perform annual or spot inspections, it is the truck driver’s or trucking company’s responsibility to perform a thorough pre-trip inspection before they depart with a load. The entire process should take about 10 to 15 minutes. The FMCSA requires drivers to submit a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) for each truck they drive. The report must be in writing and provide evidence that the driver checked the brakes, steering, lights, tires, wheels, horn, wipers, mirrors, and coupling devices. However, it is up to the trucking company to enforce the policy. Truck drivers who get into an accident due to vehicle-related factors may be held liable if they failed to submit proper DVIRs.
What Actions Contribute to Maintenance Problems?
A truck operator’s driving skills may contribute to maintenance problems. For example, brakes can easily overheat if a driver incorrectly engages the brakes while driving downhill. Trucks that are overloaded can lead to worn tires very quickly. Running out of fuel is also a big danger for diesel trucks, which operate under extremely high fuel pressure. A truck driver should never attempt to start an engine if it is out of fuel, as the diesel pump will pull in air and damage the fuel injectors. Before driving again, a maintenance crew must bleed the system of all air, removing the filters and repriming the engine with new diesel fuel.
Which Types of Accidents are Caused by Poor Truck Maintenance?
Galfand Berger LLP has represented many individuals involved in truck accidents caused by poor maintenance, including the following:
- A driver suffered severe injuries, which resulted in amputation of both legs below the knee when a tractor trailer with worn out brakes and bald tires crashed into his car. Galfand Berger LLP investigated the accident and uncovered evidence that the driver’s log was inaccurate, indicating that he was driving excessive hours. Galfand Berger recovered $3 million for the injured client.
- A truck driver suffered back and neck injuries when he was rear-ended by another tractor trailer. Galfand Berger LLP performed a thorough investigation and found the striking truck had multiple FMCSA violations, including cracked brake linings. As a result, the client was awarded $675,000 in damages.
Why Should I Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Truck Accident?
Accidents involving commercial trucks can be legally complex because more than one party may be deemed negligent. Specific reasons to contact a lawyer after a truck accident include the following:
- A lawyer understands what actions to take to preserve an accident victim’s rights. Insurance companies may approach a victim with an offer, which, if accepted, may prevent the injured party from filing a personal injury claim and obtaining full recovery.
- A lawyer is in a better position to estimate the full cost of recovery. Often times, accident victims may not fully grasp the financial impact of a serious accident.
- An experienced legal team can best determine who was actually at-fault. Victims should never assume accidents just happen. Negligence is often the cause. Determining the sources of negligence requires investigative skill.
When poor truck maintenance is a factor, the trucking company, maintenance company, and/or the driver may be responsible. Accident victims should contact a lawyer after a truck accident so that a thorough investigation can be launched as soon as possible before any evidence is destroyed.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Help Clients Injured in Accidents Caused by Poor Truck Maintenance
More than 100,000 truck accidents occur each year in which individuals are injured. Thousands of these accidents are due to poor truck maintenance. If you or loved one was injured in a truck accident, contact the Philadelphia truck accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP as soon as possible. We have the skills and experience to help determine who is responsible for the accident. Contact us online or call 800-222-8792 for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.