All accidents are scary and traumatic events which can result in life-threatening injuries. When hit by a commercial vehicle, such as an 18-wheeler; however, the chance of sustaining catastrophic injuries is compounded.
Commercial trucking accidents not only result in catastrophic personal injuries, they are often more complex to litigate. Indeed, in a commercial trucking accident, there may be multiple responsible parties, including the driver, the trucking company, or even the truck manufacturer. In addition to determining who is at-fault for your injuries, it is also important to understand how the accident occurred.
There are many causes of trucking accidents, including driver negligence, such as distracted driving or driver inattention; however, another major cause of trucking accidents is the failure to properly maintain the truck and trailer. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found an estimated 29% of large truck accidents were caused by faulty brakes. Despite federal and state regulations, many owners and operators fail to ensure their trucks are safe enough to be on the road.
Both Texas and federal law govern and set the minimum safety standards. These minimum standards are found in the Motor Carrier Act which requires, in part, that “[e]very commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated. However, if a regulation of the Federal Highway Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance or regulation, the Federal Highway Administration regulation must be complied with.” 49 C.F.R § 392.2. The federal agency responsible for promulgating these safety regulations is known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Generally speaking, there are three major categories of failures to maintain: failure to maintain brakes, failure to maintain tires, and/or failure to maintain trailers. While not an exhaustive list, these are three most common ways in which owners and operators negligently operate or maintain their trucks.
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN BRAKES
As cited above, an estimated 29% of all large commercial truck accidents are caused by faulty brakes. A failure to properly maintain the truck’s brakes can affect the driver’s ability to stop and safely operate the truck—putting those sharing the road at unnecessary risk. When an 18-wheeler’s brakes fail, especially given the weight of the truck and trailer, a catastrophic accident can occur.
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN TIRES
No matter where you live, hearing of a truck tire blowout is almost a daily event. A tire blowout is when there is a sudden and unexpected burst or rupture of the truck’s tire, usually when the truck is moving at a high rate of speed. Unlike a routine flat tire, when a tire blowout occurs, the driver can lose control of the truck, causing collisions with nearby vehicles, or even causing the truck to rollover. Unfortunately, tire blowouts are generally caused by an owner’s desire to maximize profits by failing to regularly and properly inspect the truck’s tires, and failing to repair or replace tires when needed.
FAILURE TO MAINTAIN TRAILERS
Semi-truck operators must ensure that their trailers are safely secured and properly aligned when hooked-up. Often, drivers are in a hurry to either pick-up or deliver their cargo, causing them to fail to ensure the trailer is properly aligned. A malalignment of the trailer causes unnecessary and increased pressure on the truck’s tires, which affects a driver’s ability to fully and properly control the truck. Additionally, malalignment can also cause uneven and dangerous tire wear, which as discussed above, can cause a tire blowout.
Commercial trucking accidents are dangerous, yet avoidable in most cases. Both Texas and federal law seek to protect other drivers on the road; however, in putting profits over people, many owners and operators fail to properly maintain their trucks.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at the Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC knows what it takes to hold commercial trucking companies liable for the injuries they cause. Contact us today to discuss your situation and see how we can help you get on the road to recovery.