Truck Malfunctions That May Support a Negligent Maintenance Accident Claim
Truck accidents are commonly the result of neglected essential maintenance. If this happened to you, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages. Here’s more information to help you decide whether your truck accident might fit the bill.
Trucking companies are responsible for the excellent working order of their trucks, as are their drivers to a lesser degree. Still, despite the myriad of Texas state and federal laws dictating how to maintain commercial motor vehicles, some companies choose to cut corners in the name of profits or efficiency. When they do skimp on maintenance, the results typically look like one or more of the following malfunctions:
- Steering or steering column failure.
- Tire blowout.
- Signal, brake, or headlights out.
- Brake failure due to worn-out brake pads or rotors.
- Cracks in the windshield or defective wiper blades.
- Unsecured load.
- Faulty trailer hitch.
- Engine overheating.
What Leads to Negligent Truck Maintenance Accidents?
The average semi-truck weighs 35,000-80,000 pounds, depending on if it’s laden (carrying freight) or unladen (empty). That means, fully loaded, you have 40 tons hurtling toward you at speeds of 75 to 85 mph on the Texas highways, leaving a razor-thin margin of error. Needless to say, routine maintenance is imperative with commercial motor vehicles not just because of their size and weight but also because they have many moving parts with which a lot could go wrong. So, what leads to trucks’ maintenance getting neglected even though it’s crucial? Here are a few things that can happen:
- Not doing regular inspections. The law requires all motor carriers to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain” all vehicles under their control. Trucks that don’t pass these inspections have to be taken off the road if they are likely to cause an accident or break down. The driver and the trucking company both play a role in inspections.
- Poor record keeping. Federal regulations require motor carriers to maintain records for every vehicle under their control for 30 consecutive days or more. These records must show identifying details of the vehicle, the type and date of its maintenance and inspections, and a log of the tests performed on pushout windows and emergency doors. Your attorney can get these records in discovery. If they are lacking, it is a good indication that critical maintenance or repairs may not have taken place.
- Ignoring notice of defects. When drivers or maintenance staff notice defects, they are (theoretically) supposed to notate them in their reports. However, trucking companies don’t always act when they are notified of defects, and that’s when accidents can happen.
- Poorly loading or balancing a load. In Texas, the legal laden limit of a truck is 80,000 pounds, which can already pose a serious hazard on the highways. If that truck’s load is overweight and/or not balanced correctly, the consequences can be disastrous. Weight distribution is critical with trucks to ensure the driver can safely steer the vehicle, and too much weight or lopsided distribution will interfere with that.
- Failings of maintenance personnel. A motor carrier is only as strong as its weakest link, and if its maintenance personnel are poorly trained, don’t complete assigned repairs, or do upkeep badly, the truck’s performance will reflect it.
Do Any Laws Apply to Truck Maintenance?
Yes, various state and federal laws apply to collisions involving trucks, known as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Even in Texas, there is statutory law that applies to trucks and administrative law adopted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which regulates CMVs. Federally, you have the Code of Federal Regulations governing commercial motor vehicles. The basis for this code section is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Think of them as the gold standard for safety in the trucking industry.
If this legal information sounds confusing or overwhelming, you’re not alone. Truck accidents are complicated events; therefore, an experienced truck accident injury attorney is best-equipped to guide you through the facts of your case, explain the law, and help you determine your next steps.
Who Is Responsible for Neglecting Maintenance on a Truck if an Accident Results?
The negligent operation of a truck can happen at any layer of responsibility. For instance, say an auto parts company ships the wrong item, an under-trained maintenance staff person receives it, and he doesn’t know enough to tell the difference. He then installs it into the truck. The truck driver drives the truck and notices lagging, smoke, and other mechanical difficulties but says nothing and continues to drive. An accident happens.
There, all parties can be liable: parts supplier for shipping the wrong part, trucking company for hiring the maintenance person, mechanic for not recognizing the wrong part, and truck driver for driving on. Generally speaking, here are the parties who may be legally responsible when negligent truck maintenance causes an accident:
- Truck manufacturer.
- Trucking company/motor carrier.
- Supply company/parts provider.
- Maintenance provider.
- Individual mechanics.
- Truck driver.
- Service providers to the motor carrier/trucking company.
- Cargo owner.
An accident with a truck is not something you want to go through on your own. We can help you take on the trucking and insurance companies to get the compensation you deserve. Drop us a message today to schedule a free consultation in the Dallas or Houston area so we can start investigating your negligent truck maintenance case.
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