The Dangers of Inadequate Truck Maintenance

David W. Hodges
David Hodges is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice on personal injury claims.

Semi-Truck Driver Inspecting His Rig Before TravelingWhile any vehicle crash can lead to devastating results, collisions involving large trucks can be especially dangerous. In 2014, 68 percent of deaths involving large trucks were passenger car occupants and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Poorly maintained brakes and other negligent maintenance practices can increase this risk for truck drivers, as well as others on and alongside the road.

Interstate Versus Intrastate Deliveries

Depending on where a truck’s docking station and destination is located, it may be classified as interstate or intrastate. Where interstate carriers cross state borders, intrastate carriers conduct business within the jurisdiction of a single state. From a legal standpoint, this means that interstate carriers must adhere to federal regulations pertaining to commercial vehicles, whereas intrastate carriers are regulated by the state. The District of Columbia’s maintenance laws closely reflect federal law. Intrastate laws in Maryland and Virginia, however, have key differences.

Regulatory Compliance for Interstate Trucking Companies

Due to the risks associated with large trucks, truck drivers and their employers are responsible for maintaining road-bound trucks to meet minimum standards. For interstate trucks, these standards, which are implemented and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), require the regular inspection and upkeep of a truck’s:

  • Frame and frame assemblies
  • Mirrors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Suspension systems
  • Axels and attaching parts
  • Tires
  • Wheels and rims
  • Steering systems
  • Brakes and parking brakes
  • Lighting devices
  • Horns

In addition to regularly checking the functionality of these crucial systems and parts, truck drivers are expected to preserve records of maintenance. These records must document maintenance, repairs, and inspections performed within the past 30 days.

What Can Happen When Maintenance Is Overlooked?

Truck drivers who fail to perform adequate maintenance may put others at risk. Some accidents that may occur due to faulty maintenance include:

  • The truck is unable to stop in time to avoid a collision due to faulty brakes.
  • A passenger vehicle collides with the rear of a truck due to inadequate or malfunctioning lights or reflective gear. This may result in an underride collision in which the car drives underneath the truck’s rear.
  • The truck driver is unable to warn at-risk drivers or pedestrians of danger because the horn does not sound.
  • The steering wheel malfunctions, preventing the truck driver from operating the vehicle safely and predictably.
  • Faulty tires cause the truck to swerve unexpectedly, lose control, and collide with other cars or barriers. This may result in blockage of part—or all—of the road, leading to pileups and the swerving of other vehicles.
  • A truck’s side mirrors do not enable the truck driver to adequately judge safety when switching lanes.
  • Windshield wipers fail to adequately provide visibility during inclement weather, increasing the risk of sliding and loss of control.

Filing a Lawsuit Against Trucking Companies

After surviving a crash with a commercial truck, you may be wondering how to get the most out of your claim. Relatives and next of kin of deceased drivers or pedestrians may also wish to pursue a wrongful death claim. A personal injury attorney will be able to help you identify instances of negligence on the part of the truck driver, the truck driver’s employer, and even parts manufacturers who may have released faulty parts. In addition to improper maintenance, other instances of negligence may include:

  • Drowsy driving or driving in violation of hours of service regulations
  • Intoxicated driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving without meeting CDL licensing requirements
  • Failure to adhere to regulations pertaining to the transportation of hazardous materials
  • Operating a commercial vehicle with disqualifying health conditions, such as sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease, without prior clearance from a physician
  • Failure to adhere to traffic laws, such as speed limits and signaling before changing lanes or turning
  • Failure to adjust speed and use proper lighting when driving in inclement weather or at night

To file your claim for compensation for your injuries, property damage, and more, feel free to contact Kennedy Hodges, LLP, for your free consultation.