Main Truck Maintenance and Inspection Failures That Cause Preventable Deadly Crashes

Galvin B. Kennedy
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Galvin Kennedy is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice to overtime and wage claims.

A Truck Driver Inspecting His Tires When a truck accident could have been prevented if the truck driver performed his basic duty of inspecting the truck, it can make the consequences feel unimaginably tragic. Sadly, too many trucks are on our highways and roadways with maintenance defects that should have been spotted in federally-required truck inspections and repaired. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 473,315 trucks—20 percent of all big-rigs inspected—were found to have out-of-service violations in roadside inspections that should have put them off the road in 2014. The top three truck maintenance defects were:

  • Head, tail, and side light problems
  • Brake failures
  • Tire defects

What Inspections Are Truckers Required to Perform Under FMCSA Regulations?

Because of the huge problem of lack of repairs and basic maintenance of trucks, the FMCSA has enacted detailed regulations for their inspection and repair. Two basic rules that are often the cause of crashes and evidence of trucker and truck company negligence are:

  • Trucks are required to be systematically inspected, maintained, and repaired.

  • Trucks are prohibited from being driven in a condition that is likely to cause an accident or a truck breakdown.

Under FMCSA rules, truck drivers play a vital role in the inspection and maintenance process. They are required to conduct detailed inspections of their trucks at critical points in their day:

  • Before taking a truck on a trip, a trucker must complete a thorough pre-inspection to ensure the truck is in a safe condition and not in need of repairs. This includes reviewing the inspection report of the last driver and ensuring that any maintenance or repair problems have been corrected. The truck driver must sign a report certifying that any repairs were made.

  • Truckers are also required to conduct an inspection of the truck at the end of each day and a complete a post-trip inspection.

  • Important truck components that must be inspected include the engine components and cab, brake performance, tire condition, wheels, trailer coupling, lights and reflectors, and loads.

  • If a truck has a mechanical or loading issue, the truck driver is supposed to place an out-of-service sticker on the truck, which should not be removed until the truck has been repaired. In addition, the truck should not be driven until the needed repairs are completed.

  • Truckers are required to complete inspection reports verifying that an inspection was done and the condition of the truck when it was inspected.

What Are Truck Company Responsibilities to Inspect and Maintain Their Trucks?

Truck companies must implement policies to ensure that FMCSA inspection regulations are followed by their employees and have their own inspection and maintenance duties. They are required to:

  • Ensure that truck drivers complete their pre-trip, daily, and post-trip inspections and complete required reports

  • Ensure that no trucks in need of maintenance or repair are driven

  • Ensure that no trucks with out-of-service tickets are driven until needed repairs are completed

  • Promptly complete needed maintenance and repairs

  • Complete a periodic inspection of each truck in its fleet at least annually and complete a report with the results of the inspection and certifying that the truck passed its inspection

  • Maintain records of trucker inspections of its trucks and its own periodic inspection for one year or six months after the truck leaves its fleets

The Basics Required When Truck Lights, Brakes, and Tires Are Inspected

A trucker can lose control of his truck—with catastrophic results—if his brakes malfunction or fail. Sadly, truckers not only conduct inadequate inspections and repairs, but also depower the front brakes or adjust the brakes in a way to reduce the wear and tear on them while reducing their braking abilities. Inspection of the brakes should include the following:

  • Testing the brakes for stopping performance before entering a highway

  • Checking that the brakes are properly adjusted

  • Determining if the air system is working satisfactorily

  • Ensuring that low air warning devices are working properly

  • Checking brake function before entering severe downgrading areas

  • Checking for cracked drums, shoes or pads with grease or oil, and shoes that are worn, missing, or broken

Tires can deteriorate faster if the air pressure is too low or high. When tires are worn or damaged, they can cause a tire blowout, which can result in the trucker losing control of the truck, especially dangerous when he is going at high speeds on the highway. To prevent these avoidable accidents, truckers should inspect the following:

  • Watch for tire inflation and wear

  • Maintain the correct tire inflation pressure

  • Check the tire tread depth

  • Use matched tire pairs with similar wear

  • Inspect the tires for cut or cracked valve stems, cuts, leaks, and other damage

Defective truck lights can also be a serious problem causing accidents. When lights and reflectors malfunction or do not work, truckers have difficulty seeing dangers on the road and other motorists may not see the truck. Inspection of the lights and reflectors should include checking to be certain that they operate properly and are clean.

If you suspect lack of truck maintenance or repair caused your truck accident, you need to contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible who can obtain important evidence before the truck driver and trucking company destroys it. Call the attorneys at Kennedy Hodges, LLP, today at 855.947.0707 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.