PROVING NEGLIGENT TRUCK MAINTENANCENovember 4, 2016
When investigating a major truck wreck, the focus is often on the driver and the company. Did the driver violate his hours of service? Was he on his phone? Did the company have proper safety protocols and training? Lost in the investigation often is the actual truck itself and the company that provided maintenance on it. Tractor trailers require regular maintenance to keep them operating safely. In fact, the maintenance is so prudent, it is mandated by state and federal laws.
Drivers operate as a spot-check for maintenance issues. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations, drivers must perform a pre-trip and post-trip inspection of the vehicle. The driver is required to inspect the brakes, the steering mechanisms, lighting devices and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, coupling devices, and more. Any issues that the driver discovers must be repaired. Unfortunately, placing a vehicle out of service for maintenance costs the driver and the trucking company money. Thus, when you review log books, most pre-trip inspections will be short – often 5 to 10 minutes. In reality, it is impossible to accurately perform a pre-trip inspection in such a short amount of time.
Maintenance is heavily regulated because of the devastation a truck can cause when traveling at a high rate of speed on highways. Therefore, trucking companies may have their own inspection and maintenance requirements as well. But again, that does not mean they are always followed. Alternatively, the trucking company could have performed subpar repairs just to get the vehicle back on the road making it imperative to obtain all documents relating to the repair, including documents relating to the parts used and time of repair. Maintenance and inspection records must be kept for a minimum of one year.
Mechanical issues typically play a large role in truck wrecks. Routine and proper maintenance can often prevent a large portion of the wrecks. Common maintenance problems include:
- Brake failure,
- Damaged, missing, or broken reflective taping, signal lights, or headlights,
- Broken coupling devices leading to the trailer disconnecting,
- Tire blow out due to low tread or bad alignment,
- Steering mechanism failure, and
- Suspension failure, among others.
If a trucking company and/or driver fail to maintain the vehicle, they can be held liable for the resulting damages. During your investigation of the wreck, don’t rule out issues with the truck. Examine maintenance records with the condition of the truck. Maintenance records may say the brakes were just replaced, yet they could be incredibly worn or not up to specifications. The driver may not have performed an accurate pre-trip or post-trip inspection or may have skipped the inspection in totality. Mechanical issues are common but can often be avoided. Unfortunately, avoiding the problems often costs either the driver or company money, and is therefore overlooked.
The knowledgeable and experienced legal team at the Amaro Law Firm are prepared to assist all of our referral partners obtain the most effective results for their clients. During our investigations, we use a variety of techniques to discover evidence of negligent truck maintenance. If you have a case or cases you would like to discuss referring, you can call us at 1-(713) 352-7975 or e-mail us today.