Most truck accidents are caused by driver behavior or inattention, but in some cases the vehicle itself is the source of the accident. The truck’s brakes, tires, powertrain, and other parts can fail, making it impossible to operate safely. A heavy truck that’s loaded with cargo can cause serious damage when the driver is unable to maneuver, brake, or steer as needed.
Some mechanical failures are completely unavoidable and unexpected. But both truck drivers and their employers are responsible for inspecting and maintaining their vehicles in order to avoid foreseeable problems. If it can be proven that either or both parties neglected these duties and an accident occurred as a result, you may have grounds for compensation through a truck accident claim.
If you were hurt in an accident with a truck, it’s always worth investigating the circumstances that led to the crash. Here’s what to know about truck maintenance and how you can tell if a lack of repairs or upkeep caused your accident.
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What Are Some Common Commercial Truck Maintenance Issues?
In 2018, vehicle-related issues were a factor in about 6 percent of fatal truck accidents. Of those accidents, some of the most common mechanical problems were:
- Brake system failures
- Tire issues
- Powertrain failures
- Problems with lights
- Suspension problems
Brakes, in particular, are a big issue. Of the 282 fatal truck accidents in 2018 that had a recorded “vehicle-related factor,” 45 of them — or roughly 16 percent — involved some sort of brake system problem.
A brake failure on any vehicle can be disastrous, but it’s significantly more dangerous for large trucks, which may be carrying tens of thousands of pounds of weight. If brake pads or other components are worn and the truck collides with another vehicle, the force of that impact can be devastating.
Commercial carriers do have some discretion about how often they inspect and service vehicles in their fleet. However, the type of hauling the company does, the weight of the vehicle, road conditions, and even the driver’s braking frequency can all affect how often brakes need to be replaced and serviced. Ultimately, commercial trucking companies should ensure that vehicles are in safe working order every time they hit the road.
Who Is Responsible for Commercial Truck Maintenance?
Both drivers and the vehicle carriers that hire them share the responsibility of ensuring that trucks are regularly inspected and maintained, and that repairs are reported and completed properly.
Commercial vehicles must be inspected annually, just like any other vehicle. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has specific guidelines that require motor carriers to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain” all vehicles in their fleets. Additionally, all parts are expected to be in safe working order at all times.
Drivers must complete daily vehicle inspections and report to their employer any defects or mechanical issues that could cause the vehicle to break down or be unsafe to drive. If an issue is reported, it must be repaired before the driver is allowed to return to their route. Then, the carrier must keep proof of the repair on file for at least three months.
How Do I Know If Lack of Maintenance Caused My Accident?
If you’re wondering whether your accident was the result of poor or neglected truck maintenance, it’s a wise idea to contact a truck accident lawyer for a case evaluation.
Commercial trucking companies are required to keep records of maintenance and inspections. A lawyer can help you access those records and review them for inconsistencies and lapses in repairs. They can also ensure that the truck in question is properly inspected after the crash to look for obvious component failures.
In some cases, a trucking company may have a history of repeatedly ignoring maintenance or failing to take vehicles off the road when inspections show mechanical problems. Repairs and inspections can delay deliveries; as a result, there is incentive for drivers and fleet owners to bend the rules or even ignore them altogether so they can make it to their destination on time.
At FVF, we’ve seen cases where commercial vehicle carriers have even trained drivers to ignore federal regulations. When this happens, it’s important that these trucking companies are held accountable for their negligence — not only so that you can seek the compensation you need to recover, but also so that no one else is hurt by their actions.
Our Austin truck accident attorneys have a record of helping victims in commercial vehicle accidents recover the compensation they need to heal. We are also committed to ensuring the safety of drivers on the road by investigating commercial carrier practices and holding carriers accountable for any negligence.
If you have been hurt in an accident with a large truck — or in any kind of car accident — contact us today for a free case consultation. We’ll help you examine your rights and options, and determine if neglected vehicle maintenance may be a factor in your case.