When passenger vehicles share the road with large commercial vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, any accidents that happen can be devastating. The federal agency tasked with regulating the interstate trucking industry is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Its primary mission is to reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks/buses and other vehicles that occur on American roadways each year.
To that end, the FMCSA requires interstate trucking companies and their employees to perform regular maintenance on their vehicles to ensure their safety and roadworthiness.
When trucking companies and commercial drivers fail to perform these regular maintenance checks, or fail to repair issues they discover in a timely manner, catastrophic accidents may be the result. Also, because of the sheer size and weight of these commercial vehicles, when accidents do occur, all too often it’s the people in the involved passenger vehicles who pay the price.
If you were injured in a tractor-trailer accident that you suspect was caused by a poorly-maintained commercial truck, here’s what you need to know.
Commercial Truck Maintenance Requirements
The FMCSA’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) govern everything from qualifications for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to how many hours a commercial trucker can work each week, and how much rest they have to have during and between shifts. The FMCSRs for vehicle maintenance are particularly strict, requiring truckers to complete both pre- and post-trip inspection reports. Truck drivers must also keep all records of inspections and repairs on file, and conduct an even more thorough inspection once a year—the results of which must be displayed in the rig.
During pre- and post-trip inspections, commercial drivers much check the following parts to confirm they’re working properly:
- Service brakes
- Trailer brake connections
- Parking brakes
- Lights and reflectors
- Rear-view mirror
- Coupling devices
- Windshield wipers
- Steering mechanism
- Emergency equipment
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Common Maintenance-Related Issues
When most people think of the most common causes of serious truck accidents, things such as distracted driving, drowsy driving, or even drunk driving are usually what come to mind. However, the majority of truck accidents involving injuries or fatalities are actually caused by preventable maintenance issues such as brake failure or tire problems. According to research from the FMCSA, brake failure plays a role in up to 29 percent of fatal or serious injury crashes, while tire problems contribute to up to 6 percent of such crashes.
Common maintenance-related issues include:
- Brake failure
- Worn tires
- Coupling device failures
- Cracked windshields
- Steering problems
- Broken headlights or taillights
- Missing lights or reflectors
- Faulty parking brake
- Damaged or missing side mirrors
- Windshield damage
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Liability in Maintenance-Related Truck Accident Cases
In most cases, when a commercial driver violates the FMCSA’s maintenance regulations, resulting in serious injuries, property damage, or deaths, he or she can be held liable for medical bills and other losses. However, if the trucking company that employees the driver was aware that the required maintenance checks were not being conducted—or the company failed to repair the truck in a timely fashion—a plaintiff may also be able to name the company in the lawsuits.
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Importance of An Attorney
If you were injured in a big rig accident that you suspect was caused by poor truck maintenance, you need an experienced Indianapolis truck accident attorney to perform a thorough investigation and compile important documents, such as the vehicle’s maintenance records, roadside inspection reports, annual vehicle inspection reports, driver self-inspection reports, receipts for equipment repair, proof of load securement training, and accident reports.