Many people who are involved in accidents with semi-trucks automatically blame the truck driver. However, the reality is that the semi-trucks themselves can be more dangerous than the actual drivers. In fact, semi-trucks are often cited for violations due to faulty or improperly maintained parts or systems of the truck.
In May 2023, there was an International Roadcheck that took place for 72 hours. This Roadcheck led to around 19 percent of commercial trucks being taken off roads due to violations. The trucking companies and drivers were ordered to fix or replace any cited violations before the trucks could be driven on the roadways again.
Close to 60,000 commercial trucks and vehicles were looked at and inspected in the United States, Canada, and Mexico during the International Roadcheck. The results of this event were:
- More than 17,000 out-of-service violations were reported.
- Over 11,000 commercial trucks and vehicles were actually put out of service.
- Around 5,000 drivers were given out-of-service violations.
- About 3,000 drivers were actually put out of service, which was close to 5 percent of all drivers.
More than 116,000 violations were reported during the 72-hour Roadcheck, including out-of-service violations and many other types of violations.
What types of violations were given by inspectors?
While there were various types of violations given to truck drivers and trucking companies by inspectors, the main focus was on improperly loaded cargo and antilock braking systems. There were close to 3,000 loaded cargo violations and more than 4,000 violations cited for antilock braking systems. These violations were found on four motorcoaches, 2,697 trailers, and 1,426 power units.
In addition, around 950 drivers were given violations for not wearing their seat belts, and 236 commercial trucks and vehicles received violations for carrying hazardous and dangerous chemicals or materials. A few other violations were given for lights and tires.
What makes semi-trucks so dangerous?
Even when truckers are driving safely and following the rules, their vehicles still pose significant risks to other people. The reasons why semi-trucks are so dangerous include:
- Their size and weight: According to International Used Truck Centers, fully-loaded semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, stretch to 72 feet long, and measure up to 13.5 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide. It requires a lot of training and experience to learn how to drive these large vehicles. Semi-trucks are not only hard to control, maneuver, slow down, or even stop, but they can also bring great force and impact to an accident with smaller automobiles.
- Manufacturing or design flaws: If there are manufacturing or design flaws, parts may begin to malfunction, systems may start to fail, and accidents may happen. Common manufacturing and design flaws can affect the brakes, tires, transmission, fuel tank, lights, suspension, and more.
- Cargo loading/shifting problems: Commercial trucks are responsible for carrying large loads across the highways, interstates, and local roadways. The type of cargo that they often carry may include home goods, food, metal, wood, furniture, appliances, and more. If these loads are not properly secured, they can put the truck driver as well as other drivers on the roads at risk of accidents. In addition, if the load is not proportioned correctly, it can cause the truck to roll over onto its side or top during transit.
If you were recently involved in a truck accident and believe that there were manufacturing or design flaws, cargo load problems, or any other defects, an attorney will listen to your side of the story and go over your legal options for pursuing the compensation that you need and deserve.
Five ways trucking companies can ensure their fleets are safe
Even though large commercial and semi-trucks can be dangerous in and of themselves, it is the trucking companies, employers, truck drivers, and maintenance crews’ responsibility to ensure that their trucks perform to the best of their abilities. Failure to maintain the trucks (or to remove dangerous vehicles from service until they are repaired) could make a trucking company and/or its repair/maintenance service providers liable for a crash.
To best ensure their fleets are safe, trucking companies should:
- Frequently check fluids: This includes brake fluid, washer fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and more. All these fluids must be checked as often as possible to ensure that the truck is functioning correctly when on the roadways.
- Keep the truck clean: It is important to remove any buildup dirt, snow, grime, or debris from tires and trailers as well as from within the engine itself.
- Make sure the truck has routine oil changes: Dirty or low oil can cause engine issues, which can lead to a truck accident.
- Ensure that the tires are often rotated and replaced: One of the most common accidents is a tire blowout. This can cause a trucker to lose control of the vehicle and run off the road, veer into another lane, strike oncoming traffic, or even flip over. Trucking companies and maintenance crews should ensure that tires are frequently rotated and replaced. Due to the number of miles that large trucks drive every day, it is common for them to experience damaged and worn-out tires that need to be replaced often.
- Engage in regular inspections: Truck drivers, maintenance crews, and other professionals should regularly inspect commercial trucks. In fact, it is a good idea to inspect the truck before every shift to make sure that everything looks normal. If there are any present or noticeable mechanical problems, you should not drive or allow your drivers to get into that truck until the parts are properly fixed or replaced.
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