An Inconvenience to a Trucker, a Deadly Accident for Everyone Else
Trucks are complex machines. To operate safely, they need all of their systems to operate reliably. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Trucks can experience mechanical failure that puts the public at risk of a deadly truck accident.
Let’s take a look at some of the mechanical truck failures that can pose a danger on the road.
Types of Mechanical Truck Failure
In a landmark study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admission (FMCSA) found that mechanical and other vehicle-related problems constitute a common cause of truck accidents across the United States. In fact, over the period studied, about 8,000 trucks involved in fatal and injury crashes experienced mechanical failures. Here are some of the common mechanical breakdowns trucks experience that can lead to a dangerous accident.
Brake System Failure
Brakes constitute one of the most safety-critical systems in a large truck. It takes significant power and precision to bring a fully loaded truck traveling at highway speeds to a safe, controlled stop. Any mechanical failure in a truck’s braking system can spell disaster.
Trucks can experience a wide variety of brake failures. Brake discs can get worn out. Hydraulic lines can leak or break. Sensors controlling the antilock braking system might short circuit.
Winter can pose particular challenges for maintaining brake lines. The chemicals municipal road departments use these days, in place of rock salt, to combat snow and ice on the roads can corrode brake lines. Also, trailer brakes can freeze when parked in cold temperatures.
Commercial truck brakes need frequent inspection and routine maintenance throughout the year to avoid these sorts of failures.
Truck tires take a lot of abuse on the road. They cover thousands of miles over a relatively brief time. They’re constantly subjected to varying loads that compress or lighten up on them as truck trailers get filled with, and then emptied of heavy cargo. They expand and contract as temperatures change. Rough roads and debris on the roads can puncture them. And so on.
Without constant inspection and maintenance, this wear and tear can lead to tire blowouts, which can pose serious accident risks. A blowout usually happens unexpectedly, often at highway speeds. It can trigger a loss of driver control of a truck, leading the truck to jackknife, run off the road, or swerve into neighboring lanes and vehicles.
Blowouts and other tire mechanical failures can also leave debris on highways. The delaminated treads of a truck tire, sometimes called a road gator, can cause damage to smaller vehicles that run over them and lead to accidents.
Transmissions can also fail in trucks. Like brakes and tires, truck transmissions regularly endure significant strain. Truckers commonly use a truck’s gears to slow down or control speed, as an alternative or supplement to the truck’s brakes. This can tax the transmission and lead to mechanical truck failure, especially if the truck is carrying a full load of cargo.
Transmission failures, like tire blowouts, can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. A truck that loses its gearing can speed out of control or come to a sudden stop. Either way, transmission failure can cause a dangerous accident.
Windshield Wiper Breakdowns
Believe it or not, even truck systems as simple as windshield wipers can malfunction and create accident risks. Although the Surface Transportation Assistance Act allows truck drivers to refuse to operate during harsh weather without fear of penalties from their employers, many truckers still take to the road in rain, snow, sleet, and other challenging weather conditions.
To operate safely, those drivers need wipers and other visibility-enhancing systems to work as expected. Even a small decline in visibility due to a worn or broken wiper blade can result in a trucker not seeing a hazard up ahead in time to stop, leading to deadly rear-end collisions, pile-ups, and other preventable truck crashes.
Who is Responsible for a Mechanical Truck Failure?
Mechanical truck failure is almost always a preventable problem. If it causes a truck accident, then it usually means someone involved in the manufacture, operation, or maintenance of the truck failed to exercise the reasonable care necessary to keep the truck in safe working order. Those parties may face legal liability for a crash and may have the legal obligation to pay damages to injured victims.
Here are some of the parties who may bear the blame for a mechanical truck failure.
Truck/Truck Parts Manufacturers
Manufacturers of trucking equipment can face legal liability for a truck crash if the trucks and truck parts they produced contained dangerous defects that led to a mechanical failure. In most states, manufacturers are “strictly liable” for harm caused by a crash stemming from a defective product they made. That means they owe damages regardless of the reasonableness of their actions in designing, building, or selling the defective item.
Mechanics and Other Truck Maintenance Contractors
18-wheelers need frequent maintenance to keep them operating safely. Many truck owners hire outside mechanics to perform that maintenance. Mechanics who fail to do their jobs in a reasonably competent manner, and who allow trucks to leave the shop in dangerous conditions, may face legal liability for victims of truck accidents resulting from a mechanical breakdown.
Trucking Companies and Their Drivers
Finally, trucking companies and the drivers they hire can owe damages to truck crash victims, if their failure to inspect or maintain a truck in safe working order led to a crash. Drivers should perform routine inspections of their rigs before every trip. Companies should invest in their fleet by keeping it well-maintained and rolling on adequate tires. Their failures to spot or fix mechanical problems on trucks can lead to accidents and, in turn, legal liability.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Call a Truck Accident Lawyer
Did a truck accident injure you or a loved one? If so, a mechanical truck failure may be to blame. An experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate what happened, pinpoint any breakdown that led to the crash, and take appropriate legal action to get you the money you deserve.
To learn more, contact a skilled truck accident attorney today.