While the truck driver’s actions should receive plenty of scrutiny in the wake of a devastating truck accident, there’s also a good chance the condition of the truck itself played a role in causing the wreck.
Compared to a typical passenger car, trucks are extremely complex and require constant maintenance. Meanwhile, profit-driven trucking companies often try to cut corners on inspections and repairs to pad their profit margins. Together, these factors mean vehicle defects contribute to truck crashes at incredibly high rates.
Read this article to learn some of the common truck defects that often cause deadly wrecks and how an attorney can help if you’ve been affected.
Common Truck Problems Include Brake Failures and Steering Defects
Every driver knows mechanical problems can appear with little to no warning and at the worst possible time. Trucks are no different, which is why federal regulations require truck companies and truck drivers to perform proactive inspections to catch defects and mechanical failures before they turn catastrophic.
Some of the most common truck defects that lead to crashes include:
- Brake Failure
Defective brakes, poor brake maintenance, and other brake problems cause more truck crashes than any other single equipment or maintenance issue. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that brake failure, brakes out of adjustment, and other brake-related issues play a role in more than 30% of tractor-trailer crashes in the United States.
Brake issues are especially dangerous in commercial trucks because of the enormous size and weight of these vehicles. An 80,000-pound tractor-trailer is difficult to stop even with the best brakes available. But with brakes that aren’t working properly, it becomes almost impossible for a truck to slow down in time to avoid a hazard or respond to traffic changes.
- Tire Failures
You might think that since an 18-wheeler has so many tires, it wouldn’t create immediate danger if just one of them failed. In fact, commercial trucks require all their tires to maneuver properly, and a single faulty tire can turn a tractor-trailer into a deadly hazard. A worn or damaged tire can blow out completely, leading to a partial or total loss of control over the truck — and as you can imagine, when you’ve got 40 tons of mass barreling down the highway, any loss of control creates an extremely dangerous situation.
More than any other type of equipment failure, tire failures tend to result from trucking companies’ failure to perform routine inspection and maintenance on their vehicles. Truck tires go through lots of wear and tear, and federal and state regulations require both truck companies and truck drivers to inspect their tires regularly to look for baldness, rot, and other issues that could compromise tire performance or create a potential blowout. Unfortunately, smaller truck companies often try to eke out extra profits by pushing tires past the point where they need to be repaired or replaced, creating a potentially deadly safety hazard.
RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: I Was Hurt by a Truck Tire Blowout — Can an Attorney Help Me?
- Steering Equipment Defects
While brake and tire safety issues often receive the most attention from regulatory bodies like the FMCSA, steering defects in large trucks can also create significant safety risks. One study of Washington state truck crashes, published in the public health journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, showed that steering equipment defects played a role in 21% of truck crashes over the study period.
The steering systems in large trucks are intricate, which means they have many potential failure points. Anything from a faulty steering wheel mechanism or a defective ball joint to poor wheel alignment or bad shock absorbers can compromise a truck driver’s ability to direct their vehicle and respond to changing road conditions.
- Defective or Missing Lights and Mirrors
While a missing mirror or burnt-out light bulb might seem like minor issues compared to brake failures and tire blowouts, truckers rely on their lights and mirrors to see the road and the other vehicles around them. Compared to an ordinary passenger vehicle driver, a trucker depends much more on their mirrors to give them full visibility of the road; without properly-adjusted mirrors, a truck’s blind spots are enormous. And without adequate information about the road and nearby vehicles, a simple lane change can turn into a deadly collision.
Uncovering Truck Defects Requires Painstaking Investigation
All the truck defects and maintenance issues listed above can arise in several different ways. The manufacturer may fail to design the equipment or system properly, or they may introduce a defect during the production process.
Even if a truck’s equipment is otherwise working properly, improper loading can compromise the vehicle’s braking and steering capability. If the truck’s weight isn’t evenly distributed, it may become unstable, and certain sets of brakes may overheat and malfunction. And some unscrupulous truck companies even deliberately reduce the stopping capability of their trucks’ front brakes to minimize tire and brake wear and save on maintenance costs.
Sorting out exactly how a truck defect occurred and how it contributed to a wreck is a complicated process that requires time, resources, expertise, and experience. To get answers in your case, assess which types of claims you have, and figure out who is liable for your injuries and losses, you need to contact an experienced truck accident attorney right away.
RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: Why Early Investigation Is Key After a Truck Accident
Contact Atkins & Markoff for Help if You’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident in Oklahoma
At Atkins & Markoff, we have the resources and experience needed to handle complex truck crash cases. We’re here to listen to your story, and we’ll fight relentlessly to get you justice and compensation if we can take your case.
If you’ve been seriously injured or even lost a loved one in a crash involving a tractor-trailer or other large truck, contact Atkins & Markoff today by calling 405-607-8757 or completing our quick and simple online contact form. We’ll get back to you right away.
Your initial consultation is free, and we handle all personal injury cases on a ”no-recovery, no-fee” basis, so you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we get you a settlement or win your case in court.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2007, July). The large truck crash causation study: Analysis brief (Publication no. FMCSA-RRA-07-017). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (1989, October). Defective equipment and tractor-trailer crash involvement. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 21(5):469-81. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2619856
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.