Trucking Accident Lawyer for Insufficient Vehicle Maintenance Crashes
As any vehicle owner can attest, owning and operating a car or truck is a responsibility. Operators of both passenger and commercial cars and trucks must ensure that their vehicle stays in good operating condition. The failure to perform routine and regular inspections and maintenance can mean that the vehicle’s brakes will not work properly thereby making an accident more likely. In other scenarios, the failure of vehicle safety equipment, such as underride guards, may make injuries sustained in a crash significantly worse or even fatal.
If you have been involved in a serious crash with a truck, the lawyers of Reiff & Bily’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to provide legal paths to recovery of medical costs, lost wages, and other damages. To discuss your potential legal options with an attorney, call 800-896-6173.
Vehicle Maintenance Is Required by FMCSA Standards
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the government body charged with developing, promulgating, and enforcing highway and trucking rules and regulations. This includes safety and inspection rules intended to keep unsafe vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways. However, there is often confusing regarding the exact nature of the requirements set forth in the federal standards. In truth, federal maintenance rules merely set forth a basic standard that vehicle inspection and maintenance activities must meet or exceed. The actual trucking firm must fill in the exact details based on the nature of its fleet and operations.
Section 396.3 sets worth the standards that apply to vehicle maintenance. §396.3 simply states that a carrier must have a program to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” Furthermore, the relevant section of the rules also states that insofar as maintenance for “parts and accessories” is concerned, these objects “shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times.” What constitutes “safe and proper operating condition” is largely defined in the various subparts of Part 393 of the regulations.
For instance, under Subpart G §393.75, the minimum standards for safe tires are set forth. Maintenance efforts must ensure that no vehicle is operated on a tire when it:
- Has material exposed through the tread or through a sidewall.
- Has sidewall separation.
- Is flat.
- Has an audible leak.
Tires must also meet other standards including a minimum tread groove pattern depth. Certain types of “regrooved” or “retreaded” tires are prohibited from use on the front wheels of buses or certain tractor-trailers. Additional standards apply to inflation levels and other aspects of the tire.
What Happens When a Trucking Company Has an Insufficient Maintenance Program?
Generally, trucking firms are not judged on their maintenance efforts until a vehicle comes under roadside inspection. Vehicles that fail a roadside inspection are typically placed in “out of service” state and must be repaired by the company before they can return to service. However, trucking companies that apply a few rules can often avoid problems due to component or equipment failure.
First, firms should set a “cut-off point” at which equipment is replaced even if it has not yet failed. This type of maintenance is performed on airplanes and other types of vehicles where an unexpected parts failure is not an option. Since parts are typically rated for a certain amount of usage, companies can use this information to guide replacement efforts. This information can be found in DOT regulations or can be provided by a part manufacturer.
Next, firms need to ensure that they have established a record keeping system that meets all rules and regulations set forth. Firms that take this step have the information they need to assess maintenance and monitoring operations. Firms that fail to keep records often won’t know there is a problem until a part fails while on the highway. When parts fail while the vehicle is being driven, there is often a significant chance for a loss of vehicle control and a serious accident.
Work with Truck Accident Attorneys
Accidents involving large trucks often produce serious and potentially fatal injuries. Trucking companies that fail to establish these types of programs significantly increase the likelihood that commuters and truck drivers will suffer serious injuries like broken bones, TBIs, and lacerations in a crash. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation with Reiff & Bily’s The Truck Accident Team, call 800-896-6173 today.