How Does Truck Maintenance Help Prevent Accidents?

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Sharing the road with an 80,000-pound commercial truck can be intimidating and unnerving. These massive vehicles have large blind spots, require significantly more road space to slow down or come to a complete stop, and make extremely wide turns. These are all things for which motorists need to be aware when driving in the vicinity of a large truck. However, it is the responsibility of the truck driver or the truck company to ensure that the truck is properly maintained, including the brakes, the tires, the lighting, and the alignment and steering. Following a strict maintenance program will ensure that the truck is in good working order and help prevent devastating truck accidents.

No driver wishes to get into an accident, especially one involving a truck. However, an experienced truck accident lawyer can provide invaluable assistance for victims of trucking accidents.

The Importance of Truck Maintenance

If a large truck’s brakes fail or the truck has a tire blowout while traveling at a speed of 65 mph on a busy highway, this can cause a serious, multi-vehicle collision that involves severe injuries and fatalities. Owing to the size and weight of the average truck, it is usually the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident who suffer the most devastating injuries. Although there are other common causes of truck accidents, including drowsy driving, distracted driving, and drunk driving, accidents caused by maintenance issues are largely preventable. The following are the top reasons why it is so important that truck drivers and truck companies follow a strict maintenance schedule:

  • Prevents truck accidents: Preventing accidents is the most important reason to keep trucks maintained. Some of the most common causes of devastating truck accidents include tire blowouts, faulty brakes, and steering and suspension issues, all of which can be prevented through proper maintenance and ensuring that all necessary repairs are made. Depending on the vehicle or the operational needs, truck maintenance may occur once a year, or when the truck reaches a specific mileage.
  • Saves money: The costs associated with truck maintenance are significantly less than repair costs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), motor vehicle accidents cost employers approximately $60 million each year in medical costs, legal expenses, property damage, and lost productivity. Truck companies should conduct vehicle inspections to identify maintenance issues before they become a serious safety issue and jeopardize the safety of the truck drivers and other motorists on the road.
  • Increases productivity: If a truck breaks down, it can have a ripple effect on the rest of the fleet, which can have a serious impact on the truck company’s productivity. For example, when one truck breaks down and fails to meet a delivery deadline, it can affect the fulfillment of other obligations. In addition, it can damage the truck company’s reputation with customers. By ensuring that all trucks in the fleet are properly maintained, operational delays can be avoided, and productivity stays on track.

What Should be Included on a Pre-Trip Maintenance Checklist?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the following checklist should be performed by truck drivers before each trip. This should not take more than 30 minutes, but it can reduce the risk of unexpected breakdown and serious accidents:

  • Check tires: The FMCSA reports that close to one-third of commercial maintenance costs involve tires. As part of the inspection process, truck drivers should check the air pressure and tire tread.
  • Check all fluids: In addition to checking the fluid amounts, including coolant/antifreeze, fuel, and oil, truck drivers should make sure that there are no leaks. Once the driver starts the truck, he or she should make sure that the dashboard lights confirm that the fluid levels are full.
  • Check the brakes: Malfunctioning brakes are a major safety hazard, particularly in large trucks. Truck drivers should check their standard brakes, as well as the truck’s parking brakes.
  • Check the truck’s electrical systems: These include brake lights, headlights, turn signals, flashers, clearance lights, and warning lights. When these are malfunctioning, it makes it difficult for other motorists to see the truck.

Maintenance that Should Be Regularly Scheduled

In addition to the checklist that truck drivers should go through before every trip, there are additional, more in-depth maintenance checks that should be scheduled. According to the FMCSA, at least one periodic maintenance inspection (PMI) should be conducted each year. However, most truck companies require more frequent inspections. It is important to keep these appointments and take the necessary steps to have any repairs made as soon as possible. A scheduled maintenance checklist should include the following:

  • Auxiliary systems
  • Belts and hoses
  • Body, glass, and mirrors
  • Brakes
  • Drive shafts or CV joints
  • Electrical system components
  • Engine and transmission mounts
  • Engine oil and filter changed
  • Exhaust system
  • Exterior and interior lights
  • Fuel and cooling systems, including leaks
  • Horn
  • Seat belts and set structure
  • Steering and suspension system
  • Tires, wheels, and rims
  • Transmission fluid
  • Undercarriage and frame
  • Various tune-ups
  • Windshield wiper system

Truck drivers should also keep in mind that certain types of maintenance should be performed seasonally as well. For example, extreme temperature fluctuations can impact tire pressure. Summer maintenance should focus on the cooling system and making sure that there is no corrosion in the radiator, and that all the water pumps are working properly. In the winter, maintenance should focus on parts such as engine heaters, the exhaust system, and the radiator.

Types of Accidents that Occur if a Truck is Not Maintained

When truck maintenance issues are not addressed, it can drastically increase the risk of a catastrophic truck accident. Oftentimes, it is the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in the accident who suffer the most severe injuries, if they are lucky enough to survive. The following are accidents that can occur when the truck driver or truck company does not take steps to properly maintain the truck:

  • Jackknife accidents: If a maintenance issue causes the truck driver to slam on the brakes, this can cause the trailer to swing out to a 90-degree angle. In some cases, the truck can overturn or roll over, causing major damage and serious accidents.
  • Rear-end collisions: This type of accident can occur if the truck’s brakes are not working properly. When a massive commercial truck rear-ends a passenger vehicle, it causes extensive property damage and serious, often fatal injuries.
  • Tire blowouts: When a truck’s tires are not maintained, they are more likely to have a blowout, which can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle and hit another motorist.
  • Underride accidents: These are extremely dangerous accidents that often result in fatalities. If a maintenance issue causes the truck driver to stop suddenly, an approaching vehicle can end up sliding underneath the tractor-trailer. Oftentimes, the top of the passenger vehicle is ripped off.
  • Rollover accidents: This type of accident occurs when a truck driver loses control of the truck, causing the tractor-trailer to roll over. This can occur when the brakes malfunction or there is a tire blowout.

Common Types of Truck Accident Injuries

Truck accident injuries are often severe and extensive. Oftentimes, they can be fatal, particularly for the occupants of the passenger vehicle. Some of the most common injuries include the following:

  • Back and neck injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Head injuries
  • Loss of limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Severe burns
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Liability for a Truck Accident Caused by Poor Maintenance

Truck drivers and trucking companies have a responsibility to conduct pre-trip inspections and other maintenance checks throughout the year to ensure that the truck is in good working order. A failure to do this can result in a serious truck accident. Depending on the exact cause of the accident and the maintenance issue that was overlooked, there are a number of parties who may be held liable for the accident, including the truck driver, the truck company, the company responsible for making the necessary repairs, and the manufacturing company.

Truck companies generally have a team of lawyers who will try to prevent the truck company from having to pay a large settlement to injured victims, even if the accident was caused by a failure to maintain the truck. However, a skilled truck accident lawyer will anticipate the tactics these lawyers will use to avoid reaching a fair settlement. In addition, a truck accident lawyer will ensure that the injured victim receives the financial compensation he or she deserves for the medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses related to the accident, including death benefits if the accident resulted in a fatality.

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Maintenance-Related Truck Accidents

If you were seriously injured in a truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Truck drivers and truck companies are responsible for keeping these massive vehicles well maintained, and if they fail to do so, it can increase the risk of serious accidents. If we determine that the accident was the result of poor maintenance, we will hold the negligent party liable for your injuries. We will ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.