When trucking companies send tractor trailers and large commercial vehicles out among much smaller cars, trucks and SUVs, they have a legal duty to ensure full compliance with all safety laws. Many state and federal laws require specific compliance with safety related issues unique to large trucks.
Unfortunately, statistics show safety defects account for a large number of crashes. A 2006 study by the Department of Transportation found vehicle factors were the critical reason for 10 percent of all trucking accidents.
Mechanical problems with commercial trucks are a small but dangerous contributor to trucking accidents. A 2009 federal report on accident statistics showed vehicle related factors led to 4.5 percent of all truck crashes that year. Of those, brake problems were by far the most common, followed by wheel and tire issues. Those results are echoed by an earlier Michigan study citing brake problems as the number one maintenance issue, followed by problems with lights and signals. To make matters worse, the study said 35 percent of trucks involved in crashes had out of service safety violations, which would have taken them out of service if inspected.
Frighteningly, brake problems on semi trucks were the most common contributor to truck accidents. In the 2006 DOT study, brake problems had the highest proportion of all vehicle factors, at 40 percent. Brake problems and brake failure were the first and second riskiest mechanical problems studied, and brake problems were the fourth riskiest problem overall (after speeding, inattention and driver fatigue). To make matters worse, trucks with braking problems that got into crashes often should have been taken off the road- 82 percent of the crashed trucks in the DOT study had problems serious enough to take them out of service. The Michigan study found trucks were 50 percent more likely to be involved in a crash involving braking when they had a brake violation.
Load shifts were also a common cause of tractor-trailer crashes. Load shifts can spill debris onto a highway or cause truckers to lose control of their trucks, and were cited as problems in 7 percent of all truck accidents. In fact, according to a DOT study, they were the second most common mechanical cause of crashes after brake problems.
Load shifts inside a truck can cause a crash by causing the trucker to lose control, because a vehicle as heavy as a large truck does not respond well to sudden changes in weight. Overloading the truck can also overwhelm the driver by adding more weight than the truck is designed to control. For this reason, federal law sets weight limits, and also requires truckers and trucking companies to secure their loads carefully. Failure to follow these rules can put the trucking company, the driver or both at fault for any crash that results.
If you believe a truck crash resulted from defective safety equipment, or an excessive or improper load, call our truck accident lawyers today for a free legal consultation. We represent clients throughout Missouri and Illinois who were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a trucking accident that was not their fault. For a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Missouri truck accident attorney, call 314-400-0000 or send us a message online.