There are two parts to truck safety on the highways across Texas and our great nation. The first part is to ensure that the truck drivers are adequately trained and implementing policies to ensure compliance with the federal regulations for drivers and trucking companies.
The second part is to ensure that the equipment on the road is safe to be on the road and will not cause an accident. Section 396 – inspection, repair, and maintenance of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations deal with keeping the tractors and trailers in safe operating condition.
Recently, approximately 20% of all commercial motor vehicles, when inspected, were found to be out of service. This statistic is alarming, to say the least. Unsafe operation is covered under Section 396.7 – Unsafe operation. Subsection (a) provides a motor vehicle shall not be operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or breakdown of the vehicle.
There is an exception when a truck driver discovers an unsafe condition while driving on the highway; One exception allows the driver to continue to a repair facility if it is less hazardous to the public than to allow the vehicle to remain on the highway.
Drivers and Companies Share Responsibility
Part of the responsibility of trucking companies is to inspect and repair vehicles frequently to keep them in safe operating condition. Personnel is required to mark as “out of service” in the 18-wheeler that may likely cause an accident or breakdown. Out of service’s vehicle stickers are used for that purpose. It is against the law to remove the stickers unless the semi-truck has passed the inspection and a deficiency cured.
Professional truck drivers also participate in the safety process by completing vehicle inspection reports at the end of each workday. The driver’s daily vehicle inspection reports cover the important aspects of proper maintenance and repair of the vehicle. The purpose of inspection reports is to ensure the vehicles are safe to be driven. Semi-trucks that are out of service are by definition- unsafe!
If a report contains a deficiency likely to affect the safety of the operation of the vehicle the motor carrier must ensure the defect or deficiency has been corrected prior to releasing the vehicle for the highway.
If trucking companies and truck drivers followed the rules contained in Section 396, there would be very few if any vehicles found to be out of service on inspection. Yet, when 20% of the vehicles come upon a roadside inspection and art that time found to be out of service there is little doubt that the public has been put in danger by virtue of the failure to follow the rules by both the truck driver and the trucking company.
18-wheelers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and above and a rigged out in proper operating condition clearly can pose a substantial risk to our community. Trucks with bad brakes are one of the more serious causes of rear-end truck accidents.
After a serious injury truck crash, an experienced 18-wheeler accident attorney can inspect the vehicles to determine whether the vehicle was out of service at the time of the wreck.
After someone has been seriously injured or killed, saying I’m sorry- is just not enough.