Trucks — also known as tractor trailers, big rigs, 18-wheelers, and so on—are essential to the operation of the American economy. Every day, millions of goods need to be transported to countless businesses throughout the nation. If freeways are the veins of the commercial body, then trucks are the cells. Without them, all business operations would grind to a halt, and the commercial body would most likely shut down.
There’s no doubt that trucks help us sustain our way of life, but they are also capable of destruction. Trucks are huge, heavy behemoths of machines. They often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles. When you combine such great size with high speed, the resulting force is immense, enough to cause serious injuries and even death. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), truck accidents kill nearly 4,000 people every year.
While many truck accident cases can be attributed to driver error, some can be traced to oversights made before the truck even hits the road. Maintenance and inspection are hugely important components of trucking safety. When trucking companies fail to exercise due care in these areas, people get hurt or killed. Below are some of the most common truck maintenance issues that can lead to disaster.
As previously mentioned, trucks are heavy and thus require a lot of stopping power. When brakes get worn out or become faulty, brake failure may occur, leading to a devastating rear-end accident. Regular inspections and maintenance are tantamount to safe operation. This includes replacing pads and other parts when necessary, greasing slack adjusters and S-Cams, checking gauges and hoses frequently, and servicing brakes on a routine basis.
The steering column is located at the top of the steering system and connects directly to the steering wheel. A worn out or improperly maintained steering column can lead to partial or complete loss of control, the dangerous implications of which are obvious. During maintenance and inspection, the following symptoms should be addressed right away: the steering wheel is not responsive; the steering wheel does not return to middle position; turning the wheel causes a clicking or grinding sound, or the steering tilt function doesn’t lock.
The trailer hitch is what connects the tractor to the trailer. If a trailer hitch is in bad condition or improperly secured, the tractor can become unhitched from the trailer. If this occurs in the middle of a busy freeway, the results can be utterly disastrous. As always, routine inspection and maintenance are key to preventing this from occurring.
The suspension system is what holds tires, tire air, springs, shock absorbers and linkages together and allows relative motion between the two. When the suspension system suffers, these components lose functionality. U-bolts, bushing, wheel bearing, shock absorbers and, most importantly, the fastener suspension should be inspected and maintained regularly.
Not only do tires bear the weight of the truck, they’re the only part of the truck that makes direct contact with the road. As a result, they endure a lot of wear and tear. Proper inspection and maintenance involve checking the treads and air pressure. Worn out or damaged treads and unbalanced air pressure can lead to tire blowouts, increased braking distance and other crash-causing factors.
Lights and Reflective Surfaces
Lights and reflective surfaces aren’t there just for visibility at night, they also are useful for indicating the driver’s intentions to other motorists. Although it is inexcusably dangerous to drive with defective, broken or missing lights and reflective surfaces, trucking companies often neglect these components. Lights and reflective surfaces are just as important as any other part of a truck, and thus should be inspected and maintained regularly.
Improperly Secured Cargo
When cargo is improperly loaded or secured to the back of a truck, it could fall off and suddenly present a dangerous obstruction in the roadway, causing a traffic jam at best and a fatal accident at worst. Drivers must be vigilant during the loading process and ensure that the cargo is properly secured before embarking on a trip.
It is the duty of every trucking company to comply with safety standards and ensure their fleet is in working order. If a truck accident occurs due to a maintenance issue, the victims can claim compensation for their injuries from the liable trucking company. If you have been involved in a devastating truck accident because of bad maintenance, you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer for legal advice.