Poorly Maintained and Overloaded Trucks
Commercial truck accidents make up just 2.4 percent off all vehicle accidents each year in the United States. However, that still amounts to about a half million crashes, which usually involve a fatality because these trucks are heavier and bigger than most other cars on the roads. Negligence on the driver's or the company's fault are often the culprits seen by truck accident lawyers investigating such cases. Poor maintenance and overloading of trucks are serious hazards, but trucking companies still try to cut corners and get away with such things.
Regular maintenance is important to any vehicle. Mechanical parts wear out, and regular tune-ups and oil changes keep engines and other parts in good condition. When companies attempt to save money by delaying or skipping recommended maintenance, they put their drivers as well as others on the road at risk.
Similarly, despite laws that forbid trucks from being overloaded, many still are. The load carried by the truck affects its performance in many ways. The most noticeable to a driver is that an overloaded vehicle is much harder to steer, a potential hazard if the driver has to swerve to avoid an obstacle. Higher momentum causes strain on the brakes, and the truck will be much harder to control while going downhill. The chances of tires problems, one of the most common causes of truck accidents, are a lot higher as well.
Overloaded trucks are also at a much higher risk for roll over, and they can actually cause bridges and overpasses to collapse. Most bridges and overpasses have signs posted stating the maximum weight that is allowable, and it is against the law for truck drivers to ignore these. In addition, if the weight distribution is off balance or the load shifts, this can have catastrophic consequences.
Truck drivers are also required by law in the United States to stop at weight stations along highways. These facilities operate as checkpoints. Trucks are supposed to stop there as a means to be inspected and checked for signs of overloading. When they are stopped at one of these locations, the trucks are weighed and checked for things like illegal cargo, falsely reported cargo, and whether the driver is adhering to Hours of Service laws. Often times an overweight truck is given a ticket, but afterward the driver is free to go back on the road anyway. In other cases violators are detained until they receive an appropriate permit or reduce their load.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has in its Code of Federal Regulations various rules regarding truck weight that companies and truck drivers must follow. Drivers are responsible for checking the load, but they are sometimes unaware of how much cargo is being carried. Companies are required to follow all federal regulations. Often times they do not. More cargo means more profit, but this can be at the expense of highway safety.
If you or a loved one has suffered in an accident caused by a poorly maintained or improperly loaded truck, a truck accident lawyer can make sure you and your family receive much-needed compensation.
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Sherrie Bennett, "Trucking Accidents", http://personal-injury.lawyers.com/trucking-accidents/Trucking-Accidents.html (accessed March 15, 2011).
Trucking Info, "Trucking Statistics", http://www.truckinfo.net/trucking/stats.htm (accessed March 15, 2011).