Commercial trucks can be dangerous in the best of conditions. They require more time than passenger vehicles to reach a complete stop and come equipped with large blind spots that lessen a truck driver’s ability to see other vehicles. They also require extra space to turn when compared with passenger cars.
When commercial trucks are involved in car wrecks, drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicles are at great risk of suffering from injuries, property damage, and death. While many truck drivers and companies do their best to address these concerns, truck crashes are still too common.
One crucial aspect of risk prevention in the commercial trucking industry is vehicle maintenance.
The Scope of Maintenance-Related Regulations
A cargo shipment will be classified as intrastate or interstate based on where a truck’s freight originated and where the load is going. Intrastate freight is classified as cargo that is delivered within a single state—regardless of the distance a driver has covered and any borders she or he has crossed. In contrast, interstate freight is cargo that is carried throughout multiple states to reach its final destination. Interstate freight also includes cargo that is shipped to or from a country outside of the United States.
The classification of a truck’s cargo will determine which specific maintenance regulations apply to that truck. Deliveries that involve the crossing of state borders are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration (FMCSA), while intrastate deliveries that do not cross state borders are regulated by the state in which these deliveries are conducted.
Maintenance Regulations for Cargo Deliveries That Occur Within Texas
The state of Texas requires that intrastate drivers complete a post-delivery inspection that addresses, at a minimum, the functionality of the following:
- Brakes (including the parking brake)
- Lights and reflectors
- Tires, wheels, and rims
- Windshield wipers
- Rearview mirrors
- Coupling devices
- Emergency equipment
Prior to each trip, drivers must acknowledge in writing that all necessary repairs have been made before conducting a new delivery. Every truck must also undergo a periodic inspection with a qualified inspector within 12 months of the previous inspection. By law, records for these evaluations must be kept for a minimum of fourteen months.
Maintenance Regulations for Interstate Cargo Deliveries
Commercial trucks that cross state borders are held to different standards under the FMCSA. Federal law relating to cargo delivery requires that trucks maintain—and document—the functionality of key operational components, such as the vehicle’s tires, axles, wheels, rims, brakes, and lights. These records are similarly expected to be kept on file to be reviewed in the event that a discrepancy regarding the truck’s maintenance history does occur.
The Consequences of Inadequate Truck Maintenance
The consequences of a truck accident can be severe. Hazards that can occur when a commercial truck is inadequately maintained can include:
- Failure to stop. A truck with faulty brakes is likely to be unable to stop quickly, which may result in a collision with another vehicle, a building, or even a pedestrian.
- Improper lighting. In nighttime conditions or during overcast weather—especially when paired with heavy precipitation—a truck without proper lighting and reflective features can be a hazard on the road.
- Other dangers. The improper function of other crucial features, such as the truck’s tires, wheels, axles, or horn can limit a driver’s ability to avoid a roadside collision or warn other vehicles of possible dangers.
Holding Trucking Companies Accountable for Maintenance-Related Crashes
According to the FMCSA, truck-related collisions caused more than 3,000 deaths in 2014 alone. Injuries associated with these crashes peaked at 88,000 during the same year. It is important that those affected by truck driver negligence come forward to hold drivers and their employers accountable for the role they play in these risks. If you have been hurt in a truck accident caused by a faulty vehicle, contact a personal injury or wrongful death attorney today for more information about your case.