Mechanical failure is second only to driver error as a leading cause of accidents involving semi-tractor trailers. Because of the tremendous size, weight, and potential for causing damage, the operation of commercial trucks is strictly governed by rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Among these rules is a mandatory examination period to begin and end every trip. Common causes of mechanical failure leading to potential loss of control can be detected by properly inspecting the vehicle. Drivers are required to document the time, location, and result of these pre-trip and post trip inspections into their daily activity logs. Any defects must be recorded and corrected.
Brake failure is a primary cause of truck accidents. These devices are pneumatic, and operate by the transfer of compressed air between storage tanks and the braking devices attached to the axles.
While the service brakes on a truck (the ones used to stop the vehicle while driving) are engaged by the flow of compressed air, the parking brakes on a truck are spring actuated and are released by such air flow. In other words, the brakes will apply by default unless the system continues to work properly and maintain compressed air to counteract the springs attempting to force the brake pads against the brake shoes. Because of this, failure in the air lines or hoses can lead to abrupt braking.
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These hoses are external and therefore exposed to hazards such as debris on the road. Remains of blown tires and other types of hazardous rubble on the road tend to be thrown upward by trucks driving over them. If these objects are of sufficient mass and hurled against the air hoses running along the bottom of a trailer, they can become ruptured, leak air, and cause sudden application of the trailer brakes.
Improper adjustment of the brakes can cause not only diminished braking power – a clear danger for vehicles of such size and weight – but also uneven braking. Disparities of braking power between left and right sides of the vehicle as well as between the truck and trailer can cause loss of control of the vehicle.
Worn tires can be recapped. This means that old, worn tires are salvaged by a process in which they have a new outer tread applied to them. While retreaded tires are allowed for trailers and rear axles of tractors, they are not allowed for the front tires of the tractor because these serve as the critical points of contact with pavement necessary for steering and controlling the vehicle. At times, this type of tire can lose its integrity and the tread becomes loose and is thrown from the tire, causing a blowout or diminished control. Non-retreaded tires can suffer blow out if broken belts and bulging sidewalls are ignored over time.
Cost is a driving factor for trucking companies to use retreaded tires, and this frugality can put motorists at risk on highways.
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Investigation and findings regarding mechanical failure of a truck as a contributing factor in an accident will not appear in a standard police report, but must be requested from the FMCSA. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, hold the company responsible, protect your rights, and recover damages for medical bills and property damage. Contact the experienced Marietta auto accident attorney at the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C. for a confidential consultation.