A quick lesson in trucking law: maintenance duty
You probably know that specific laws and regulations apply to all commercial trucks that use our public highways.*
One of those rules: every trucking company must have a regular truck maintenance program to keep its equipment in safe operating condition.
As a back-up, the truck driver must also conduct pre-trip and post-trip inspections to check for any equipment defects.
In short, a trucking company and truck driver are responsible for making sure the truck is safe before it hits the road.
Maintenance is major factor in trucking accidents
Truckers are responsible for safely moving 80,000 pounds of vehicle and cargo, and —just like your car—those vehicles need regular equipment checks and maintenance.
Yet, I have seen so many truck crashes caused by the lack of a basic regular truck maintenance program, and basic safety checks.
One of these crashes seriously injured the Robinsons, who are clients of Coluccio Law.
One Washington family’s story of a trucking accident
This car – the one that’s upside-down in this picture – used to belong to a young family from Fife, Washington.
The Robinsons were heading home on southbound I-5 on a sunny March afternoon. Rory was driving. Jennifer was in the passenger seat. Their nine-year-old daughter was in the back seat.
Meanwhile, a truck and trailer were traveling northbound on I-5. The trucker had driven from Canada down to Beaverton, Oregon to deliver a load. He picked up another load, and was on his way back to Canada when the trailer’s rear wheel came off.
The tire crossed over several lanes of traffic, and across the I-5 median, hitting the Robinson’s car and causing it to flip.
“The last thing I remember was seeing a black object coming at us and then waking up in an ambulance.” – R. Robinson
This was not an “accident”. The rear tire of that trailer didn’t spontaneously fall off the trailer and strike the Robinson’s car.
The wheel had been properly tightened but came loose … and that should never happen, for two simple reasons.
First, the trucking company should have had a proper maintenance protocol.
Second, the driver should have discovered the defect and made sure it was fixed. The truck driver would have seen it if he had properly inspected the trailer wheels and tires.
During the investigation of the Robinson’s case, we discovered that:
1. The truck driver had not done all the required pre-trip— or a post-trip—inspections;
2. The owner of the truck did not have a proper maintenance program;
3. That the owner of the trailer did not have a proper maintenance program; and
4. The owner of the truck and the owner of the trailer could not certify that the wheels and tires had ever been properly mounted and torqued onto the trailer.
These are all very serious violations of federal trucking regulations.
And these violations had very serious consequences for the Robinson family.
Here, the trucking company’s failure to ensure that the trailer was in safe operating condition resulted in life-long damages.
Although we were able to come to a settlement of the Robinson’s injury claims, nothing can make up for the fact that their lives have been forever changed by both a trucking company’s and trailer owner’s utter negligence.
* Note: These rules apply regardless of the size of a trucking company, or the state where it is headquartered. Even when trucking companies lease, rather than own, trucking equipment, they also must have a scheduled vehicle repair program. Or, they must make sure that the equipment’s owner inspects and fixes the equipment.