Approximately one out of every four semi-trucks, upon inspection, have been found to be so mechanically deficient that it is illegal for them to be operating on the roadways and they are declared out of service.
How Often Does Defective Equipment Cause Truck Accidents?
Percentage of commercial trucks involved in accidents which, upon inspection, were found to have faulty equipment.
The worst part is that there are also New Mexico state laws in place which prohibit the driving of a commercial motor vehicle absent pre-operation inspection; and, if there is a defect found, the driver is not to operate the vehicle until it has been fixed. This includes checking all of the essential safety components listed above.
Of course, it is only upon inspection that any of this is actually known, and there are likely thousands of trucks on the road this week that are in violation of federal law. Some common violations include:
- Hazard prevention devices such as lighting and reflectors; electrical and emergency safety equipment; and cargo securement systems
- Steering and performance systems such as a vehicle’s brakes, tires and wheels, steering components, suspension, fuel circuit, and exhaust
- Other miscellaneous defects such as glazing and window obstructions; defective coupling devices and towing methods; heaters; or frames and body components.
An Eyeopening Example of How Defective Trucking Equipment Can Affect the Lives of Others on the Road:
On January 24, 2014, just before dawn on a twisty Ohio highway known as the “Devil’s Backbone”, a 12-ton semi-trailer plowed into oncoming traffic after coming loose from the tractor hauling it. The loose trailer traveled unguided at 40 mph striking two vehicles, killing both drivers.
Ohio authorities faulted the driver for not properly hitching the trailer.
17 months later the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating an unusually high rate of tractor-trailer separations wherein a specific brand of trailer hitch was used, manufactured by a company in Alabama. It took two years for the Alabama manufacturer to finally admit their trailer hitch was defective, ultimately issuing a recall.
During that two years, an estimated 6,800 hitches were estimated to be on the road.
How Are These Trucks Still on the Road, Given All the Safety Inspections They Go Through?
While it’s easy to blame the operator of the truck for whatever reason, more often than not the blame goes way higher up the chain of command.
One contributing factor could be the NHTSA failing to analyze its own data in a timely manner, as in the example above, to uncover a safety problem. It is this same repetition of failures that delayed other notable recalls, such as the defective General Motors ignition switches and defective Takata airbags.
Another contributing factor is pure negligence on behalf of the trucking companies. Trucking companies will often discard reasonable balancing of safety and profit, choosing to put a questionable truck on the highway and risk the safety of those on the road, rather than risk a loss of profits. Afterall, not putting a truck on the road will guarantee no profit, while there is only a chance of endangering the lives of others as well as the company’s own employee(s).
The current number of injuries, deaths, illegal and unsafe semi-trucks is astonishing and quite frankly, simply unacceptable. Changes must be made not only from within the trucking industry, but also from within the overseeing agency whose sole purpose is to protect our friends, families, and the American public.
Should the Trucking Industry Do More?
The trucking industry must change its practices to ensure the safety of every other driver on the roads. This means that it must not only conform to “custom in the field” (or what every other trucking company is doing at the time) but also anticipate its own potential for harm and take steps to lessen its own impact in the face of foreseeable risks. Trucking safety equipment has evolved far beyond the days of a CB radio, paper logs, and reflective safety cones. For instance, companies now have the option to purchase such “electronic onboard recorders” to monitor their driver’s sleep patterns and actual driving time, rather than relying on self-reported paper logs. This allows companies to identify problem drivers before they hurt anyone by reporting uses of speed, vehicle control, and driver productivity.
Beyond simply providing an easier way to monitor driver’s technological advances have shown the emergence of systems aimed at preventing accidents in the moment. Included in this category are side view assist, electronic vehicle stability control and forward collision warning. Trucking companies should employ new safety technology and be aware of not only said technology’s potential for preventing injury but for increasing profits in the long run since this lack of proper equipment can lead to a plethora of unnecessary and expensive collisions.