Commercial tractor-trailers are truly behemoths on the road. These industrial-strength machines pack 18 wheels and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (40 tons) or more. Driving one on any road or highway in South Carolina is a serious business. Routine maintenance and repairs on commercial trucks are absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Any equipment failure on a commercial truck can lead to a serious accident, costing lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in property damage, and may expose the trucking company, the driver, the maintenance crew, and the shipper to legal liability for the damage.
Commercial Truck Maintenance Requirements
To get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive a semi-truck, the state of South Carolina has a vehicle inspection test that is a part of the license exam. It is a practical examination, not a paper test, in which the driver must physically walk around a truck and point to specific parts or components on the vehicle, explaining what needs to be inspected and what to look for.
This part of the exam is required because Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules state that all drivers must perform an inspection before every trip and at the end of the day, create an inspection report, and review the previous inspection report to ensure past repairs were completed. Some of the most common trouble areas include:
- Old, worn, or damaged tires. A tire blowout on the road can cause a truck to lose control and slam into surrounding traffic, and tire debris can strike other vehicles, also causing a loss of control or property damage.
- Worn or damaged brakes. Brake pads, brake lines, brake fluid, and other components of the braking system need to be regularly inspected, or they may fail to stop an 80,000- pound load traveling at highway speeds. Similarly, air brake systems and parking brakes must be maintained.
- Broken turn signals. Truck drivers need to make sure their turn signals function, as failure to signal a turn or lane change can have deadly consequences.
- Steering issues. If the power steering system on a big-rig fails, that machine can become impossible to control or maneuver. Even a low-speed steering failure can cause massive damage and severe injuries to nearby passenger vehicles.
Other components that truck drivers must maintain include the horn, running lights, headlights, reflectors, windshield wipers, mirrors, emergency kits, and the equipment used to connect the tractor truck portion of the vehicle to the trailer portion. A failure to inspect any one of these parts can cause an accident, and if someone gets hurt or property is damaged, the driver can be on the hook.
Legal Recovery After an Accident
Proving that a truck driver failed to maintain his or her vehicle can be challenging in court. It is generally recommended that accident victims seek the help of a personal injury attorney with experience handling accidents involving commercial trucks. A personal injury attorney can investigate the accident situation, the driver’s record, seek vehicle maintenance reports, and more, then advise you of your legal options to pursue compensation. Types of damages and financial award amounts vary on an individual basis, but many victims are eligible to receive compensation for:
- Emergency medical treatment and all follow-up care related to the crash.
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation.
- Repair or replacement of your vehicle and belongings.
- Lost wages from time spent away from work.
- Loss of future wages if you can no longer do your job.
You may be eligible for additional compensation for pain and suffering and other losses as well, and in rare some cases, you may be eligible for punitive damages. Talk to your attorney to find out more about the damages you may be able to recover in your specific case.
Get Legal Help Today
The attorneys and staff at the Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger understand that you and your family are in a tough situation after the accident, and that you need serious legal help right away. Reach out to us by telephone, use our contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page to talk to an experienced legal professional about your accident situation, and get the help you deserve today.