When defective components on a commercial truck fail and cause a crash, serious injury or death is often the result. Brakes, tires, and steering components are some of the most common parts to fail and liability for these failures can fall upon the vehicle manufacturer, part manufacturer, or fleet operator. At the turn of the century, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) identified mechanical failures as a primary or contributing cause in approximately one-third of large truck accidents.
Common Equipment Failures
Brakes, tires, and lighting system failures are some of the most common mechanical failures that can cause a large truck accident. Data gathered by the Department of Transportation shows that up to 30% of large truck accidents involve some form of brake failure. When tires or brakes fail, the operator of the vehicle can lose control over the truck’s direction and careen into other traffic, guardrails, ditches, etc. When lighting systems fail, they can diminish the driver’s field of vision and make the truck less visible to other cars, trucks, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road.
Other frequently cited component failures include engines that overheat and shut down, shocks that malfunction, hub assemblies that cause wheel separation, and steering systems that fail to respond.
Components can fail because of poor design, substandard manufacturing techniques, and use of poor quality materials. In such instances, the part designer or vehicle manufacturer can be held liable for their negligence. Similarly, mechanics can be held liable for damages that result from the installation of parts that are known to be defective.
Recalls and Fleet Liability
Many large trucks operate as part of a fleet operated by a single entity. When a known defect results in a part recall, it is the responsibility of the fleet operator to heed the recall and replace the part. When a fleet operator negligently ignores a recall, they can be held liable for any accidents, injuries, or wrongful deaths that occur if the part fails and causes an accident.
FMCSA regulations require fleet operators and self-employed drivers to regularly inspect, repair, and maintain commercial vehicle equipment. When these inspections determine that a part is defective or in need of replacement, it is the responsibility of the vehicle owner or fleet vehicle operator to ensure that part is replaced before it can fail and cause a large truck accident.