Tractor trailers travel hundreds of thousands of miles over their lifetime. Keeping these vehicles in good mechanical condition is essential to avoid costly, even deadly truck accidents. There are federal truck maintenance requirements that every truck and trailer owner must follow in order to prevent mechanical failures that can lead to truck wrecks. Unfortunately, compliance with these rules is not good. As a result, vehicle maintenance violations are one of the more common causes of truck accidents today.
Most Common Truck Maintenance Safety Violations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that one in five heavy trucks on the road today violates one or more safety maintenance requirements. Although roadside inspections are frequently performed, every day trucks are pulled over and found to be in violation. Among all safety and maintenance violations that attribute to truck wrecks, the most common ones are as follows:
- Insufficient Tire Tread - Tire tread below 2/32 inch is one of the most common safety violations, putting everyone on the road at risk.
- Missing or Non-Working Lights – Trucks are frequently found to have missing or non-working headlights, brake lights, turn signals, running lights and trailer lights, reducing their visibility. Light violations also include trucks equipped with improper reflective striping and rotating warning lights used on oversized cargo loads.
- Oil or Grease Leaks - Trucks leaking oil or grease have some kind of mechanical problem that requires attention. If not repaired promptly, leaks frequently progress to mechanical failures, which commonly result in preventable truck accidents.
- Other Maintenance Issues Not Noted on the DVIR - Truck drivers are required to fill out daily vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) and note any maintenance concerns they find with their vehicles. Many roadside inspections uncover maintenance concerns and other defects that are not noted on the DVIRs.
Compliance, Safety and Accountability, and BASICs
To combat the issue of vehicle maintenance violations, the FMCSA has recently established the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program to increase safety compliance and track violations throughout the trucking industry. Using the Safety Measurement System (SMS), the Administration collects data from crash reports and roadside inspection reports, which it analyzes to assign points to the various safety violations. Violations are assessed based on severity and a number of other variables, according to six specific Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
By using this system, the FMCSA can now assess a point rating to a carrier, where the higher the rating, the more serious the safety violations are that the carrier has received. Since a high BASICs number reflects negatively on the carrier company, the intent is that the company will improve their safety compliance to avoid violations, which could affect their business. The ultimate result, besides greater safety compliance, is reduced numbers of truck accidents.
Although the violations listed above are far from the only safety and maintenance violations that heavy trucks exhibit, they do illustrate the fact that many trucks on the highways are in need of some type of required maintenance. Reducing the number of truck accidents that occur every year requires compliance from drivers, owners, and commercial carrier companies.
With programs like the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program in place, and the threat of a high BASICs score, there is hope that these violations will begin to decrease. Designed to increase compliance by making trucking companies accountable for safety violations that could cause truck accidents, the FMCSA hopes to reduce the yearly number of truck wrecks and keep more trucks that are in violation off the highways!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190