We sometimes find that accidents involving heavy trucks or 18-wheelers are caused by tractors and/or trailers that are in disrepair or in need of proper service. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. The Tuscaloosa truck accident lawyers at Cross & Smith will find out whether your wreck involving an 18-wheeler resulted from a tractor or trailer that was in disrepair at the time of the accident. A malfunction in any part of the truck or its attached trailer can result in a catastrophic collision on a heavily travelled interstate highway. It is imperative that both drivers and commercial carriers make absolutely certain that the truck and trailer are in proper working condition before every trip is made using these large and dangerous vehicles.
Federal and state rules and regulations mandate that trucks be inspected and repaired on a regular basis. It is the responsibility of both drivers and their commercial carriers to ensure that trucks are inspected, serviced and repaired as a matter of routine.
All tractor-trailers that were manufactured after March 1, 1999, are required to have automatic brake adjusters and brake adjustment indicators in full view of the driver. They must also have correct calibration and installation of specified brake systems to ensure proper stopping time and distance. Tractor-trailers must, at all times, have on board three (3) red reflective triangles, flares or fuses and must have working hazard signals at all times. Because so many tractor-trailers travel at night when it is dark and travel in areas that are not always well-lighted, they must always maintain clean and easily visible lights, lamps and reflectors that are installed and specified by manufacturers. In addition, all trucks, irrespective of the date of manufacture, are required to be equipped with a device that produces readily available or visible continuous warning to the driver whenever the vacuum in the vehicle’s supply reservoir is less than eight (8) inches of mercury and a vacuum gauge which indicates to the driver the vacuum in inches of mercury available for braking.
Drivers and commercial carriers are required to keep maintenance logs and repair orders on file. And, they are required to conduct a pre-trip inspection before every road trip. The tractor-trailer should be carefully and thoroughly inspected by the driver before embarking on each over the road trip. The inspection should cover the entire vehicle with a focus on certain parts. A driver should inspect the front of the truck to ascertain whether there is any evidence of damage with particular attention to wheels, rims and tires, lights and reflectors on the top portion of the tractor, the side mirrors, the spot mirrors, the windshields, and all lights and reflectors on the bottom portion of the tractor. A visual inspection underneath both the tractor and trailer should be done to look for spills or puddles of liquids or oils that might suggest leaks in parts of the engine compartment. The engine compartment should be visually inspected as well with particular attention and focus on the radiator, radiator hoses, engine fan, engine belts, alternator, water pump and oil reservoir. The drive and trailer axle and its component parts should be inspected.
In addition, the suspension system, brakes and wheels should be inspected and tested initially to make certain that there is no damage or malfunction. The shocks, spring mounts and spring leaves as well as the components of the braking system should be checked.
A critical part of the pre-trip inspection is a complete and careful inspection of the rear of the tractor and coupling to ensure all parts are present and working properly. The driver must check the fifth wheel and its parts to make sure that there is no gap between the apron and the fifth wheel and that the fifth wheel is properly serviced and greased and that its platform is secure and not damaged in any way. All mounting bolts should be checked to make sure they are all present and secure.
Before beginning a trip, the driver should test and check the tractor and trailer’s parking brakes and air brakes, check all turn signals, head lights and tail lights, flashers, rear brake lights, horns, steering system, tires, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, all mirrors, and coupling devices.
As part of our investigation and discovery in a tractor trailer wreck or accident case, the attorneys at Cross & Smith request detailed and exhaustive information from the driver and commercial carrier as well as any outside parties that have performed any service or repair to the tractor or trailer regarding the condition of all parts of the tractor and trailer. Neglect of one or more parts, even if not directly involved in the collision, often leads to the discovery of other pertinent information that will aid us in proving fault in the wreck.
If you, or someone close to you, have been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer, please contact the experienced Alabama tractor-trailer accident lawyers. The attorneys at Cross & Smith have represented individuals and families in truck accident cases in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you would like to speak with us, please call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.