In California’s vast landscape of freeways and highways, commercial trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and big rigs are everywhere. If you ever get caught up in a crash with one of these road giants, the aftermath may be filled with a whirlwind of emotions: shock, anger, confusion, and pain. When the dust settles, you’re probably left wondering – why did this happen?
For many trucking crash victims in California, the answer may trace back to something that sounds mundane but is actually critically important for road safety: truck maintenance.
What Are California’s Truck Maintenance Rules?
Every time a truck barrels down a highway, it’s not just the driver’s responsibility to ensure safe operation, but also the state of the truck itself. Poor maintenance is a quiet but dangerous issue. Without regular inspections of truck engines and components, problems can slip through the cracks until they become hazards at the worst possible moment.
California, with its bustling trade routes through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach up through the Central Valley and the rest of the state, has been at the forefront of setting strict maintenance rules for trucking companies and independent operators. These aren’t just guidelines but mandatory laws to ensure road safety for all. They include:
- Regular Inspections – Inspecting a truck every once in a while is not enough. California requires daily pre-trip inspection checks and in-depth reviews at regular periods.
- Maintenance Records – Beyond just performing regular checks, trucking companies must also keep accurate records of the results of these inspections. These logs, detailing every repair and check, can become invaluable evidence in an accident case.
- Component Checks – Trucks are complex machines, with hundreds of parts with different roles, many of which are pivotal for safe operation. Systems like brakes, tires, lights, and mirrors aren’t just accessories, they’re lifelines.
- Mandatory Reporting – If an inspection uncovers a safety flaw, the affected truck isn’t allowed back on the road until it’s fixed. Every single one of these flaws must be documented accurately, reported, and repaired before operation resumes.
When trucking companies follow these rules, they create a safer environment for all road users.
These laws are in addition to California’s strict trucking regulations, including hours of service limits. If a trucking company fails to keep up with these legal requirements, this negligence could be responsible for the consequences of tragic trucking accidents.
The Most Common Truck Maintenance Oversights That Lead to Accidents
Even with strict rules in place, negligence still happens. Either because of a lack of oversight, a management failure, or sheer ignorance, some trucks aren’t maintained to the standards required by the law. Some of the most common oversights that lead to crashes are:
- Air Brake Failures – A truck’s weight and momentum put immense strain on its braking system, where regular checks are vital. Fading brakes or brakes fitted with substandard parts can give way when needed the most, leading to rear-end or T-bone accidents.
- Worn-Out Tires – Every mile covered by a truck wears down its tires. Over time, without regular checks, tires can lose their grip, leading to dangerous blowouts or skids. This is especially relevant when weather conditions are affected by rain, snow, or ice.
- Faulty Lighting – A truck without functional lighting is a looming threat. Proper illumination is crucial, especially during low-visibility conditions or at night. Trucks stopped on the side of the road must take steps to increase their visibility to traffic.
- Steering Issues – Any neglect in maintaining a truck’s steering mechanisms can lead to disastrous incidents involving veering or rollovers.
- Mirror & Visibility Problems – Large trucks have inherent blind spots that need extra caution. Properly adjusted and maintained mirrors are the only way a truck driver can navigate safely among other cars and vehicles on the road.
- Exhaust System Failures – A poorly maintained exhaust system can leak harmful gases into the cabin of the truck, leading to impaired driving.
- Suspension Problems – A faulty suspension system can affect a tractor-trailer’s stability, especially during turns, causing an increased risk of rollovers.
Navigating the aftermath of a truck accident can be a challenging journey, but an experienced lawyer can help you get answers and accountability. Crashes involving trucks often cause severe injuries, with high stakes in the millions of dollars. If a trucking company’s negligence caused your losses, they should also be responsible for the consequences.
How to Prove Negligent Truck Maintenance
Suspecting poor maintenance is one thing, but proving it is another. A trucking accident attorney can help you put together a compelling case of maintenance neglect by:
- Seeking Expert Help – A trained eye can spot evidence that most might overlook. In these types of cases, accident reconstruction experts and trucking industry experts can be invaluable in proving the conditions that caused your accident.
- Accessing Truck Records – Trucking companies are legally required to keep accurate logs. Any discrepancies in these logs (for example, by comparing them to the truck’s “black box” data) could be the smoking gun you need for your case. Your lawyer can also check for any recalls or previous issues with faulty truck parts.
- Taking Eyewitness Accounts – It’s important to get accounts from witnesses as soon after the accident as possible, while the incident is still fresh in their memories. Witness accounts can provide invaluable insights into a truck’s condition before the crash.
- Gathering Physical Evidence – Visual evidence such as photographs and video can help illustrate a truck’s condition in a way that validates your suspicions.
- Collaborating With Authorities – Law enforcement agencies often conduct their own investigations, especially if the accident involves multiple injuries or deaths. A police report, for example, can provide additional evidence to bolster your case.
Experiencing a truck accident is an ordeal, both physically and emotionally. When someone passes away in a trucking crash, their loved ones and surviving family are left to pick up the pieces. Amid the turmoil, it becomes vital to understand the underlying cause of the accident, especially when seeking justice, closure, and compensation for the wrongs you’ve suffered.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, our experienced California truck accident lawyers can help. We work on a contingency fee basis and your consultation is free. Contact us now to get started.