Large commercial trucks are a common site on all Texas highways as cargo is shipped across the state. While a major contribution to the economy, they are also some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Truck accidents are some of the deadliest in the country. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, the number of fatalities from accidents involving trucks has been increasing every year since 2014. One of the easiest ways to prevent truck accidents is for truck owners and operators to ensure the big rigs in their fleet are part of a thorough preventative maintenance program. When 29 percent of large truck crashes are caused by brake problems and six percent are caused by tire problems, proper vehicle maintenance can literally be the difference between life and death.
Most vehicles require some level of regular maintenance to keep operating at peak performance levels. With large semi-trucks, regular maintenance is federally required. Whether you have one semi-truck or hundreds, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all trucks be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained. Preventative maintenance can include small tasks ranging from cleaning the truck, doing visual inspections, and checking fluid levels to replacing key vehicle parts, getting a tune-up, and realigning the wheels. Daily inspections should be performed, including checking tire pressure and condition, checking the brakes and brake fluid, inspecting the lights and turn signals, as well as making sure the windshields and mirrors are clean. Worn brakes cannot stop a truck quickly so it is essential that they are inspected every day before heading out for transport.
It is also important to inspect cargo and cargo restraints before heading out on the road. It may seem like common sense to know what you are hauling; however, if you are working as a contractor and are hauling new loads every day, what you are transporting can change daily. Knowing what is in the back of the truck, and ensuring it is restrained and being hauled appropriately, is essential to preventing truck accidents. Truck drivers must ensure their loads are strapped down with well-maintained equipment and properly balanced. This includes knowing if the materials being transported are hazardous. Even a minor truck accident could cause serious issues if the truck involved is transporting substances that can be harmful if released into the air or water.
A large truck that is not properly maintained is a hazard to both the truck driver and to other drivers on the road. Planning and implementing a preventative maintenance program is essential to reducing the number of truck accidents. To do this, trucking company owners must document the details of each vehicle that needs preventative maintenance, including taking note of the:
- Fuel systems used
- What the cargo transport system is
- Vehicle ownership
- Maintenance schedule
- Owner name
- Tire size
- Fleet number (if applicable)
FMCSA requires records be kept for at least one year while the vehicle is being used, and a minimum of six months after is has been decommissioned.
Once record-keeping has been established, owners and operators should create a regular maintenance schedule for the vehicle and stick to it. A truck maintenance checklist will ensure nothing is skipped during routine inspections and servicing. Most vehicles come with specific manufacturer guidelines that detail when parts should be replaced and how often the vehicle should be serviced. The guidelines may specify mileage milestones or time of use. Seasonal maintenance may also be required. Both extreme heat and extreme cold can cause different parts and systems of a semi-truck to wear down faster than usual. The extreme heat of Texas requires inspections of the cooling system and electrical system.
Trucking companies should focus on the following to keep trucks running smoothly in the heat:
- Air conditioning: check fluid levels and for debris
- Coolant: drain, flush, and pressure test the system
- Electrical system: check the battery for corrosion and ensure wires are secure
- Tire pressure: ensure warm air does not raise the air pressure of tires over safe limits
When the weather turns cold, and trucks may experience freezing temperatures, snow, and ice, place more attention on safety parts including windshield wipers and power steering. Check the fluid levels frequently to make sure they have not frozen overnight. Other areas to monitor include:
- Windshield: check for cracks and chips, replace wiper blades, and ensure defrosters are working properly
- Braking system: make sure the ABS is working properly before starting a winter drive
- Fluids: service the fuel filter and prevent the freezing of fluids such as diesel fuel, exhaust fluid, coolant, and engine oil
- Tire tread: confirm the tires have enough tread depth for winter driving and have chains ready
- Exterior: clean the undercarriage regularly to avoid salt buildup
Truck driver awareness is a critical part of preventative maintenance. Keeping a truck operating in peak condition can help reduce truck accidents and save lives.
Houston Semi Truck Accident Attorneys
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident caused by a semi-truck, you may be able to file a Texas truck accident lawsuit to pursue compensation. Filing a lawsuit can be a very stressful and complicated process, but it can help provide financial compensation to alleviate the burdens of medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more. Contact the personal injury trial attorneys at Adame Garza for a free consultation today. There is limited time to act following a Texas truck accident, so don’t delay. Se Habla Español.