Common Semi-Truck Mechanical Failures

As America grows and prospers, the need for large trucks to transport goods and facilitate commerce continues to increase. In fact, in Oregon, one can rarely drive even the shortest distance without encountering an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck.

While well-trained professional drivers are necessary to ensure safe roads, it’s equally important to the motoring public that the trucks themselves, along with trailers and other related mechanical equipment, be safe and in good working order.

Unfortunately, sometimes tractor-trailer trucks and their equipment are far from safe. In this article, we will examine some common mechanical problems associated with semi-trucks.

The Prevalence of Semi-Trucks on Our Roads

In 2015, there were more than 15 million trucks on the road, including more than 2 million semi-trucks. Some estimate the number to now be closer to 3 million. And it appears that the numbers have continued to increase. In October 2018, Reuters reported that September North American orders for semi-trucks increased 92 percent, capping the highest quarter for semi-truck sales in history. Unfortunately, a 2018 review of the prior year’s crash statistics also showed the highest level of fatal big truck accidents in 29 years.

The Role Mechanical Problems Play in Semi-Truck Crashes

According to a large truck crash causation study published by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), 55 percent of trucks involved in crashes had at least one mechanical violation. Almost 30 percent of the trucks had a problem which should have kept them off the road.

Below are some of the common mechanical problems found in big rigs that can lead to crashes and serious personal injury.

Braking Problems – Brake failure or malfunction is a common cause of semi-truck crashes. Obviously, if brakes fail, a driver’s inability to properly stop or slow a massive vehicle can result in disastrous consequences.

In addition to totally failing, brakes can malfunction in other ways. For example, the brakes on the tractor and trailer may not activate in the correct sequence or may not release properly. Brakes may not apply with equal force to all wheels.

Some brake problems are caused by defective parts. In other instances, mistakes are made in maintenance of the brakes. Failure to conduct inspections, or performing faulty inspections, can cause obvious problems to be overlooked.

Lighting Problems – Many of us have encountered some type of small trailer (such as a boat or motorcycle trailer) that did not have proper lighting. At night, it’s especially scary and dangerous. The same problem can exist with big trailers attached to semi-trucks. The inability to properly see these vehicles, or to monitor their actions by blinkers and brake lights, can create extreme danger. Lighting issues are responsible for a great number of citations issued by law enforcement. 

Tire Failures – Semi-trucks can haul as much as 80,000 pounds of freight. When a tire suddenly blows, the center of gravity can change and it can be difficult to properly stop or control the truck. Sometimes, a proper inspection or routine maintenance would have caught the problem that ultimately led to the blowout.

Breakdowns – Semi-trucks can break down for many reasons, including engine problems or mechanical failures with other parts of the tractor or trailer. Trying to maneuver the truck out of traffic can create dangers. Moreover, once stationary, the truck can cause danger if it is not parked correctly and with appropriate warnings to alert other drivers.

Call with Questions

Semi-trucks are an important part of commerce in Oregon and throughout the United States. They undoubtedly play an important role in our society. However, society also demands that owners and drivers of semi-trucks act reasonably to protect the rest of us. When a trucking company negligently fails to maintain a truck or to repair a mechanical problem in an 18-wheeler, devastating personal injury and wrongful death can result. Therefore, the only way to protect everyone is to make sure such wrongdoers are held legally accountable for their actions.

The experienced truck accident lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer any questions you may have about truck safety or accidents caused by semi-trucks.


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