The North Carolina State Highway Patrol has been taking more big rigs off of the state’s roads in recent months as more trucks are not passing basic safety inspections.
Some of the state’s annual tractor-trailer inspections are random and are done at a weigh station in Gaston County, North Carolina along I-85. During this fiscal year, almost 9700 big rigs were inspected in nine counties surrounding Charlotte. A recent report revealed something shocking – almost 40% of them had to be taken out of service due to safety problems. The last fiscal year showed 45% were taken out of service after a safety inspection.
One of the biggest violations was drivers logging too much time behind the wheel. There are federal limits to how many hours truckers can work in a day and in a week. The purpose of the limits is to make sure the truckers are well rested and alert. But as most truckers earn money per mile driven, it is inevitable that some will skirt the rules.
Other safety violations that the North Carolina Highway Patrol has seen during truck inspections recently are broken brake lights, defective brakes, inoperable turn signals and bald tires. Bald tires are especially dangerous as they make the truck take even longer to slow down. They also can blow out on the highway and lead to serious accidents when tire debris hits other vehicles.
During the latest rounds of inspections, a highway patrolman cautioned truckers and trucking companies that it is not worth the risk to not properly maintain their rigs. If there is a major accident and the truck or driver is found to have been at fault, there can be both criminal and very large civil penalties. A personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit can cost a company millions of dollars.
Our experience as North Carolina truck accident attorneys has shown us that 3/4 of trucks that get into serious crashes had vehicle defects that were noted during an inspection after the wreck. Trucks that had out of service violations that were driven anyway were more than 400% more likely to be in an accident than a truck with a clean bill of health.
Trucks that have been cited for brake problems are 50% more likely to be in a crash. Tire and lighting system problems also lead to a higher crash risk.
Our North Carolina and Virginia personal injury attorneys have handled a case that involved a MACK truck that had bald tires, a clear safety violation. Those old tires led to blowouts that caused a serious accident that injured our client. We won a jury verdict for $650,000 in that case. It is clear that truck safety violations are never worth the heavy price that can be paid in terms of personal injuries and dollars.