December 24, 2014

As any Pennsylvania motorists can attest, our roadways serve as an important corridor for commercial tractor-trailers. Pennsylvania’s proximity to the grain belt of the Midwest as well as the hyper-populated cities of the Eastern Seaboard practically guarantees a constant flow of semi-trucks throughout the state.

The problem is that many of these commercial big rigs are not in compliance with federal and state safety regulations. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that one out of every six trucks on the road may fail to pass safety inspection to the point to where they would be considered unsafe for service.

The traffic safety accident numbers reveal a grim pattern of neglecting safety standards. Since 2009, an estimated 14,000 people have been killed in accidents associated with semi-trucks. Some safety advocates estimate that perhaps a quarter of those fatalities involve vehicles with prior safety violations.

One survey of truck safety looked at national truck accident statistics and compared the rate of truck accidents per every million miles traveled. New Jersey was found to have the worst accident rate: 0.53 crashes for every million miles of commercial tractor-trailer traffic. Although Pennsylvania was closer to the bottom of that list, we still came in with an incident rate of 0.18.

Safety experts point to the irregularity of truck safety enforcement as a major contributing problem. For example, safety officials in Texas may place a higher emphasis on enforcing a vehicle’s lights and signals compared to Arizona’s emphasis on logbook violations.

Between 2009 through 2013, inspectors here in Pennsylvania issued 17,000 out-of-service violations for vehicles traveling with defective parts. The Pennsylvania inspectors seem to be focused primarily on eliminating mechanical failures, issuing more than 9,000 of those violations for brake related discrepancies.

Pennsylvania motorists have a right to use their roadways without fear of injury from poorly maintained commercial tractor-trailers. There are legal remedies available for victims of preventable truck accidents. In some cases, it may be possible for victims to seek compensation for their medical costs and lost wages through the filing of a civil lawsuit.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Is that big rig road worthy?” Andrew McGill, Dec. 21, 2014