Commercial motor vehicles like semis and big rigs must follow strict guidelines set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Commission (FMSCA). If they fail to follow these protocols, they may be liable for any injuries that occur from crashes or other accidents. These guidelines address everything including driver behavior, breaks and duty hours, and required vehicle maintenance and inspections. Big rig safety inspections ensure that everything is working as it should and ideally minimizes the risk of a devastating malfunction that could lead to a crash.
Who Controls Big Rig Safety Inspections?
Big rig owners and operators are subject to both federal and state law. Trucking companies typically go through safety review and inspections on an annual basis, but there are also “random” checks between. These checks address the practices of the drivers, vehicle maintenance, and other factors that could lead to a commercial vehicle crash.
Inspections for Driver Behavior
The leading cause of trucking accidents, according to a recent study from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, is driver error. Truck drivers spend long hours on the road, often taking monotonous routes. To minimize distraction and burnout, the FMSCA requires that they take breaks throughout the day, caps the number of hours they can drive, and even requires a certain amount of time between shifts. The FMSCA further requires that drivers record these practices in a log book.
Unfortunately, many random safety inspections reveal log book violations. Since maintaining proper logs is a matter of federal law, a log book violation is often an indication of negligence. Drivers may also have to go through random drug testing to make sure they’re not using recreational or prescriptions drugs to spend more hours on the road.
Inspections for Vehicle Maintenance
Another aspect of big rig safety checks involves truck maintenance. Common causes of truck accidents not attributable to human error include tire blowouts and front brake manipulation or failure (which leads to jackknifing). In an inspection, an auditor might check for tire pressure and wear, ask for maintenance or repair logs, and ensure a truck’s brakes are working properly.
Check a Truck’s Inspection Record
Many of these random checks reveal violations and other red flags. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FMCSA and NHTSA, created the SAFER program to help the public learn about big rig inspections while holding routine violators accountable. SAFER stands for the Safe and Fitness Electronic Records system, and it maintains an electronic account of a company’s history, safety records, and violations. Here, you can learn how seriously a given trucking company takes its safety record, and it’s often a jumping off point for attorneys investigating a semi-truck accident.
Inspections ideally encourage truck drivers and their employers to take safety more seriously and minimize their risk of accident. Unfortunately, violations are more common than you might think. To check on a company’s safety snapshot, you can visit the SAFER site. If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a trucking accident, contact a personal injury attorney for further guidance.