When New York Trucking Companies Fail to Maintain Their Commercial Vehicles

Large trucks engaged in state and nationwide commerce must endure high speeds and long distances. Given commercial trucks' size, weight, and potential for destruction, even seemingly small maintenance issues can have severe consequences on the road. When those consequences include injury or death to other motorists, survivors and families have a right to compensation.

At Block O'Toole & Murphy, we fight to help motorists who have been hurt and families who have lost loved ones because of improperly maintained trucks. We will immediately begin investigating your case and advocating on your behalf for the full amount of compensation you are legally entitled to.

Common Maintenance Issues That Cause Truck Accidents

After a collision involving a large truck, the parties will typically begin their own investigations to determine what happened. These investigations regularly uncover failures to properly maintain the truck or its components. Some common examples of maintenance problems that can result in dangerous accidents include:

  • Insufficient tire maintenance: Trucking companies and drivers are responsible for inspecting, maintaining and replacing tires in accordance with state and federal trucking regulations. Tires that are worn or deflated can blow out on the road, causing significant damage and injury.
  • Brake issues: On a vehicle as large and heavy as a commercial truck, a braking failure can have devastating results. Braking systems are federally regulated to ensure they are properly maintained. If a braking failure is caused by negligence or lack of inspection and causes injury, the responsible party may be ordered to pay compensation to those affected.
  • Faulty lights, signals, and reflectors: A malfunctioning signal light or reflector can affect a truck's visibility and predictability of movement, which are essential for other motorists to share the road safely. Particularly in rural areas and after dark, improperly maintained lights and reflectors can render a truck nearly invisible, resulting in dangerous high-speed crashes.
  • Insecure cargo: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes federal rules for cargo securement. When the cargo of a truck shifts or falls, it can throw the vehicle off balance and cause serious accidents. While these accidents are sometimes the result of improper loading, the cargo securement systems themselves also require inspection and maintenance. Parties who fail to properly maintain these systems may be found responsible for accidents that result.

Who Is Responsible for Safely Maintaining Commercial Trucks?

Trucking companies are required to maintain their vehicles and ensure unsafe trucks are kept off the road. The truck driver and their employer both play critical roles in ensuring a truck is properly maintained.

When poor truck maintenance leads to a trucking accident in New York, these parties can be held accountable for their negligent actions. In addition, trucking companies often work with contractors to maintain their fleet. If one of these professionals fails to identify or fix a problem that later causes an accident, they may be responsible for damages. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, leasing companies, loading companies, mechanics, or truck owners may also play a role.

Tractor-Trailer Maintenance: Driver Responsibility

New York has adopted the regulations issued by the FMCSA for inspection, repair, and maintenance of commercial vehicles found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 396 and Part 392. Truck drivers are required to inspect their vehicles at the beginning of each workday. Additionally, they must read the post-trip inspection report prepared by the truck's previous operator. If the inspection report indicates that repairs are needed, the driver must obtain confirmation from their employer that the repairs were performed before signing off on the report.

When performing a daily inspection of their vehicles, drivers must ensure the following parts are functioning properly:

  • Service brakes
  • Parking brakes
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear-view mirrors
  • Reflectors
  • Trailer brake connections
  • Steering mechanism

When a truck driver finds a worn out or broken part during inspection, they must report any necessary repairs to their employer immediately. If the driver fails to carry out an inspection or report a needed repair, they can be held accountable if the defect leads to an accident.

Additional Truck Driver Responsibilities

In addition to federal maintenance regulations, there are a variety of other state, local, and federal rules aimed at preventing truck accidents in New York. For example, drivers are responsible for:

  • The safe securement of cargo, which is essential to maintain balance and control of tractor-trailers
  • Maintaining a valid commercial driver's license (CDL) in accordance with Department of Motor Vehicle requirements
  • Notifying one's employer and licensing state of any state or local traffic violation
  • Providing copies of any roadside inspection reports to one's employer

Truck drivers in New York must also observe state rules restricting 53-foot trailer combinations to specific highways. The New York City interstate routes approved for 53-foot trailers are:

  • I-95, from Bronx-Westchester County line to I-695
  • I-695, from I-695 to I-295
  • I-295, from I-695 to I-495 via Throgs Neck Bridge
  • I-495, from I-295 to Queens-Nassau County line
  • I-95, from the New Jersey State Line on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge to I-695
  • I-678, from I-95 to John F. Kennedy International Airport

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) prohibits 53-foot trailers from making pickups or deliveries within New York City because of concerns about the ability to maneuver large trucks on city streets. 53-foot trailers are limited to one specific route in order to service Long Island.

Responsibility of Trucking Companies

Ultimately, trucking companies that employ drivers are responsible for the condition of their vehicles. According to the NYSDOT, motor carriers and their agents must understand and comply with certain rules regarding repair and maintenance, including:

  • Carriers must conduct regular, systematic inspections and maintenance of all commercial vehicles.
  • Carriers must keep detailed maintenance files for all vehicles under their control. These files include identifying vehicle information, maintenance records, mileage charts, and ownership information.
  • Carriers must maintain these records for one year where the vehicle is garaged and keep them for at least six months after the vehicle is sold, traded, or scrapped.
  • Carriers must require drivers to prepare post-trip inspections and reports at the end of each driving day.
  • Carriers must arrange periodic inspections at least once every 12 months.
  • Carriers that use Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicles (HDDVs) must arrange emission inspections. HDDVs registered in the New York City Metro must receive an annual emission inspection, while HDDVs traveling New York State roads receive roadside emission inspections.

FMCSA agents have the authority to inspect commercial vehicles. If the FMCSA agent finds that a truck has been poorly maintained and poses a safety risk, they can declare the truck "out of service" until the required repairs have been completed, and the trucking company cannot force or allow their employees to drive the vehicle.

Unfortunately, conducting timely inspections and keeping trucks maintained are not always convenient or profitable. When companies fail to meet their responsibility to ensure the safety of their vehicles, they may be held accountable for compensating the motorists affected by a dangerous truck.

New York City Truck Accident Lawyers

When a poorly maintained truck causes a crash, it can be difficult to determine who is legally responsible. In these instances, the survivor will need a lawyer to work closely with accident reconstruction specialists who understand maintenance issues that can arise in truck accidents. The truck accident lawyers of Block O'Toole & Murphy have the resources to obtain federal and state records, company documents, and files that trucking companies and their employees must maintain.

We also understand federal trucking regulations and can detect when fraudulent documents are created after a tractor-trailer crash. In representing many survivors of truck accidents, as well as families who have lost loved ones, we have learned firsthand what tactics trucking companies and their insurers use to undervalue legitimate claims. We have a strong record of overcoming those tactics and securing results for our clients; notably, one of our clients was awarded a $14,000,000 jury verdict after he was hit by a truck while riding his motorcycle, tragically resulting in a below-the-knee amputation of his leg.

Fighting for Truck Accident Victims Throughout New York

Our lawyers are dedicated to ensuring accident survivors are properly compensated for their injuries and will evaluate inspection records, vehicle condition reports, and other documents that can help substantiate a claim. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, call us at 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form for a FREE case review. Serving Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, all of New York City, and New York State. S