Poorly maintained trucks that are unfit to operate on public roadways pose a significant danger to all citizens throughout the United States. This issue can be clearly seen throughout Colorado, where lax regulations, inadequate inspections, and irresponsible business practices contribute to high crash rates involving commercial motor vehicles. Urgent action is required to improve truck safety in Colorado and protect our communities. If you experience a collision due to a dangerous vehicle, speak to a Denver personal injury attorney for assistance.
Contributing Factors to Truck Disrepair
Several key factors contribute to the operation of unsafe and unroadworthy trucks across Colorado. These include loose state and federal regulations on vehicle repair and maintenance, lack of mandated comprehensive inspections, and problematic business models in the trucking industry that incentivize cutting corners.
Federal laws provide only minimal repair and maintenance regulations on commercial motor vehicles. Enforcement primarily focuses on easily verified items like brake adjustment during annual inspections. State laws are similarly narrow. Critical parts like steering gears, driveline components, and trailer frame strength have no recurring inspection requirement.
Trucking companies exploit this lack of oversight. Placards showing passing inspection status remain on trucks while underlying safety critical systems decay. For example, the ABS module will be fixed or reset to avoid violations while severely corroded brake lines continue leaking compressed air. Companies deliberately operate trucks in disrepair up to the threshold of when failures become visible during standard inspections.
Consequences of Crashes Involving Unfit Trucks
Crashes involving poorly maintained heavy trucks lead to catastrophic outcomes. In Colorado alone, over 15,000 fatal crashes occur annually due to brake failures, bald tires, broken axles, and trailer hitches on commercial motor vehicles. These incidents typically involve multiple vehicles, leave several injured, spur hazardous chemical spills, and result in road closures that impact thousands. The economic, environmental, and human impacts are devastating.
Increased Dangers for Other Motorists
The majority of fatalities in truck crashes are suffered by the occupants of smaller passenger vehicles. SUVs and sedans provide little protection when collide with an 80-thousand-pound truck at high speeds. Hazards like failed brakes lead to rear-end collisions in which the full force of a semi-truck crushes vehicles, often leaving no chance of survival. No one should face such danger due to others deliberately operating unsafe equipment in order to save money.
Risks for Truck Drivers
While posing the most danger to others, the truck drivers themselves also face amplified risks of injury and death from equipment failures. Rollovers are particularly deadly. Unbalanced loads, broken hitches, blown tires, and failed suspension systems dramatically raise the possibility of a truck overturning at speed. Further, in the aftermath of serious wrecks, truck drivers often bear legal and financial consequences for crashes caused by lack of maintenance.
The Need for Initiative-Taking Reform
The number of unsafe trucks on Colorado’s roads continues to grow. To protect citizens, substantial improvements in policy and practices are needed. First, regulations should mandate more rigorous maintenance logs, inspection checkpoints, and consequences for operating unroadworthy vehicles. Second, the underlying business models that incentivize deferring maintenance must change. Reasonable limits should be set on length of service for trucks and trailers based on wear. Finally, reporting and whistleblower protections should shield conscientious drivers and mechanics who raise valid concerns over equipment safety and maintenance delays.
Loopholes in Safety Reform
Federal and state transportation agencies have extensive truck safety regulations in place. However, complex compliance rules, along with staffing and resource limitations on enforcement teams, allow many violations to go unchecked. Trucking companies exploit these loopholes by using tactics like repairing only parts that inspection teams monitor during biannual reviews. Meanwhile, issues like contaminated brake lines, cracked frames, and leaky hydraulics go unaddressed. Tighter oversight is essential to close existing compliance loopholes.
Role of Trucking Lobbyists
The influence of lobbying groups advocates for the trucking industry also hinders safety regulations and inspections. Powerful coalitions like the American Trucking Association work to limit laws governing vehicle repairs, expand allowable consecutive hours of driving service, and reduce penalties carriers face for crashes caused by unroadworthy trucks. Greater separation and restrictions are needed on private lobbying groups influencing public transportation safety policy in ways that endanger rather than protect communities.
Economics Disincentivizes Proper Maintenance
Trucking is an intrinsically high turnover and razor-thin margin business. Industry norms prioritize fast shipping and keeping costs ultra-low over equipping technicians properly or building downtime for comprehensive maintenance into operations. The result – preventative upkeep is postponed, and breakdown repairs hastily performed just to the minimum level needed before getting vehicles back out on routes. Economics drive the momentum, but regulations must counterbalance financial goals to make safety non-negotiable.
Poor Working Conditions for Drivers
Inadequate maintenance directly ties to the intense pressure placed on drivers. Rigorous deadlines set by shipping brokers and warehouse distribution centers, as well as electronic monitoring systems tracking trucks, mean that drivers endure demanding working conditions. Taking time for thoughtful inspection, reporting vehicle problems early, or waiting for repairs means falling behind schedule – which is used as grounds for contract termination. Thus, drivers face strong incentives to push faulty vehicles in order to preserve income for their families. Improving conditions for drivers would enable safety to become a higher priority.
Push for Advanced Safety Technologies
While regulatory reform, stronger oversight, and business model changes are imperative, introducing advanced technologies can also help get unsafe trucks off Colorado’s roads. Promising innovations exist, like electronic stability control to prevent rollovers, brake stroke monitoring to catch deterioration, onboard diagnostic systems that detect developing mechanical troubles, and real-time transmission of a truck’s maintenance needs and operating statistics.
Federal and state agencies should support rapid development, testing, and widespread implementation of such breakthrough safety technologies. Financial incentives should boost voluntary adoption by trucking companies as well. Optimally, lifesaving technologies would quickly become mandatory for all heavy transport vehicles. Upfront costs would pay major dividends through preventing devastating crashes. Prioritizing safety-enhancing truck technologies today will drive progress in eliminating preventable accidents and save lives.
The operation of poorly maintained trucks poses severe public safety hazards on roads across Colorado and the nation as a whole. However, through sensible regulatory changes, improved inspections, and reforms to transportation industry business incentives, this threat can be reduced. The cost in lives and economic damages makes addressing this issue paramount. We must take action to get unroadworthy trucks off the roads and reduce the number of accidents on our roads.
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident and you want to know whether you can make a claim, contact our team of lawyers at Monge & Associates. With offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including offices in Missouri, Florida and Colorado, we’re sure to be able to help you. You can call us now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.