Truck drivers have many duties and responsibilities. As well as driving safely, a Virginia trucker must inspect his or her rig before setting out on a trip.
These inspections should be more than cursory. If the driver misses an obvious defect like cargo that’s improperly secured and it later causes a crash, the trucker and the trucking company may be held liable in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit.
When our experienced Norfolk trucking wreck lawyers investigate an accident we look at a wide range of factors including the timeline directly before a crash, whether a trucker complied with the federal hours of service regulations, and whether the rig was properly inspected at the outset.
What Items Should a Trucker Inspect on his Rig?
The trucker should carry out a thorough check of his or her rig before getting on the road. This highlights any obvious hazards such as deflated tires. The trucker is not expected to perform a detailed mechanical diagnosis.
The trucker is required by federal regulations to be “satisfied” that specific parts and equipment on the rig are in “good working order.”
The Commercial Driver License Manual sets out the key inspection steps and recommends a seven-step process. The truck driver should;
- Perform an overview of the truck from front to back to check for obvious hazards;
- Open and inspect the engine compartment;
- Start the engine and check for warning lights or other issues in the cab;
- Turn off the engine and check the truck’s lights;
- Perform a walk-around inspection of the truck;
- Check the truck’s signaling lights;
- Start up the engine again and check.
As well as these checks, the driver must make sure the cargo is loaded properly. Trucking companies often employ specialist loading companies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets out stringent rules relating to the loading of a truck. It outlines the proper use of tie-downs and securement devices.
A truck driver is not expected to be familiar with all of the intricacies of the cargo securement rules and a loading company can be sued if cargo falls off a commercial vehicle and causes a trucking accident with injuries. However, the driver has a duty to look for obvious issues with loading such as cargo hanging off the back of the trailer or broken tie-downs.
The driver also must also look at the previous driver’s inspection report for deficiencies and sign the report.
What Should a Virginia Truck Driver Do if The Rig Inspection Finds Problems?
The truck driver must be satisfied that both the power unit and the trailer are in a safe operating condition before starting a trip. The trucking company must make repairs to defective or missing parts listed in a driver’s inspection before the tractor-trailer is driven.
A truck driver must prepare a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) at the end of each day’s work. The reports must be submitted to the motor carrier on the driver’s return to the terminal. The DVIR provides a paper trail. On occasions, truckers report defects but the motor carrier fails to rectify them. When dangerous defects on a truck lead to injuries on the highways of Virginia or elsewhere, evidence that a trucking company failed to act on a reported defect may be a crucial indicator of negligence during a lawsuit.
Before getting on the highway, the truck driver must also document his or her hours of service. This is critical because truckers and their employers must comply with strict, federal hours of service rules.
When we are representing people injured or the family members of someone who died in a Virginia big accident, we look for inconsistencies in the hours of service record, such as evidence indicating excess speed or other forms of unsafe behavior. Erratic driving is often evidence of tiredness, a leading cause of trucking crashes in Virginia and elsewhere.
Most trucks are now equipped with black boxes. The evidence from these electronic recorders is often crucial in building a case against a trucker and a trucking company.
Although driver error is the most significant cause of trucking wrecks, defects cause thousands of big rig crashes every year. The duty of a Virginia trucker to inspect his rig is an important one. Drivers should identify issues with lights, wipers, tires or even brakes that can cause crashes. If you or a loved one has been injured in a big rig crash in Virginia or elsewhere, please call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077.