How Do Semi-Truck Tire Problems Cause Car Accidents?
Semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, tankers, and other large vehicles are designed to take heavy punishment from frequent use, but they require constant maintenance to stay in operating condition. An issue with even a single tire can pose a real danger both to the truck and to other cars on the road, so it’s important that the operator of the truck follows all the rules, regulations, and good practices that the transportation industry has in place in order to drive safely and prevent accidents.
How Commercial Truck Tires Fail
The tires of an 18-wheeler must be able to support up to 80,000 pounds or more of weight, be able to withstand the forces to move that weight, and still be able to bring the entire vehicle to a stop safely, too. When a tire capable of meeting these requirements fails, it often blows out at highway speed by either exploding or rupturing, shredding the tire and leaving pieces of rubber across the road. These tire fragments can strike nearby cars and cause them to lose control, or cause drivers to veer suddenly to avoid striking pieces of tread, causing an accident.
There are many causes of truck tire blowouts, and most of them are preventable. For example, blowouts may be caused by:
- Improper maintenance. Tires need to be inflated to the correct pressure, meet minimum tread depth standards, and have a similar amount of wear. If a truck driver or trucking company doesn’t inspect and replace worn tires regularly, the tire can fail under even a light load.
- Bad loading practices. Trailers and cargo must be balanced properly front to back and left to right and not go over the maximum safe load capacity of the tires.
- Defective products. Like many other products, sometimes defective materials are released onto the market. It’s up to the trucking company or driver to stay current with all safety notices and stop using any tire that is under a recall.
There are both state and federal laws that dictate how often maintenance inspections, including tires, must be performed on trucks. Failure to perform these inspections or to document them appropriately may expose the truck driver, the trucking company, or the cargo owner to liability for any damage to other vehicles on the road.
What Are the Most Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents?
A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In comparison, the average passenger car weighs around 3,000 pounds. Therefore, when a collision between the two occurs, the results are typically catastrophic. Passenger vehicle occupants often sustain serious and life-threatening injuries, completely altering the course of their lives.
Despite increased awareness and improved safety regulations, trucking accidents are on the rise. Understanding the causes of trucking accidents can hopefully prevent them from occurring in the future. It could also help you win your injury case if another driver is responsible for your trucking accident.
Here is a list of the most common causes of 18-wheeler accidents in Dallas and across the state of Texas.
Fatigued Truck Drivers
Truck driver fatigue is a serious issue that often leads to fatal accidents. Federal regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver can spend on the road. If a truck driver works long hours and fails to get sufficient sleep, then he or she is capable of making catastrophic mistakes behind the wheel.
Everyone knows that talking, texting and surfing the web are dangerous when driving a car. However, when driving a fully-loaded 18-wheeler, distracted driving can be especially hazardous. Truck drivers have a responsibility to keep their eyes, hands and mind on the task of driving at all times.
Truck drivers are often paid based on the quickness of their deliveries. To improve their delivery times, some truck drivers engage in risky and reckless driving, including speeding, changing lanes too often, following other cars too closely or driving erratically in poor weather conditions.
Driving While Impaired
It is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and truck drivers are no exception. Unfortunately, many truck drivers abuse over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications and/or alcohol when driving. Truck drivers who drive impaired are significantly more likely to cause serious and catastrophic accidents.
Trucking Company Negligence
Trucking companies have a responsibility to keep their trucks properly maintained. When they fail to do so, a truck or trucking component could breakdown and cause an accident. Worn tires, faulty brakes and improperly serviced vehicles cause numerous 18-wheeler accidents each year.
Poor Weather Conditions
Driving an 18-wheeler is more difficult than driving your standard automobile. However, snow, ice, sleet and rain make driving an 18-wheeler even more difficult. Poor weather can reduce visibility, making it harder for large semi-trucks to make sudden stops. Heavy winds can even cause a truck to jackknife on the road. Truck drivers have a responsibility to lower their speed and drive cautiously when poor weather strikes.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Shipping companies must safely secure cargo when loading them into a large commercial truck. If they fail to do so, then the contents inside the truck could shift, forcing the truck driver to lose control.
What Are the Two Main Reasons That Tire Blowouts Happen?
It is important to understand what a truck tire blowout is because it is different than a flat tire. Tire blowouts are the sudden bursting or rupturing of a truck tire—often happening when the truck is being driven at a high speed. As a result of the sudden explosion, the trucker can lose control of his truck and crash into other nearby vehicles, sometimes in other lanes. In addition, accidents can occur when truck cargo becomes loose or shredded parts of the tire’s rubber are strewn onto the roadway into the path of unsuspecting motorists who must try to swerve out of the way. In some cases, the truck driver can totally lose control of his truck and cause a rollover accident.
Unfortunately, many of these accidents are caused by two factors: failure to inspect the tires regularly and failing to maintain and replace them when necessary. Not only is this negligence, but it is also a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules governing truckers’ and trucking companies’ duties to inspect and maintain their trucks. These rules require the following:
- Truckers and trucking companies must systematically inspect and maintain their trucks—including the tires—on a schedule specified in the FMCSA rules.
- Truckers and trucking companies are required to not allow a truck to be driven if it is in a condition that will likely result in it causing an accident or breaking down.
- Truckers must conduct a pre-trip inspection of the truck that includes reviewing the last truck driver’s report and certify that any needed repairs have been made. If the truck tires are too worn or defective, the truck should not be taken on the road.
- Truckers should also conduct a post-trip inspection and prepare a report that lists any needed repairs.
- While on the road, truckers are supposed to inspect their trucks and tires at the end of each day. If the tires are in a condition that is likely to cause a crash or truck breakdown, the trucker should not continue to drive the truck.
- Trucking companies are also required to maintain, repair, and replace truck tires when their condition requires it
What Factors Trigger Tire Blowouts?
A number of conditions will cause a worn or defective tire to be under sudden pressure or an impact that causes it to explode or lose air pressure quickly, with a truck tire blowout being the result. Some of these factors include:
- Underinflating of the tires
- Heat, which can cause the tires to overinflate
- Overloading of the cargo
- Wear and tear of the tire, which can result in a blowout if the tire is not replaced
- Low or no tire tread
- Mismatched tires and tires that are not the proper size for the truck
The Difference Between P-Metric Tires and LT Tires
A “P” listed in front of the tire size indicates that it is “P-metric” size. P-metric stands for passenger vehicle. Passenger vehicles are cars (for example sedans and coupes), minivans, or CUVs, but can also be trucks that do not carry extra heavy loads or run on gravel roads. If there is no letter in front of the size, then the tire is for passenger cars, and closely equivalent to p-metric. These tires have an internal construction and use materials designed to give a smooth ride, good handling on the highway, and to last a long time.
LT Tires have “LT” in front of the size. They are for heavy loads, towing and off-road durability. They are more expensive than p-metric tires. This is because LT tires have extra material in the sidewall and under the tread that protects the tire from damage. The cords in a LT tire are a larger gauge than P-metric tires so the tire can carry heavier loads. Very often LT tires will have an extra steel belt, a deeper tread and thicker rubber in the sidewall for more protection vs a p-metric tire. LT tires are usually 8-ply (Load Range D) or 10-ply (Load Range E). Passenger Tires usually have a 4-ply or 6-ply equivalent sidewall. The performance trade-offs of the added material in LT tires are harsher ride, less fuel efficiency, and less responsive handling.
Which type of tire is right for you depends on how you use the truck. P-metric tires are perfectly adequate for pick-up truck owners that rarely go off paved roads, carry heavy loads, or tow a trailer. Many half ton trucks come equipped from the factory with p-metric tires for this very reason. If you own a half ton pick-up truck or full-size SUV and rarely if ever carry a load or go off pavement, then a p-metric tire will be a better choice for your replacement tire. They will ride smoother, last longer, and be more fuel efficient than a LT rated tire in the same size.
If your truck, van or full size SUV comes from the factory rated for LT tires, it is best to replace the tires with LT tires. P-metric to LT is acceptable, but never replace original equipment LT tires with P-metric tires due to them having lower load capacity ratings at maximum air pressure.
If you drive your truck heavily loaded or pull heavy trailer loads frequently, you should consider replacing your p-metric tire with an LT tire. Tradespeople that have their truck or van loaded with tools, supplies and equipment often find that the stiffer LT tires means less sway, and therefore better loaded handling. Others may find that the ride is slightly harsher and not as comfortable as p-metric tires. This is one of the trade-offs you can expect when you replace a p-metric tire with a LT tire.