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Maryland inspection blitz leads to 114 trucks and 21 drivers out of service

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 16th, 2013

Inspection reveals hundreds of violations and numerous truck companies knowingly operating dangerous commercial trucks –  despite truck driver concerns

An early April truck inspection blitz at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland saw 114 trucks placed out of service, in addition to 21 individual truck drivers.

With 562 total inspections carried out, nearly one in every five trucks stopped by investigators was placed out of service.

This is troubling – but here is something that is further disturbing.

Investigators reported that some truck drivers were actually pointing out deficiencies in the trucks to the inspectors because these truckers had grown “weary of fighting with their bosses over needed repairs.” Some of the truck drivers knew that their trucks were dangerous, and had reported the conditions to their employer, but were instructed to drive anyway.  One driver even showed inspectors an email from his employer telling him to drive on despite the truck’s mechanical issues.  Some defects were in critical components like tires and brakes.

This is illustrative of a two-fold failure.

First, at the driver level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations state that:
§ 396.13 Driver inspection.

Before driving a motor vehicle, the driver shall:
(a)    Be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition.

Although some of these drivers admirably reported the defects to their employers to no avail, the drivers still violated the Safety Regulations by driving the trucks when they were not satisfied they were in safe operating condition.  The driver must be satisfied the truck is safe before driving it.

At the company level, the Safety Regulations read that:

§ 396.7 Unsafe operations forbidden.

a. General. A motor vehicle shall not be operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.

b. Exemption. Any motor vehicle discovered to be in an unsafe condition while being operated on the highway may be continued in operation only to the nearest place where repairs can safely be effected. Such operation shall be conducted only if it is less hazardous to the public than to permit the vehicle to remain on the highway.

Furthermore, § 396.3(a)(1) of the Safety Regulations also says that “parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times.”

Ordering truckers to continue driving despite notice of defective parts is a clear and blatant violation of the rules.  This is really a slap in the face of the general public; not to mention, this is extremely dangerous.

Other violations which truckers and truck companies were cited for included falsified logbooks and hours-of-service violations.  As a result of some the violations, the companies themselves are going to be further inspected.  This is not surprising given the egregiousness of some of the violations, like ordering truckers to drive dangerous  commercial trucks.

This story is angering.  But it also illustrates that when it comes down to it, the truck driver is one of the last lines of defense in protecting the public. Even if the FMCSA inspections do not get dangerous trucks off of the road – when bad trucking companies cut corners on safety and have a poorly maintained fleet – the truck driver always has the power to not drive a truck unless he or she is fully satisfied that the truck is safe.

There is a great deal of responsibility and power placed with the truck driver, and it’s important that they are responsible and do the right thing, even when being threatened their jobs. Do not drive a truck that you think is dangerous, even if your employer tells you otherwise.

Related information:

Inspection tips for truck drivers

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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