As a motorist on Indiana highways, you want assurance that the semi-trucks sharing the road with you are in good condition and safe to drive. The federal government agrees. That's why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the maintenance and inspection of all commercial trucks that cross state lines. The state of Indiana enforces similar laws with trucks that don't travel between states. When a truck isn't maintained according to these state and federal regulations and is involved in an accident, both the trucker and his employer may be held accountable for any damages or injuries that result from the accident according to our Indianapolis truck accident attorney.
Interstate vs. Intrastate Trucking in Indiana
FMCSA regulations, known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), only apply to trucks engaged in interstate commerce, but many states, including Indiana, adopted significant portions of these regulations for commercial trucks that operate only within state borders.
FMSCA defines interstate commerce as trade, traffic, or transportation:
- Between a place in a state and a place outside of such state (including a place outside of the United States).
- Between two places in a state through another state or a place outside of the United States.
- Between two places in a state as part of the trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the state or the United States.
Intrastate commerce, on the other hand, is a truck trade that never crosses Indiana borders. If a truck conducting intrastate commerce is involved in an accident, it would fall under the laws of the state of Indiana. However, as Indiana has adopted most of FMSCR as state law, the same requirements apply.
Requirements for the Maintenance of Trucks
Along with regulating who is legally qualified to drive a commercial truck, FMCSR and Indiana state law also regulate safety protocols for all trucks. Specifically, drivers and their employers are required to maintain vehicles in good working order, maintain pre-trip and post-trip driver inspection reports, inspect vehicles periodically, and keep all records of repairs and inspections.
Pre-trip inspections include ensuring the following parts are in good working order:
- Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
- Parking brakes
- Steering mechanism
- Lighting devices and reflectors
- Windshield wipers
- Rear vision mirrors
- Coupling devices
- All emergency equipment
Additionally, a commercial vehicle must undergo a thorough inspection every 12 months and the inspection report must be kept in the vehicle.
How Poor Maintenance Leads to Crashes
When trucking companies and drivers fail in their duties to maintain safe trucks, they put other motorists at risk. While truck crashes are caused by many factors, including truck driver impairment or error and unsafe road conditions, the leading cause of all truck crashes is brake problems. According to FMCSA, 29 percent of all truck crashes with a fatality or injury are caused at least in part by brake failure. Tire problems are the next leading cause of vehicle failure crashes, contributing to 6 percent of fatal and injury crashes.
When a truck crash occurs, an experienced attorney will know to investigate all possible causes of the crash. If vehicle failure of some kind is suspected, the attorney will request copies of:
- All roadside inspection reports
- Vehicle maintenance files
- Annual vehicle inspection reports
- Driver vehicle inspection reports
- Equipment repair receipts
- Evidence of driver training on load securement
- Accident reports
As drivers are required by both Indiana and FMCSR to have this documentation, if any of it is missing, the driver could be held liable. Likewise, a company that breaches its duty to maintain safe vehicles can be held liable for putting a defective vehicle on the road.