A recent accident caused by a semi-truck tire blowout killed at least seven passengers on a Greyhound bus headed from St. Louis to Los Angeles on Interstate 40. The tire blowout caused the semi-truck to cross lanes into oncoming westbound traffic, where it crashed into the bus that had 47 passengers on board.
More than 5,000 people died in large truck crashes in 2019, and nearly 160,000 people were injured in truck accidents across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with 75 percent of those injured passengers of other vehicles. Nearly 360 of those victims were caused by large trucks that had a tire blowout from 2015 to 2019.
There are so many of these accidents that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers this semi-truck part defect among the leading causes of all truck accidents.
Here is more vital information and details about semi-truck tire blowout accidents and who holds liability.
What Are Common Causes of Semi-Truck Tire Blowouts?
There are a few top causes of semi-truck tire blowouts, which happen more often in the spring and summer months when drivers of these larger trucks drive farther, and the temperature of the pavement heats up. It is the perfect combination for a tire blowout.
Some additional factors that could lead to tire blowouts include:
Incorrect Tire Inflation
The correct amount of air pressure in a semi-truck’s tires is required to balance the weight of the truck and cargo. If they are underinflated, the materials inside the tire will expand and flex beyond their safe capacity and cause a blowout.
Overloading the Trailer
A semi-truck trailer that is overloaded is dangerous even if the tires are correctly inflated for long hauls. There is a reason that large commercial trucks have weight capacities for loads.
Unsafe road quality, such as debris on the road or potholes, can also cause tire blowouts. If a truck hits a pothole hard enough, it could cut the rubber, which can eventually lead to a blowout.
Lack of Maintenance
If truck tires are not properly maintained, there is a bigger chance of a blowout. Thorough inspections should be made into uncapped tires that leak, any necessary repairs, and whether or not the tires should be replaced if showing any wear and tear.
The most common type of defect is tread separation, when the tread separates and the belt disconnects from the tire. What causes this? It could be because of bad tire material, incorrect manufacturing, or improper installation. The manufacturer or tire installer is usually at fault and liable for any injuries or damages that result in a tire blowout because of defective tires.
When a Trucking Company is Liable for Tire Blowouts
Truck drivers and truck companies/owners are legally required to have regular truck inspections and routine maintenance checks before they take them on the road. These checks are needed to detect a defective tire at risk of blowouts while in use.
If a truck company cannot prove that regular inspections and maintenance were being done on a truck involved in a semi-truck tire blowout accident, it could be liable for any injuries or fatalities caused.
If a truck driver notices that there are defects in any of the tires, but drives on it anyway to make the delivery schedule, he or she could be liable because of this dangerous driving choice.
When a Tire Manufacturer is Liable for Tire Blowouts
When a semi-truck tire blowout is caused by a reason outside of the trucker or trucking company’s control, liability then lies in the hands of the tire manufacturer.
Here are several ways tire defects can come out of the manufacturing process, which can hold the manufacturer libel:
- A design defect in the tire itself, such as deformed treads or thin walls, which are details the truck driver or company would not notice – even with routine inspection
- The tire becomes defective during manufacturing; it may be well-designed, but could take on damage during production, like a small hole no one noticed
- The manufacturer fails to warn trucking companies of the dangers of the tire
Who Else Can be Held Liable for Semi-Truck Tire Blowout Accidents?
Other parties that can be held liable for a commercial truck tire blowout accident include:
- A tire retailer who sold a tire that was known to be defective at the point of sale
- A mechanic who serviced the semi-truck and failed to replace or repair the tires – or warn the truck driver about their condition
How Road Sensors Can Protect Drivers from Blowout Accidents
Recently, a growing number of states are testing sensors embedded into road pavement that can help detect when a large truck’s tires have become unsafe, leading to blowouts, injuries, and death when traveling at high speeds at long distances. This could be a big break to potentially save lives.
For example, the border between Minnesota and South Dakota on Interstate 90 has road sensors implanted in the pavement of the weigh station to reveal whether a truck crossing the border has flat, underinflated, or unbalanced tires before it poses a danger on the road. If the tires do, the truck will be prohibited to continue any further.
Additional technology includes sensors on trucks to monitor and adjust tire pressure while truckers are on the road and an infrared camera at the weigh station that takes a heat picture of a truck’s brakes and wheels to ensure they’re not too hot.
States are seeing results, such as Virginia, where 25,000 unsafe truck tires have been removed since June 2020 because of the sensor system.
Staying Safe in the Face of Danger
The best way to prevent becoming a tire blowout victim is to stay a safe distance from larger commercial vehicles, particularly on highways. Defensive driving and anticipation of the worst can often prevent major incidents. Anyone who sustains injuries or property damage as a result of a truck tire blowout should seek legal assistance immediately.