Our neighbors in Georgia bore the brunt of a South Carolina company’s mistake on Jan. 24, when bad brake maintenance caused an avoidable accident in Effingham County. According to an article in the Savannah Morning News, a tractor-trailer that belonged to Smith Logging of Grays tried to stop for a stop sign and discovered that his brakes were not working. Rather than yielding the right of way as intended, the truck, which was fully loaded with logs, slid into the intersection and hit a van belonging to Effingham County, Ga. Fortunately, nobody involved was seriously hurt; two of the van’s passengers sustained minor injuries. A fire and rescue worker was quoted in the article expressing surprise that nobody was killed.
According to the article, the logging truck’s driver will likely be cited for failing to maintain the vehicle. That may sound minor, but it’s an important penalty, because statistics from the federal Department of Transportation show that shoddy vehicle maintenance is a critical cause in 10% of all large-truck crashes. The department’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that vehicle failures caused about 8,000 crashes involving large trucks — and brake failure alone was responsible for approximately 1,000 crashes. When you include failures that mislead other drivers, like missing headlights, those numbers may grow even bigger. In fact, brake-related problems, including but not limited to failures, contributed to 29% of all truck accidents, according to the study — the largest single contributing factor. In that light, trucking companies and truck owners must be held strictly responsible for maintaining their brakes and other essential truck equipment. Lives are in the balance.