If a motorist who is in front of you stops suddenly, you have the option of slamming on the brakes. If a driver veers into your lane, you have the choice of swerving away. However, if a motorist or truck driver’s tire blows out because of a manufacturing or design defect or due to their negligence, there may be little you can do to prevent a collision.
Tire blowout season is considered to start in May and continue through the end of September. When the temperatures start to heat up, so do the roads and your tires. Although tire blowouts can happen year-round, an increase in temperatures can exacerbate even the smallest tire issue, potentially leading to a blowout. Here’s what you need to know about truck tire blowouts, liability, and driver’s legal duties to protect yourself if you are ever the victim of a truck accident.
What Causes Truck Tire Blow Outs?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), up to 9 percent of the total truck crashes in the U.S. are tire related. Here are a few of the main reasons for a truck tire blowout.
Underinflation is one of the leading causes for truck tire blowouts, and one of the easiest to prevent. Underinflation puts a greater amount of stress on tires, especially truck tires, which can lead the tire’s internal components to stretch beyond design limits and heat up potentially resulting in a blowout. Most instances of underinflation are simply a result of poor maintenance.
Another factor that contributes to truck tire blowouts is speed. An investigation conducted by NHTSA on Michelin truck tires revealed that many truck accidents were caused by drivers pushing these tires beyond their limit. Most commercial trucks are designed to withstand speeds of 75 mph. The NHTSA concluded that driving above the 75 mph limit resulted in heat buildup, and the subsequent weakening of the tires eventually caused them to blow out.
Dealing with hazards in the road, such as potholes, uneven lips in the roadway, cracks, and even debris like road gators — treads that separated from tires in other blowouts — is an unavoidable part of driving. Tires that continually interact with road hazards are put under constant pressure, which can then lead to underinflation. Impact with particular road hazards can also fray the internals of a tire, or even result in an immediate blowout.
Lack of Maintenance
The chances of a truck experiencing a tire blowout can be significantly reduced with adequate upkeep. Every truck driver is required to perform a pre-trip inspection before every trip. Drivers are also required to be able to show evidence of these inspections. Most issues that could cause a truck tire blowout can be caught, and fixed before an incident if proper maintenance is observed.
Tire blowouts also arise when a truck is overloaded causing it to exceed its gross vehicle weight rating. Overloading a vehicle exerts excess pressure on its tires, weakening the structure and leading to a tire blowout. The weight limitations for trailers operating in Nevada are provided in the Nevada Revised Statutes. The weight restrictions for trucks per axle are:
- The weight per single axle cannot be more than 20,000 pounds
- The weight per tandem axle cannot be more than 34,000 pounds
- The weight per tire regarding one square inch of a tire’s width cannot be more than 600 pounds for steering axles
Truck tire blowouts can also be caused by some of the following negligent actions:
- Poor recapping or retreading of tires
- Defectively repaired or manufactured tires
- Using worn out tires, or tires with inadequate tread depth
How to Avoid Tire Blowouts
The best and most efficient way for a truck to prevent a tire blowout is through regular maintenance. Check for bumps, dents, or weak areas on your tires. Any weak areas on tires can increase your risk of experiencing an unexpected blowout. During the inspection of your tires, ensure you also check the tires’ pressure. A tire gauge can help you determine the ideal pressure for your tires.
Prevention is an excellent way of avoiding a blowout. You can prevent getting a flat by planning your general route to avoid construction areas, rough roads or paths that pose a high risk of picking up debris that could deflate your tire. However, if you have to pass through these high-risk zones, make sure you check your tires for debris or weak spots afterward.
A Truck Driver’s Legal Duties
Truck drivers are required by law to drive reasonably and exercise caution while on the road. If a driver experiences a sudden blowout, for instance, brought on by an unavoidable object in the road, they will not be deemed liable for an accident they could not avoid.
However, if a driver reacts unreasonably after experiencing a sudden flat, they will be held partially liable for the accident. Unreasonable acts include slamming the brakes or swerving in one direction after an unexpected flat tire. Additionally, a driver is required to inspect their vehicle, not to operate defective equipment, and to perform routine maintenance of their vehicle.
Duty to Inspect
Drivers are obligated under law to check their vehicles and address reasonably obvious faults. If a motorist is operating a vehicle with worn tires or their truck’s tires have some apparent defect, they are obligated to detect the error and refrain from operating the vehicle until this issue is resolved. If a commercial driver is sued after a blowout, they cannot defend themselves claiming they did not notice the defect because according to the law they should have known.
The Duty Not to Drive with Defective Equipment
If a commercial motorist is aware or should have been aware that a tire was defective, they are legally obligated not to operate the vehicle until the problem is resolved. The legal duty to inspect and the duty not to operate defective equipment are the same in the sense that a driver should fix a tire problem before driving.
The Duty to Perform Routine Maintenance
Regular check-ups and maintenance of vehicles can significantly reduce the occurrence of tire blowouts. When a truck driver fails to perform maintenance tasks or regular inspections on their tires, they may be held liable for accidents arising from tire blowouts. Some of the mandatory inspection points a motorist must perform include checking a vehicle’s tires, brakes, reflectors, lights, load, and mirrors.
Manufacturer, Retailer, and Installer Liability
A manufacturer or retailer can be held accountable under product liability laws if a tire blowout arises due to design or manufacturing defect. A retailer may also be found responsible if the tire was damaged, but they went on to sell it in its defective state. A person who improperly installs a tire may also be found liable for installing the wrong type of tire resulting in a tire blowout.
If you or someone you know was injured in an accident involving a truck tire blowout, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney after the accident, the more evidence they will be able to collect to help in your case. A qualified injury attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into possible tire defects, driver negligence, and whether additional parties can be held liable.