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Last week, a truck owner and driver were charged with manslaughter in a case that brings up issues of pre-trip truck inspection liability. The truck in question had bad brakes and worn tires. And the prosecutors contend the owner knew it, but encouraged driving despite the danger. Both for drivers and fleets, this case shows the importance of a good pre-trip inspection and heavy duty truck driver training. And it means that fleets need to have a method for dealing with problems found.

The truck crashed into another truck in California, killing the other driver. The owner of the truck, Jasbir Singh Sangha of JS Trucking and driver Ernest Allan Coublucq were both charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Doing a pre-trip truck inspection is required by the Department of Transportation. Drivers and fleets must be able to show evidence of those inspections. Without proof of a pre-trip inspection, you're facing 4 CSA points in your Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. And that's in addition to any other problems found, such as worn brakes or tires like was found on this vehicle.

The case in California seems pretty bad, but it does bring up the specter of pre-trip truck inspection liability. That is, who is responsible for the condition of the truck. In this case, the prosecutors went after both the company and the driver. Both must help keep the truck in safe order.

  • Drivers must conduct pre-trip inspections and report any problems to the owner.
  • Fleets or truck owners must fix problems found and conduct regular maintenance. That means having a maintenance program in place that is responsive to problems.

In less extreme cases, we hear complaints from both sides about the others' behavior. Fleets complain that drivers either don't know how to do the inspection, or rush it. Or they complain that drivers treat the trucks poorly, which leads to higher maintenance costs. All of these issues can be fixed with better driver training.

How to Do a Pre-Trip Inspection

Meanwhile, drivers complain that fleets won't fix problems in a timely manner, or are slow with reimbursement payments. Or that fleet maintenance guidelines don't match CSA rules.

The answer is, of course, that safety needs to be a fleet's highest priority. A person's life isn't worth an extra week on worn brake pads or a loose hose.

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