What Causes Wheel Separation Truck Accidents?
It is estimated that approximately 1,000 trucks are involved in wheel separation truck accidents nationwide each year. Wheel-off incidents, also known as wheel separation incidents, are extremely hazardous to both the truck driver and other drivers and passengers around them.
What are Wheel-Off Truck Accidents?
Wheel separation truck accidents are accidents in which a truck or 18-wheeler loses a wheel while driving. The wheel separates from the vehicle and flings into the road, becoming a major hazard for other drivers.
These accidents are extremely dangerous because they often occur at high rates of speed, meaning nearby drivers may not have time to react or avoid hitting the loose wheel. A truck wheel and tire can weigh over 100 pounds, and the weight and speed of a separated wheel can lead to serious injuries.
Additionally, losing a wheel can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, further increasing the chances of an accident. If the truck overturns, it may cause a rollover accident, which could cause other drivers to be seriously injured.
Common Causes of Wheel Separation Truck Accidents
Trucking companies are required by law to ensure their vehicles are well-maintained and pass inspection before they can hit the road. Unfortunately, trucking companies often lack care and take shortcuts when employing drivers, maintaining their vehicles, and conducting pre-drive inspections. Failing to maintain and inspect a truck or 18-wheeler can cause major issues to occur, which can lead to a wheel separation truck accident.
Wheels can come off of a truck for a number of reasons, but knowing the most common causes of wheel separation accidents can help truck drivers prevent these accidents from taking place. Some of the more common causes of wheel separation accidents can include:
Axle problems: Old, worn, or broken axles can cause wheel separation truck accidents to occur. Additionally, installing the axle nut too loosely or too tightly can also lead to bearing failure and cause a wheel to separate.
Faulty Wheel Installation: The National Transportation Safety Board determined that 40 percent of all wheel violations occurred due to loose or missing nuts or studs. It is extremely important for mechanics to ensure they are tightening lug nuts to the proper torque values. If the wheel’s lug nuts are undertorqued, they may gradually loosen until the wheel falls off. If the nuts are overtorqued, the force may put too much pressure on the nut, causing the nut to break or fracture and the wheel to fall off.
Auto Part Defects: If the tire, wheel, or other pieces are defective, they may break and cause a wheel separation truck accident. Auto parts manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure their products are safely and correctly made. Additionally, mechanics and the trucking companies that hire them should be well-trained and equipped to inspect the truck before approving the truck for transit.
Excessive Heat: An estimated 25% of wheel separation incidents are caused by excessive heat. If the inner wheel is leaking lubricant, the loss of lubricant can cause the metal pieces to heat up due to excessive pressure and friction. If this occurs, the tire can fall off, causing a wheel separation truck accident.
Preventing Wheel Separation Truck Accidents
The NTSB estimates that the nation sees anywhere between 750 and 1050 wheel separation truck accidents each year. However, these figures only include wheel separation incidents that result in a truck accident, and safety experts believe that many more wheel separation incidents that don’t result in accidents go unreported.
In Canada, safety advocates have argued for an absolute liability law for wheel separation truck accidents, increased fines for wheel separations, specialized training for mechanics and technicians who work with wheel installations, and additional road inspections. In addition, new technology from a Canadian company hopes to help mitigate this issue.
The company, called LWS (for “loose wheel sensors”), created small sensors that can be fitted onto the studs between the wheel and the lug nut. When fitted, the LWS sensors can detect extreme heat, as well as the gradual loosening of lug nuts, and flashes an indicator light to alert the driver what and where the issue is.
However, until these practices and safety upgrades are made mandatory in the states, wheel separation truck accidents will continue to endanger truckers and drivers alike.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been in a Wheel-Off Truck Accident?
Those who have been hurt in a wheel separation accident should contact an experienced truck accident attorney right away. There are many reasons why a wheel separation truck accident might occur, which means there are several parties who may be at fault, including the truck driver, the trucking company, and other parties such as repair shops or mechanics responsible for maintaining the vehicle.
A truck accident lawyer can help determine why the tire separated from the vehicle by demanding a preservation of evidence, inspecting the at-fault vehicle, gathering truck maintenance records, and speaking with truck accident reconstructionists to determine the circumstances of the accident and who was at fault.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact The Callahan Law Firm today to speak with an attorney. Our Texas Truck Accident Lawyers have been helping injured people and their families for over 25 years, and we can help you too. Give us a call at 713-224-9000, or fill out our contact form here.
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