The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency responsible for writing and enforcing motor vehicle safety standards, is currently conducting an investigation of a particular trailer hitch manufactured by Fontaine Fifth Wheel, a company based here in Alabama. The basis of the investigation is that there have been a fair number of trailer separations in cases where the hitch in question has been involved.
One particular accident occurred in Ohio in January of 2015. The truck accident in that case was blamed on the semi driver, who was accused of failing to inspect the hitch to make sure it was properly attached. It was over a year later, after the manufacturer announced it would be replacing the hitches, that the NHTSA proposed that the accident may have been caused by a defect in the hitch.
The number of semis using the specific hitch is reportedly up to 6,000 across the United States. Critics of the NHTSA have noted that there has been a delay in conducting the investigation, though the agency says it is acting properly. Whatever the case may be on that issue, the final outcome of the above mentioned case for the truck driver was conviction on charges of vehicular manslaughter and suspension of his commercial driver’s license with one year of probation.
Both the accident and ongoing investigation are a reminder that there are multiple things that can go wrong in the operation of large trucks. Not only can parts fail, but truckers can fail to properly maintain and inspect their vehicles. Those who are harmed by a truck driver should always work with an experienced attorney to make sure they explore such possibilities in their case.