A missing $3 part may have caused the tires roll off a tractor-trailer, killing a Tulane University student from Minnesota. According to an Associated Press, one of two 3-inch washers designed to keep truck wheels tightly secured was missing from the trailer. Two wheels joined together rolled into a rest stop killing Margaret Maurer, 21, of Forest Lake. Maurer and her Tulane classmates were reportedly heading from the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.
Officials said based on a preliminary investigation that when they unpacked the outer hub of the wheel assembly after Maurer’s death, they found only one of the two washers that are used to lock the large nuts holding the wheels in place. The missing ring would not have broken off, they said. The trucking companies that own/operate the truck were said to be in good standing with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), with “satisfactory” ratings and better-than-average record on crashes and vehicle safety.
Officials also said the missing ring would not have been detected in the kind of unannounced roadside inspections that are logged into the federal database. To inspect a truck for that specific deficiency, all wheels need to come off the truck, which is definitely not part of federal roadside inspections of tractor-trailers.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family members of Margaret Maurer for their tragic loss. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Truck Maintenance Issues
Based on this news report, it appears that the fatal incident occurred because of a missing part, which would have cost the truck company about $3 to replace. Saying that checking for this missing part wasn’t part of pre-trip truck inspections is simply not an excuse. Trucking companies have a responsibility to ensure that their vehicles are in good condition to get on the road. That includes checking the vehicle for parts and making sure worn-out or missing parts are replaced in a timely manner.
In such cases, trucking companies can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses cost. Families of deceased victims may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucking company seeking compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost future income, and loss of love, care and companionship. An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to advise injured victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.