Commercial vehicle accidents in Maryland and around the country are sometimes caused by inadequate repairs or neglected maintenance. These crashes frequently occur when braking systems or suspension components fail, and they can also happen when a semi-tractor trailer loses one or more of its wheels. Tractor-trailers usually have five axles and 18 wheels and tires, and each wheel and tire weighs about 100 pounds. When a tractor-trailer loses a wheel while in motion, the result is often a fatal accident.
Flying wheel accidents
These incidents are often called flying wheel accidents, and they often give other roads users little or no time to react and avoid the dangerous object hurtling toward them. In some cases, flying wheels bounce over medians and strike oncoming traffic. This is what happened in Ohio on Jan. 17 when a tractor-trailer lost two wheels on Interstate 280. The driver of another tractor-trailer was killed by the flying debris even though he was traveling in the opposite direction.
Causes of flying wheel accidents
Finding out what caused a truck to lose one or more wheels is not always easy for accident investigators. Trucking companies worried about being sued may be reluctant to hand over maintenance records, and losing a wheel often leads to severe damage that can make determining a sequence of events very difficult. The possible causes of a flying wheel truck accident include:
- Broken or rusted axles
- Tire defects
- Wheel bearing failures
- Separated hubs
- Improperly installed parts
Prevention is the answer
Most flying wheel accidents could be prevented by regular maintenance and commercial vehicle inspections. The trucking industry is highly regulated by agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, but the rules are sometimes skirted by companies trying to meet strict schedules and protect thin margins. Rigorous oversight and strict enforcement may not be welcomed by industry groups, but they could prevent accidents and save lives.