We see them everywhere on Houston-area highways. Large commercial trucks are a critical part of our economy – without them, commercial goods and other items wouldn’t be available to the public.
Commercial trucks are also a dangerous liability to those who must share the road with them. The slightest mechanical failure or careless move of a driver can put countless lives at risk.
A fiery and deadly crash
A Houston truck driver has been charged with killing four people and injuring four more near Denver in a fiery crash that involved a pileup of 28 vehicles, according to CNN. The tractor-trailer truck plowed into stopped traffic on I-70 in Colorado that police believed was attributed to another accident on the same road. Some crash victims, who were trapped in their vehicles, were rescued by a good Samaritan who was reportedly panhandling in the area.
According to witnesses, the driver, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23, of Houston, was seen traveling at nearly 100 mph with fluid spilling beneath the truck. Another witness reported that the truck driver veered through several lanes and caused another vehicle to go off the road moments before the crash.
According to District Attorney Pete Weir, the stretch of highway where the crash occurred had a speed limit of 45 mph for commercial trucks. The truck driver told police that he was traveling at 45 mph and the brakes failed on a downhill grade moments before the crash occurred. He also told police that he was trying to maneuver the truck to the right shoulder and apply the emergency brake in order to avoid the crash.
However, once he discovered that another commercial truck was stopped on the shoulder, he said he swerved back into stopped traffic. The semi Aguilera was driving was estimated to have been going "in excess of 85 miles an hour," according to Weir.
Aguilera-Mederos was charged with 40 counts, four of which were vehicular homicide. Six others were first-degree assault and 24 were attempted first-degree assault. He may face decades in prison.
Mechanical failures are a leading factor in commercial truck crashes
The truck driver’s lawyer, Robert Corry attributed the crash to a mechanical failure.
“Everybody agrees it was an accident,” he said “Law enforcement agrees it was an accident. Everybody who has been investigating or has looked at it believes it was an accident, and it’s tragic.”
The Houston-based trucking company, Castellano 03 Trucking LLC, had a documented history of safety defects, and one included the brakes. Since 2017, the company has had 30 safety violations according to online reports released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). None of the drivers’ names were referenced in the reports but at least 10 of those violations involved brake defects or brake failure – particularly outdated air brake components or worn out brake lines.
In this case, the commercial truck driven by Aguilera-Mederos was destroyed, making it much more difficult to pinpoint the defect that led to the crash.
The FMCSA has laid out strict federal guidelines trucking companies must comply with. Most notably, trucking companies are required by law to:
- Regularly inspect and maintain vehicles
- Ensure that any defects are fully repaired before placing vehicles into service
- Ensure that parts and accessories are in safe and proper working condition at all times
- Produce records of roadside repairs
- Receive daily post-trip inspection reports from drivers identifying any defects or safety concerns
- Produce records of inspections, repairs, and maintenance – including the date and type
- Have vehicles inspected at least once per year
- Immediately pull any unsafe vehicle out of service
When a mechanical failure results in an injury or death, trucking companies who fail to comply with federal safety standards should be held accountable. Even when trucking companies attempt to cover up their negligence, an experienced truck accident attorney at Tracey & Fox can uncover the truth.
Our attorneys have the tools and legal knowledge to investigate trucking companies. We’ll examine records of prior safety violations and use evidence from the crash scene to help you build a strong claim.
If you’re injured in a car accident, don’t go it alone. Contact us today to discuss your legal options.