SAMAC Articles

Commercial Trucking

Investigation of large commercial truck losses, whether truck fleet related or off the road (OTR) vehicles such as mine haul trucks, are significantly different than passenger vehicle investigations for many reasons:

  1. Load Risk – In addition to loads being expensive to repair or replace, they can contain dangerous commodities and create major environmental losses.
  2. Regulation – Large trucks are governed by agencies at city, provincial, and federal levels. These include bylaws, police truck units, commercial vehicle inspections within each province, and federal regulators. Knowledge of these inspection procedures and regulations can help assess whether the operator/owner was correctly operating their unit.
  3. Vehicle Capability – Accident reconstruction issues can be much more complex, not just due to the size, but also due to issues with multiple articulated units, vehicle dynamics and ability to brake and steer.
  4. Drivers – Commercial drivers require professional licenses and are held to a higher standard. Hours of service, driver history, drug testing, and licensing are all factors that may need to be assessed. Fatigue is a common problem which can lead to single vehicle run-off-road incidents blamed on a mechanical, road or weather issue. Reconstruction expertise as well as mechanical and metallurgical expertise may be required to properly investigate such incidents.
  5. Load Securement – Issues include properly tieing down large loads and the internal movement of cargo (such as liquids and hanging loads). Claims also result from improperly loading or unloading cargo via cranes, forklifts, etc. Investigators must have expertise in tie-down testing and requirements, vehicle dynamics, and safe loading operations to properly analyze many of these issues.
  6. Recorders – Data recorders are found on both the diesel engines of commercial vehicles and, now becoming more common, inside the cab (Electronic On Board Recorders). Investigators have to know how to get all the data from these recorders to assess if useful incident related data is available. At SAMAC, Ted Semeniuk organized an industry course on the Detroit Diesel Diagnostic Link (DDDL) in late 2009.
  7. Fires – Large vehicles are mechanically more complex with the potential of fires originating from mechanical and electrical systems, refrigerator units, tires and brakes. Proven expertise in fire investigations, vehicle mechanics, and electrical systems and controls are all required to investigate such incidents.
  8. Conspicuity – Appropriate active lighting and retroreflective markings for nighttime travel may be missing or not visible. Aging or lack of maintenance of the retroreflectors may make them inadequate.
  9. Loss of Control / Rollover – With very high centres of gravity, large trucks rollover much more easily than passenger vehicles, usually on curving highway on/off ramps. As well, high crosswinds can create problems due the size of the trucks, including causing drivers to lose control or even rollover on the highway.
  10. Retreaded Tires – Although retreads are sold for use on passenger vehicles, they are primarily used on trucks (except on steering axle) to reduce operating costs. Retread analysis requires specialized knowledge in tire design, tire failure dynamics and retread manufacturing. Only then can it be determined whether manufacturing, operational, or maintenance issues contributed to the failure.
  11. Wheel Offs – Wheels, and even multiple wheel assemblies, can and do separate from trucks, creating a substantial risk of injury and death. Vehicle mechanical, mechanical engineering, and operational expertise may all be required to assess maintenance and manufacturing defects.

In summary, large truck losses encompass many more issues than you will see in typical car to car collisions. SAMAC’s team of truck, mechanical, and material experts are highly experienced in all the above areas and we assist clients across Western Canada.