malicious mischief in criminal law, the crime of damaging another’s property. It requires a deliberate disregard of the other’s property rights, so cannot be committed accidentally.
If you have taken a professional truck driving course, you might have talked about it. If you have driven a tractor-trailer, then you probably have heard about it. But few truck drivers have actually seen it happen . . .
We are talking about someone intentionally and deliberately releasing the trailer kingpin, so the unaware driver drops his trailer somewhere up the road. The trailer may drop immediately when the driver pulls forward. The trailer may drop on the first turn. The trailer may drop miles up the road.
As there is no predictability when and where the trailer will drop, this is a highly dangerous and even sometimes deadly criminal act.
Damage will occur to the landing gear. Damage can occur to the parking lot. A tow truck is required to lift the trailer so it can be hooked-up again. In some instances, the trailer kingpin can catch the tractor’s lightbar and rip that off. Damage can run into thousands of dollars.
Careers have ended due to this sort of malicious mischief. Many companies have a policy requiring automatic termination of employment of a driver who drops a trailer. It’s always the driver’s responsibility that the trailer remains attached until properly unhooked. Truck drivers can be criminally charged for dropped trailers . . .
Police probe a case of reckless driving
A case of reckless and negligent driving has been opened after a trailer disconnected from the truck and went over a motorcyclist on the corners of Herschell and Maydon roads in Durban yesterday afternoon.
Matthew Zenda (23) sustained a fracture in the right leg and injuries to the left leg and a scar on the fore head. He is in a serious but stable condition.
The truck driver will have to wait for the investigation to be over to know his fate.
What do the regulations say?
§ 392.7: Equipment, inspection and use.
(a) No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, nor shall any driver fail to use or make use of such parts and accessories when and as needed:
Service brakes, including trailer brake connections. Parking (hand) brake. Steering mechanism. Lighting devices and reflectors. Tires. Horn. Windshield wiper or wipers. Rear-vision mirror or mirrors. Coupling devices. Wheels and rims. Emergency equipment.
This section is somewhat controversial among safety personnel and drivers. Drivers will argue the wording of the regulation implies they are not required to inspect these items each time before they drive, as long as they are “satisfied.”
A contra-argument is that these items are listed specifically for a reason. Each item is considered a critical item, essential for safe operations.
A much stronger argument, in my opinion, is that the federal regulations are the minimal safety requirements, and cannot cover every possible situation and driver. As such, more specific instruction is required via detailed policy and procedures.
While having detailed policy and procedures is a step skipped by many start-ups and smaller operations, having them in place:
- Ensures safer operations,
- Sets a minimum level of safety,
- Will reduce insurance premiums in the long run, if enforced.
Tip: It’s a fact: larger operations pay less (per unit) for insurance. One reason is that they have many more safety controls in place.
Each time a driver leaves an unattended tractor-trailer, they need to visually check the king-pin release before driving.
Some drivers also set the trailer brakes and do a tug-test or two. One retired Teamster said he would always set the trailer brakes and then backed into the trailer.
Thank you for reading this.