Thousands of potentially dangerous tractor-trailers pulled off local roads

by: Tina Terry Updated:

Zachary Hooker knows how dangerous it can be to share the road with large trucks.

He was on I-77 this summer when a massive tire popped off a tractor-trailer and landed right in his path.

[READ: Rogue wheel flung from tractor-trailer causes 3-vehicle accident]

“As soon as I hit it, I went airborne so all four wheels went off the ground and when I landed I lost control,” Hooker said.

Investigators never found the truck.

“Our job is to take unsafe commercial motor vehicles off the roadway,” Sgt. K.E. Moore with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

Moore is with the state’s motor carrier safety program and said officials inspect thousands of large trucks every year in the state.

Some of the inspections are random and take place inside a multimillion-dollar weigh station on I-85 in Gaston County. Inspectors can go underneath trucks to make sure they’re safe.

During this fiscal year, inspectors examined nearly 9,700 large trucks in nine Charlotte-area counties. A report showed nearly 40 percent had to be taken off the road.

The previous fiscal year showed nearly 45 percent were grounded.

[LINK: Large truck crash facts]

One of the top violations is related to drivers and logging the amount of time they drive and work, rules designed to keep them alert.

“If you’re driving an 80,000-pound vehicle down the road, you’re tired and you can’t maintain lane control, you’re looking at a disaster,” Moore said.

Other violations that inspectors found included broken brake lights, turn signals and badly-worn tires.

“That is very dangerous. That just means tires have been worn, driven on entirely too much, “ Moore said.

But while the number of violations seems high, Moore said they’ve declined.

“The federal government has put a safety score in place to where companies and drivers have to be more cautious because as they get more violations, their insurance score slowly raises that safety score, or it can decrease if they have a good safety score,” Moore said.

Moore is also warning truck companies that poor maintenance isn’t worth the penalties or risk to drivers.

“If you’re involved in a major collision you’re gonna be sued and you’re gonna lose everything,” Moore said.

“I could have died because of this accident. It’s not a joking matter when it deals with somebody’s life,” Hooker said.

Truck companies are also required by federal law to have an annual inspection, much like the ones that are required on passenger vehicles. The federal government said companies that fail to have their annual inspections can face fines up to $14,000.

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