An article published yesterday in the Washington Post reported that since early last year the federal government has been “investigating a potentially high rate of trailer separations.” The research focuses specifically on a particular type of trailer hitch used on semi-trailer trucks, known as the “Ultra LT.” According to the paper the Ultra LT is manufactured by Alabama-based Fontaine Fifth Wheel.
“The Ultra LT could be in use on as many as 6,000 semis across the nation,” the Post reports. According to the newspaper the company is cooperating with the government investigation.
This potentially unsafe product, and the Oregon truck accidents it may lead to, is a cause for special worry because it has been nearly 18 months since the Ohio accident that set the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation in motion.
The government’s slow action is especially worrisome since the NHTSA investigated these exact hitches in 2011. At that time the “NHTSA found 12 complaints about the hitches, plus one crash with no injuries.” Surely, however, a repeat occurrence of the alleged problem should have attracted attention at the agency. Indeed, the newspaper notes that “the safety agency could face criticism for failing to analyze its own data to uncover a safety problem – the same failure that delayed recalls of defective General Motors ignition switches and faulty Takata air bags.” The NHTSA says it acted properly, according to the Post.
As an Oregon and Washington truck accident victims’ lawyer I will be watching this case closely. As I have written on many previous occasions, accidents involving large trucks – semis in particular – are a major problem on Oregon’s roads. We are a largely rural state with vast forests and a trucking industry that serves our timber industry – often using dangerous mountain roads in the process. All Oregonians have a right to expect that the trucks with which they share the road are properly inspected and that the government, in turn, does its job in setting necessary safety standards.
Washington Post: Tractor-trailer hitches could be faulty, 6000 may be in use