Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require 18-wheelers to have cab guards, also called headache racks, to prevent shifting cargo from contacting the cab of heavy trucks. The problem with many cab guards is that they are designed of welded heat-treated aluminum which results in a weakening of the cab guard over time. The weakening of the cab guard due to fatigue stress is relatively unknown to drivers. Many welding requirements established by national organizations are not followed by cab guard manufacturers.
The failure to follow such guidelines results in poor welds, poor quality control, and poorly-designed cab guards for their intended purpose of protecting truck occupants. In addition, cab guards are rarely tested to determine how the product will perform in realistic accident conditions. As long as the cab guard complies with federal standards, manufacturers claim the cab guard is reasonably safe. The unreasonably dangerous design of the cab guard combined with the manufacturer’s failure to test the cab guard under realistic accident conditions too often result in a cab structure that will disintegrate around a driver during a wreck, leaving very little chance of survival.
Our firm pursues claims against cab guard manufacturers under a number of legal theories. First, the Plaintiff can allege design defect in the manufacturer’s choice and usage of aluminum since the material fails when put to its intended use of protecting occupants from shifting cargo. An alternative design would be to use steel since steel will bend and stretch, unlike aluminum, which breaks when not properly engineered. In addition, welded aluminum products are susceptible to fatigue, whereas, welded steel products have nearly an infinite fatigue life. Second, the Plaintiff can challenge the manufacturer’s use of non-certified welders in welding the aluminum cab guard. In many cases, cab guard manufacturers train welders on the job instead of hiring welders who have already been certified even though aluminum welding is more difficult than welding steel. Third, the Plaintiff can challenge the manufacturer’s failure to follow the American Welding Society’s specific standards for welding aluminum. Finally, the Plaintiff can allege that the manufacturer was negligent in testing its product.
Lawyers in our firm have handled successfully several defective cab guard cases. Currently, our firm is working on a case involving a single vehicle accident involving an 18-wheeler with a heat-treated aluminum cab guard. When the 18-wheeler was forced off the road, the cargo of logs shifted forward, impacting the cab guard. The cab guard failed and allowed the cargo to crush the driver’s cab. As a result of the defective cab guard, the driver suffered injuries that caused his death. If the cab guard had been made of steel and not heat-treated aluminum, the cab guard would have been more flexible and prevented the rush of cargo into the cab.
If you would like more information regarding cab guards, please contact Ben Baker, Cole Portis or Stephanie Stephens at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com; Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com; or Stephanie.Stephens@beasleyallen.com.
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