Aftermarket Alterations Defeat Important Safety System
Case Analysis: Most commercial tractor-trailers have standardized fittings that connect the tractor’s air and electrical systems to the trailer. These hoses, lines, and fittings are typically located at the rear of the tractor cab and often require the operator to climb behind the cab to make the necessary connections. Various industry guidelines and standards prescribe the type, location, and geometry of these cabs, and rear-of-cab, ingress and egress systems and components, and require three points of contact between the operator and the vehicle.
Expert Analysis: The operator of one such tractor-trailer fell and was injured while climbing behind his cab to make his air and electric connections. A vehicle inspection revealed that the tractor had been modified with an additional cargo box set atop the original rear-of-cab deck plating. While such modifications are not necessarily inappropriate, this particular installation altered the original deck access pathway and hand/foothold such that the three-point access rule was violated.
Design and maintenance standards, as well as recommended practices from the American Trucking Association, were utilized to demonstrate the standard of care required when modifying ingress and egress systems; thus providing the basis for the theory of liability against the defendant cargo box installer.