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Commonwealth v. SMP, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 18, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
SMP, INC., Appellant

Submitted: January 13, 2014.

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Schuylkill County, Criminal Division, No(s): CP-54-SA-0000118-2012. Before DOLBIN, J.

Kenneth A. Olsen, Lebanon, New Jersey, for appellant.

Thomas J. Campion, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Pottsville, for Commonwealth, appellee.

BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., OTT, J., and JENKINS, J. OPINION BY LAZARUS, J.

OPINION

LAZARUS, J.

SMP, Inc. (hereinafter " SMP" ) appeals from the judgment of sentence imposed in the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County after its conviction for violating the Vehicle Code by operating a commercial vehicle with a hazardous braking system.[1] Upon review, we reverse.

The charge in this matter arose from an incident in which a commercial tractor-trailer owned by SMP crashed, leading to the death of the driver. State Trooper Joseph Aponick arrived on the scene first. After realizing the crash involved a fatality,

Page 235

Trooper Aponick requested State Trooper Joseph DeLash be dispatched to the scene to complete an investigation. Trooper DeLash is certified as a North American Standard Level 1 Inspector by the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Motor Carriers. After arriving on the scene, Trooper DeLash spoke with Trooper Aponick who relayed the information he had collected from his own investigation and from speaking with an eyewitness to the crash. Trooper DeLash did a " walk through" of the scene, and then began his physical inspection of the vehicle.

Trooper DeLash first examined visible parts and accessories before moving to the brake system. Typically, the tractor's own air supply would be used to fill the brake line for testing. However, because the air supply to the brake line was damaged in the crash, Trooper DeLash was forced to alter the inspection process by using an air supply from the tow truck and connecting it into the tractor's system. After attaching the auxiliary air source, Trooper DeLash discovered severe leakage in the brake line, also caused by the crash, which forced him to again depart from the federal standards, and use clamps to close off the leaks.

During his inspection, Trooper DeLash discovered the brake on the right hand side of the first axle was beyond the readjustment limits provided in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Procedure out-of-service criteria. Where a brake is outside the readjustment limits, it is considered defective under Pennsylvania law.

Using the auxiliary air supply system from the tow truck, Trooper DeLash checked the remaining brakes. During his inspection, neither of the brakes on the fifth axle moved. Trooper DeLash also deemed these brakes nonfunctional and defective based on the out-of-service criteria.

Out of the ten brakes on the tractor trailer, Trooper DeLash deemed three of the brakes defective under the out-of-service criteria. Based on this determination, Trooper DeLash issued SMP a citation for violating ...


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