Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In order for that much mass to safely move down the freeway, it is vital that trucking brake systems be properly maintained. A properly maintained brake system not only ensures that the truck can stop quickly, but also that it can do so in a controlled manner. It is the legal responsibility of the truck owner and operator to ensure that the brake system meets federal regulations and that all parts of the brake system are maintained or replaced on schedule. Negligence in this area could lead to catastrophic results.
Deficient Brake Maintenance
A faulty brake system is a leading cause of truck accidents. Most people assume that a faulty brake system means a catastrophic failure of one of the key brake components; however, this is normally not the case. Brake systems are designed in a way so that a complete failure is an extremely rare occurrence. In truth, brake failures are usually not failures at all; the problems almost always lie in improper or deficient maintenance of the brakes.
Improper brake maintenance can lead to the following:
- Brake imbalance
- Thinning brake pads
- Brakes permeated by grease
- Worn out brakes due to worn out tires
Deficiently maintained brakes can go unnoticed for a long period of time because they can still provide low levels of braking. This allows drivers to perform basic braking functions such as stopping at a stop sign or red light without any problems. However, when the driver is faced with an emergency, he is usually unable to stop quickly enough.
If brakes are imbalanced due to a lack of system maintenance, a commercial truck has a greater chance of losing control. Brake imbalance causes some brakes to work harder than others, which can lead to instability. In emergency situations, a commercial truck with imbalanced breaks will likely jackknife.
Brake Safety Week
Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts a week-long safety campaign in which local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials throughout the United States and Canada perform roadside inspections to find commercial trucks with brake system violations or brakes that are not adjusted correctly. Since the program began, they have inspected over 3.8 million brake systems. Last year, 18,817 vehicles were inspected throughout the U.S. and Canada and 12.3% of those vehicles were placed out of service for brake-related violations. Although this doesn’t begin to cover all of the commercial trucks throughout North America, it is a start and a step to safer driving and to better brake system maintenance enforcement.
Truck Accident Investigation
Because deficiently maintained braking systems are a common cause of truck accidents, the brakes should be investigated as soon as possible after the accident has occurred. Deficiencies with the brake system may be difficult for a common person to uncover, so the inspection should be done by a skilled technician who has experience with accident reconstruction. Our Houston truck accident lawyers work with some of the most experienced accident investigators to determine the root cause of the accident and what role a faulty brake system may have played.