According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), trucks account for about 7% of road traffic but account for 12.6% of annual traffic accident deaths. What these disproportionate numbers tell us is that an accident involving a truck is more likely to result in a fatality than a crash involving cars. Based on these findings, it is imperative that truck drivers and trucking companies take every precaution in maintaining their vehicles properly to avoid unnecessary and preventable accidents. One of the essential tools for preventing truck accidents is a truck’s brake system. Unfortunately, brakes do suffer wear and tear over time, which can result in brake failure, which is why proper maintenance and testing is so necessary.
Facts About Big Trucks & Brakes
Trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded; this means they take longer to come to a full stop. When a regular passenger car is traveling at 55 miles per hour, it takes about 135 feet to come to a complete stop. However, a fully-loaded semi-truck can take as much as 200 feet to stop. If the truck’s brakes are “hot”—meaning the driver has been using them for a while—the commercial vehicle may take up to 450 feet to come to a halt. These variances in slowing distances may seem inconsequential, but 75 feet can make a life or death difference in an accident.
Brake Maintenance & Accident Prevention
As mentioned, truck stopping distances are longer than that of a smaller vehicle. Therefore, any wear or tear on the brakes adds to the time it takes to stop a truck. That is why brake maintenance is so essential for commercial truck drivers. Even if it is only a matter of feet, good brakes help truck drivers anticipate stop distances for their vehicles, which keeps other motorists safe. Additionally, brakes that are up to code can help truck businesses save money from costly accidents and citations. In fact, it is the legal responsibility of the truck owner and operator to ensure that the brake system meets federal regulations and that they maintain all parts of the system as stated by law.
What Are Regular Performance-Based Brake Tests (PBBT)?
Unfortunately, a faulty brake system is a leading cause of truck accidents. Most people assume that a defective brake system translates to a catastrophic failure of a vital component; however, this typically is not the case because of system manufacturing. In truth, most brake issues are caused by improper or deficient maintenance of 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
For this reason, appropriate maintenance of a commercial vehicle should and must include regular performance-based brake tests (PBBT). A PBBT quantitatively assesses the braking performance of a vehicle, directly measuring the amount of force the brake applies at each wheel and axle, as well as the force applied to the vehicle as a whole.
These tests also assess a truck's overall braking capability through stopping performance tests, which are designed to determine what a vehicle's stopping distance is under different conditions. Regular PBBTs are conducted with specialized equipment which detects most brake problems. Therefore, truck companies should perform these tests in addition to truck lot brake-performance evaluations.
Brake Safety Week
Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) 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, 7,698 vehicles were examined throughout the U.S. and Canada, and 14% of those vehicles (1,064) received out of service brake-related violations. Although this does not begin to cover all of the commercial trucks throughout North America, it is a start and a step to safer driving and better brake system maintenance enforcement.
Faulty Brakes May Be a Factor in Your Accident
If a truck driver or trucking company does not routinely conduct appropriate maintenance on a vehicle's braking system, and that vehicle is involved in a severe accident, both the driver and the company may be held liable for injuries they cause other motorists. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney. Faulty brakes may be involved, and time is of the essence in a truck accident investigation.
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