Truck Accidents Caused by Brake Failure and Improper Braking Technique

Truck Accidents Caused by Brake Failure and Improper Braking Technique

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Truck Accidents Caused by Brake Failure and Improper Braking Technique

Reliable brakes and proper braking technique are crucial to ensure the safe operation of large commercial trucks on our roadways.  Whether referred to as tractor trailers, semi-trucks, big rigs, 18 wheelers or other large trucks like tanker trucks, flatbeds, vehicle transporter, dump trucks, etc., the massive weight, size and length of such vehicles create a high risk for injury accidents if brakes are faulty or if truckers are not exercising reasonable braking techniques.  The results of such accidents can be devastating, and victims of such accidents are often entitled to compensation for damages resulting from such accidents.

The Federal Motor Carrier Act requires trucking companies make sure their trucks have working brakes (Section 393.48), adequate warning signals (Section 393.51), and brake performance systems (Section 393.52) among other things. Failure to abide by these federal laws could mean fines and penalties.  Noncompliance with these portions of the Federal Motor Carrier Act could mean that negligence of the trucker or trucking company is presumed in the event of a truck accident.

Truck Brake Failure Statistics

  • The most common reason for brake failure is overuse.
  • Brake problems cause 30% of all truck accidents in the United States.
  • Almost 50,000 commercial trucks have brake problems.
  • More than 25% of all trucks have brake problems.

Causes of Brake Failure

Defective or flawed brakes on commercial trucks is not uncommon.  There are three main reasons that braking systems fail:

  • The brakes were improperly designed for the purpose intended.
  • The brakes were defectively manufactured.
  • The brakes were improperly maintained.

Improperly Designed Brakes

A defectively designed brake is sometimes a cause in brake failure.  However, it is a rare occurrence because most brake designers rely on established guidelines with respect to braking systems.  But it can and does occur.  In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently posted information confirming complaints about dangerous brakes which had been manufactured by Haldex Commercial Vehicle Systems and were installed in 2015-2020 Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.  The problem appears to be that the brakes fail and cause the trucks to burst into flame.

Additionally, the NHTSA posted two recalls from Navistar of commercial trucks because of:  (1) brake systems that did not comply with of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 121 (“Air Brake Systems”) or (2) brakes where brake failures can cause the rig’s parking brake to engage without warning.

It is not clear from the complaints and recalls whether the problems were caused by design defects or manufacturing defects, or both.  But defective design can certainly occur.  When it contributes to an accident the company that designed the brakes can be liable to compensate victims of any accidents that occur as a result.  This is accomplished through a product liability claim or lawsuit.

Defectively Manufactured Brakes

As with defective brake design, a company who defectively manufactures or assembles the brakes can be held liable for injuries that arise due to an accident in which the brake system was a contributing causal factor.  Unlike a defective design argument, however, manufacturing defects may impact only a single set, or a small number of brakes, instead of an entire line of brakes.  A brake system may be manufactured defectively if the design is not followed or there were mistakes made while assembling the brake system.

Improper Maintenance

Improper maintenance is the primary cause of most truck brake failures. Commercial truck braking systems are complex with assemblies containing numerous components. As such, they should be inspected and serviced on a regular basis. In fact, Federal law requires truck owners to properly maintain the brakes and keep a log of all inspections and maintenance.  But truckers and trucking companies make money by delivering goods. They don’t make money when trucks are being serviced. . So, companies often delay maintenance issues as much as possible.

Some of the most common brake problems stemming from a lack of proper maintenance include:

  • Poorly adjusted brakes.
  • Overheated brakes.
    • Overheating causes the brake drums to expand. That pushes the rest of the brake out of adjustment. Therefore, stopping power is lessened. “Glazing” of the brake pads due to excessive use and overheating is a common brake problem. Heavy braking or improper brake application can raise temperatures beyond what the pads were designed for. This causes portions of the pad to melt and break down. Eventually, the pads harden, which lowers their coefficient of friction and makes them much less effective. When a pad has become “glazed” like this, it cannot be repaired. It must be replaced.
    • Worn brake components.
      • Grinding noises can often be an indicator of future brake failure. It is an indication that brake pads that are worn well beyond their preferred thickness.
    • Incorrect air pressure.
      • Truck brakes rely on air pressure to function properly. If that air supply is damaged, the truck’s brakes will not function properly.
    • Worn out tires may make the brake system work too hard, thus more likely to result in problems.
    • Hauling overloaded or heavy cargo may likewise cause brakes to give out prematurely.
    • Adjustment errors.  Modern truck brakes are equipped with automatic brake adjusters.  When truckers make too many manual adjustments it can cause their clutch mechanisms to give out. These manual adjustments can add up to the point where the truck no longer has adequate stopping power.

Improper Braking Technique

In addition to brake equipment failures accidents can happen when truckers fail to execute proper braking techniques. Driving a large commercial vehicle is considerably different than operating a typical passenger vehicle.  That is why truck drivers are required to undergo significant additional training and monitoring.  Braking a large truck is one of the most important lessons a trucker must learn to master. They must learn to use the brakes in such a way as to slow the speed of the truck without wearing them down to the point that they are inefficient.  Truckers must learn and use these techniques:

      • Apply the brakes for two minutes in order to measure the air pressure of the braking system;
      • Maintain pressure on brakes when the anti-lock system is engaged in icy conditions.
      • Put the transmission is in neutral when the parking brake is engaged;
      • Apply steady brake pressure when the anti-lock system is engaged;
      • Use traction control when weather conditions justify it;
      • Watch the gauge indicating the proper functioning of the air system;

A truck driver must understand when to pump the brakes and when to apply steady pressure on the brakes.

Often truckers cause accidents when they fail to understand how much stopping time is required to prevent a collision. Drivers should also inspect their loads to appreciate the dangers of shifting loads.  The weight and nature of the load may also require consideration of the following:

      • How hydroplaning might result from improper application of brakes;
      • The necessity of downshifting to slow the speed of the truck;
      • How a runaway truck may result from improper braking;
      • How braking might result in the trailer swinging to the side of the cab, causing a jackknife or rollover accident; and
      • Braking too hard may result in a shifting in the load and a spillage of the cargo

Proper braking technique also involves understanding how to navigate down a steep incline, including:

      • Selecting the right gear to travel down the slope;
      • Allowing natural acceleration up to a maximum safe speed;
      • Applying the brakes to slow the truck by five miles per hour and continuing this process down the entire hill; and
      • Using the intermittent application of brakes to distribute energy between all the brakes.


Liability, Damages, and Injuries

Depending on the circumstances the truck driver, the brake manufacturer or component assembler, the brake designer, maintenance facilities and/or other parties, may alone, or in any combination, be to blame for a truck accident involving brake failure or improper braking techniques.

Many truck accident victims suffer severe injuries that include:

  • Brain trauma / brain injury
  • Loss of a limb
  • Fractured bones
  • Paralysis
  • Spine injuries
  • Severe burns
  • Wrongful death

When individuals are killed or seriously injured in a trucking accident, personal injury claims can be filed against the responsible parties for the following:

  • Negligence
  • Reckless driving
  • Product liability
  • Wrongful Death

If you or a loved one was the victim of a trucking accident caused by faulty truck brake systems or inattentive or negligent driver the experienced truck accident lawyers at VanDerGinst Law will be able to assist you in receiving proper compensation, which may include money for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, disability, and other damages.

Click here or call 800-960-8529 for a FREE, no obligation consultation.  Call today

Speak With Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today

The Importance of Legal Representation

If you are injured in a truck accident, you deserve fair and just compensation. Though money won’t take away your pain, it can help you get the care you need, or assist family for any loss they suffer due to the accident victim’s injuries or death.

Truck accidents are complex and may involve multiple parties subject to different rules and regulations. An experienced personal injury attorney can fight for your rights and make sure that all parties are held responsible. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident involving a drunk driver or a driver under the influence of drug, the truck accident lawyers of VanDerGinst Law can help.  Call 800-960-8529 or click here for a FREE, no obligation consultation.




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