Every day on our roadways, accidents happen. Although safety groups are continually searching for ways to reduce danger, people are still seriously injured and killed. Accidents involving commercial trucks are some of the most fatal. Research shows that many of these crashes could have been avoided with proper maintenance of the vehicle. Brakes, in particular, play a significant role in contributing to these serious crashes. This year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) dedicated an entire week to brake safety. Their research revealed that brake-related violations made up the largest percentage of violations in roadside inspections.
Why Brakes Fail
Regular and proper maintenance of brakes is essential, but sometimes this maintenance does not happen. Experts note that even with problems, brakes can often still maintain some function. This means that a truck would typically be able to slow and stop with general traffic flow despite some mechanical deficiency. However, in an emergency, a greater level of force is needed to stop much more quickly. Deficient brakes in this situation cannot respond properly, often resulting in a crash. Poorly maintained or damaged brakes can also lead to fires and send trucks out of control.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cited a number of brake problems in its 2015 list of most frequent out-of-service violations. These violations included issues concerning:
- Brake hoses or tubing
- Brake adjustment
- Inoperative or defective brakes
- Older brake systems not updated to current standards
Other common causes of brake system problems not listed by the FMCSA study include brake imbalance, air system pressure problems, and broken brake linings and drums.
In some cases, even when carriers and drivers recognize a problem, they fail to properly fix the issue. One example of this occurs when repairs are needed on just one brake. Experts say that if repairs are made to one brake, the same should be done to the matching brake on the opposite side of the axle. Some in the field even say the same repairs should be done to every brake. However, this does not always happen as owners and operators hesitate to work on functioning brakes. The one repaired brake is then working at a higher level than the others. Over time, as brakes are maintained one by one, a truck is left with a system of brakes operating at different levels based on different service times. This creates a brake imbalance that can lead to accidents.
Improper maintenance does not appropriately correct a problem with the brakes and leaves the vehicle vulnerable to issues on the road.
When Drivers and Carriers Are to Blame
In some cases, carriers and drivers are negligent with their vehicles, heightening dangers on the road. This negligence can occur for the following reasons:
- Failure to maintain the brakes. By law, truck drivers are required to inspect their vehicles every day and properly fix any problem before driving. Truckers may skip parts or all of the inspection and repairs to get back on the road more quickly.
- Improper loading. Loading the cargo unevenly or not securing shifting cargo can put uneven pressure on the brake system, causing it to overheat and fail.
- Depowering the front brakes. It’s been reported that owners or drivers deliberately unhook the front brakes to save costs. The truck then relies solely on the rear brakes to slow and stop.
When Manufacturers Are Careless
Brake manufacturers must also adhere to federal regulations. A vehicle must be able to slow down to a stop from 20 miles per hour at a certain rate and develop a specific braking force, both based on the size of the vehicle. When companies produce defective brakes or brakes that do not follow safety standards, they can be held responsible. In some cases, the government has required manufacturers to issue a recall of defective or unsafe brakes.
When owners and operators take the time to properly inspect and maintain their vehicles, especially their brakes, serious road accidents can be avoided. But sometimes they’re negligent, and those who share the roadways are injured or killed. If you or someone you love suffered injuries caused by deficient brakes, you may be entitled to make a claim. Contact the experienced legal team at Tapella Law for a no-obligation case analysis at (217) 394-5885.