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How Often Are Commercial Truck Accidents Caused By Brake Failure?

Posted in Brake Failure on January 17, 2018

Large trucks are notoriously bad at making short stops. Federal law permits big rigs to weigh as much as 80,000 pounds – about 20 times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. It takes a lot of stopping power to halt 80,000 pounds, especially if the driver is speeding. Sometimes, brakes may give out due to a defective vehicle part or poor truck maintenance. Get the facts on brake failure-related trucking accidents, and who may be liable for damages.

Big Rig Brake Failure Statistics

Large commercial trucks use different brake systems than your average car. Passenger vehicles use hydraulic brakes, while tractor-trailers use air brakes. Air brakes operate differently but are typically safer because they can’t leak fluid. Air break systems use compressed air to pump the brakes when the driver hits the pedal. There is a delay from the time the driver hits the pedal to when the truck stops, which is why it’s important not to swerve in front of a large truck and slam on your brakes.

In most truck accident studies, researchers lump brake failures in with “vehicle component failure or degradation.” One National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that about 2% of truck crashes, or nearly 44,000 accidents, in 2015 came down to parts failures. Brake-related problems accounted for 22% of vehicle component failure accidents. This means brake failure played a role in about 10,000 accidents in 2015. Brake failures can include brakes that are poorly maintained, out of adjustment, or otherwise not working properly.

Getting to the bottom of a brake-failure related accident takes investigating the state of the braking system, and then identifying who is responsible for the condition. The driver, the cargo-loading company, the trucking company, truck owner-operator, and the brake manufacturer could all face liability for brake failure. Federal laws impose strict regulations for the maintenance and upkeep of commercial truck brakes. If the company in charge of maintaining the fleet fails to abide by these rules, resulting in harmful brake failure, it could face liability for injuries.

How Trucking Companies Should Maintain Brakes

The Code of Federal Regulations Section 571.121 establishes standards by which all trucking companies must maintain their braking systems. There are numerous performance standards regarding how quickly air brakes must be able to stop vehicles of certain sizes and weights. Stopping distance requirements for heavy tractor-trailers change according to weight and whether or not the truck is carrying cargo. In general, large trucks must be able to generate a certain amount of braking force based on the weight of the truck.

To keep air brake systems in proper working condition, companies or individuals in charge of truck maintenance should inspect the brakes every day, order repairs as necessary, and replace brake pads when they wear down past the point of providing safe stopping capabilities. This point will depend upon how many miles the truck has traveled, as well as the braking techniques of the driver. Generally, a big rig requires brake services every 250,000 to 300,000 miles. Regular inspections are critical for safe brake system maintenance. If a company fails to inspect, repair, clean, maintain, and replace brakes as described by federal law, resulting in a crash, the company could be liable for damages.

If you or loved one was injured or killed in a truck accident because of faulty truck brakes, we can help! Contact the Georgia truck accident lawyers at Butler Prather LLP for a free consultation about your case today! (800) 242-2962