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Nearly 800 Commercial Trucks Taken Off the Road for Brake Issues

A tractor-trailer speeds down a highway.

The results of an unannounced "brake safety day" highlight serious concerns.

The brakes are one of the most important safety features of any vehicle. Being able to stop to avoid a collision can be the difference between life and death, especially at highway speeds. And the larger the vehicle, the more essential it is that the brakes be in good working order.

That's why a recent report from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), a trucking industry safety organization, is so alarming. In April, the CVSA inspected nearly 7,000 commercial vehicles across North America. The inspectors found brake-related critical vehicle inspection items on about one in nine of the inspected vehicles — that's a total of 773 vehicles that were taken off the road until repairs could be made.

Given the number of trucks we all see on highways like I-69 and I-469 every day, the idea that one-ninth of them might have critical brake issues is cause for alarm. These results highlight the need for the trucking industry to make safety, and in particular brake safety, a top priority.

What types of brake safety issues did the inspectors find?

The CVSA inspectors classified the brake issues they found into several categories. The top three were:

  • 20% Brakes Violations —these violations meant that at least 20% of the brakes on a given vehicle were defective. Examples of such defects included missing brakes, audible air leaks, brakes out of adjustment, and defective brake pads or linings.
  • Other Brakes Violations — this is a broad category that includes worn brake lines, broken brake drums, inoperative tractor protection systems, inoperative low air warning devices, air leaks, hydraulic fluid leaks, and more.
  • Steering Brake Violations — this category included steering brake axle violations such as inoperative brakes, mismatched brake chambers, mismatched slack adjuster length, and defective linings.

How do brakes contribute to commercial truck accidents?

While the leading cause of truck accidents is driver error, mechanical issues also contribute to many crashes, and brake issues are perhaps the single most dangerous mechanical problem. Some of the ways bad brakes can contribute to a truck accident include:

  • Rear-end crashes: even with good brakes, a semi-truck that weighs up to 80,000 pounds has a much longer stopping distance than a car, SUV, or motorcycle. With defective brakes, a trucker may not be able to stop in time to avoid rear-ending the smaller vehicle, especially if visibility is poor or the driver is not paying attention.
  • Jackknifing: a jackknife accident occurs when the cab stops too quickly and the trailer is pushed up against the cab, folding against it into a jackknife shape. Defective brakes on the trailer increase the risk of jackknifing.
  • Rollovers: commercial trucks have two brakes on each axle, so there are many distinct places where a brake problem can occur. If the brake issues happen to be concentrated on one side of the truck, then the brakes may stop one side faster than the other, leading to a loss of stability and a possible rollover.

Brake issues are dangerous under any circumstances, but they are particularly deadly when combined with inexperienced drivers. Inexperienced or poorly trained truckers often "ride the brakes" unnecessarily, which can create unnecessary wear and tear and render the brakes unable to stop the truck when they're really needed. It also takes skill and experience to apply the brakes properly in emergency scenarios and take maneuvers at an appropriate speed and following distance to avoid a collision.

If you were injured by a commercial truck, our attorneys can help.

The findings of the CVSA Brake Safety Day highlight the need for experienced representation in trucking accident cases. You may not know why your accident happened, but you certainly know what happened. Now, you're in pain, unable to work, and looking at an uncertain future. Our truck accident attorneys can investigate to get to the bottom of why the crash happened and hold the responsible parties accountable, whether that's the truck driver, trucking company, manufacturer, or another party.

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident, put a fighter on your side. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced Indiana truck accident attorney at Boughter Sinak, LLC today.

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