Trucking accidents happen for many reasons, causing significant damage and injuries when they do. One cause of these incidents that trucking accident attorneys often see, is mechanical failure, or more specifically, brake failure. Today, brake failure is definitely the most common cause of a mechanical breakdown that results in trucking accidents, and for a number of significant reasons.
Truck Braking Systems Are Complex
To stop 80,000 pounds traveling at highway speed, trucks must have a heavy-duty braking system that can handle the job. While lighter vehicles have hydraulic brakes, tractor trailers have air brakes, which are more suited to stop that much weight. Unfortunately, air brake systems are much more complicated than hydraulic brakes, and also less effective in comparison. These braking systems include an air compressor mounted in the engine compartment, numerous air tanks, and various hoses and valves, all of which connect to actuators on each wheel to control cam drum brakes. Basically, there are many more parts that must be in proper adjustment, or that can fail, at any given moment.
The Issue of Truck Brake Adjustment
Cam drums alone incorporate many parts that are activated by air pressure to apply the brakes. This makes these brake systems even more complicated. This part in particular requires careful adjustment, and must be frequently checked to ensure it is still properly adjusted. These adjustments must be performed on a regular basis by a mechanic, and done by hand, leaving a lot of room for error. Studies on vehicles that have pulled over due to brake problems reveal that most of the issues relate to brakes being out of adjustment. Some newer trucks have what are termed "automatic slack adjusters." These adjusters prevent the brakes from coming out of adjustment; however, due to reliability issues, many truck owners have not purchased these expensive devices. This means the percentage of trucks on the highways today, with maladjusted brakes, is high.
Why Truck Brake Adjustment Is Significant
Besides the obvious fact that stopping nearly 50 tons of weight traveling at highway speed requires strong brakes, when air brakes are out of adjustment, they do not function properly. The individual brake units do not work as fast as they should, and sometimes not at all if enough out of adjustment. This increases braking time and puts more load on the brakes that are working. When this happens, brake fade (a condition where the working brakes heat up so much they stop working altogether) is much more likely to occur, as well. Between a lack of stopping power, and the possibility of experiencing brake fade, trucks with poorly adjusted brakes are much more likely to be involved in trucking accidents.
Given the complexity of braking systems, and how many trucks are found to be out of adjustment, it is no wonder that brake failure is the leading cause of mechanical failure, resulting in trucking accidents. Because of this, trucking accident attorneys recommend that all drivers proceed with caution when driving next to big rigs on the highway. It is also essential that truck drivers do whatever necessary to keep their brakes in proper, working order, thereby helping to prevent the possibility of a serious accident!
Pearland, Pasadena, Webster, League City, Webser, Manvel, Alvin, Friendswood, La Marque, Texas City, and Galveston
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190