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18 wheels, zero brakes: The frightening reality of semi-truck brake failures

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Truck Accidents |

Due to the significant size and weight of semi-trucks, they also pose unique risks on the road. One critical safety issue is brake failure, which can lead to severe accidents with catastrophic consequences. What should drivers know about the risks of brake failure when sharing the road with a big rig truck?

The high risk of brake failure in truck accidents

Brake failure is a leading cause of truck accidents. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that truck brake issues are a factor in around 30 percent of accidents.

The momentum of a fully loaded semi-truck makes it difficult to stop quickly. Without fully functional brakes, the stopping distance increases dramatically, raising the risk of an accident. When a truck’s braking system fails, the driver may lose control, leading to collisions with other vehicles or even causing the truck to overturn.

What causes brake failure?

Brake failure in semi-trucks can occur for several reasons, including:

  • Improper maintenance –Trucking companies and drivers are responsible for ensuring that their vehicles are in good working condition. Sometimes, though, negligence or cost-cutting measures may lead them to overlook this necessary maintenance.
  • Overheating – Frequent braking, especially when descending long, steep grades, can cause the brakes to overheat. Overheating makes brakes less effective and lead to failure.
  • Defective parts – In some cases, the brakes themselves may be faulty due to manufacturing defects. Such defects can lead to sudden and unexpected brake failure.
  • Incorrect loading – Improperly loaded or overweight trucks can put additional strain on the brake system, making it more prone to failure.
  • Lack of inspections – The law requires regular inspections of semi-trucks to identify potential issues with braking systems before they lead to failure. Skipping these inspections increases the risk of brake-related accidents.

Unfortunately, brake issues are surprisingly common on commercial motor vehicles on our roadways. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) found that 12.6 percent of vehicles inspected during their annual Brake Safety Week had defects or maintenance issues that should have put them out of service.

Truck accidents caused by brake failure can be complex, involving multiple parties such as the truck driver, trucking company, maintenance providers, and parts manufacturers. However, with the right guidance and an understanding of their rights, people injured in these collisions can hold them accountable and get the support they need to recover.