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How Brake Issues On Trucks Can Lead to Accidents

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, brake-related issues were the second-most-common cause of all trucking accidents in 2017. Truck brakes don’t function in the same way as those on smaller automobiles, and these differences can sometimes prove deadly. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, you may deserve compensation for your injuries. Two of the foremost truck accident attorneys in the Northeastern United States, Daniel Munley and Marion Munley, are part of the Munley Law truck litigation team. Our truck accident lawyers know that it is crucial to identify the major cause of a truck accident in order to prove liability on the part of the truck driver, manufacturer, or trucking company. 

Truck accidents can be hard to analyze due to their numerous variables. However, Munley Law has more than 55 years of experience in delivering stellar results to clients who were injured in complicated truck accidents. We work hard to get to the bottom of each and every case. If you suspect that a brake issue was a contributing factor in your truck accident case, read on to see how brakes can affect trucks and cause accidents. 

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How Truck Brakes Work

Due to their immense size, brakes on tractor-trailers function differently than a smaller vehicle’s brakes. In a smaller automobile, brakes rely on brake fluid which flows through the vehicle’s system. These are known as hydraulic brakes. 

Truck brakes, though, depend on air pressure that comes from air tanks, filled by a compressor. When a driver presses on the brake pedal, air is released, which causes the vehicle to slow down. When the brake pedal is released, the compressors rebuild the air pressure in the air tanks. 

Problems come into play when the compressor cannot keep up with the amount of air being released. For example, if a truck driver overuses the brake pedal, the available pressurized air may be used up, causing the brakes to malfunction. Let’s consider some other causes of brake issues. 

What Can Go Wrong

Due to the unique nature of air-brake systems in large vehicles, proper handling is essential in order to prevent accidents. There are several ways in which failure to care for the air-brake system can cause a severe crash. 

 These three things may cause brake issues on trucks which can contribute to an accident:

    1. Driver’s failure to do a pre-trip brake inspection: According to federal law, before each and every trip, a driver should inspect his vehicle. Inspections must include checking and documenting the condition of the service brakes, brake connections, and parking brake. Neglecting these inspections can lead to brake malfunction and subsequent accidents. 
    2. Driver’s improper driving while going downhill: This is one of the most common ways situations in which brakes malfunction, and we will explain why in the following section of this page. However, if a driver fails to drive slow enough while going downhill, it may cause him to use excess braking. Excessive braking can result in serious malfunction and dangerous situations. 
    3. Poorly maintained equipment: Trucking companies have an obligation to keep their trucks in good working order. However, some companies fail to maintain their fleet properly, allowing serious mechanical issues to go unnoticed until it is too late. 

     

    The Dangers of Traveling Downhill

    Semi-trucks are immensely heavy. When traveling down a hill, these vehicles may become dangerous when their brakes are not in perfect working order. When the truck driver loses the ability to stop, the chance of a serious accident rises exponentially. 

     

    If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident with a tractor-trailer that lost control while going down a hill, you may have the right to receive compensation for your injuries. It is important to determine why the truck was unable to stop, whether this was due to one of the four different kinds of “brake fade,” and who was at fault. 

    Inability to stop

    According to the laws of physics, the speed and course of heavier objects in motion are more difficult to alter. Due to the large size and immense weight of semi-trucks, they are harder to stop than the average vehicle. Add to this the increased speed that occurs when traveling downhill, and you can see how an incredible amount of braking power is needed in order to control or stop these large vehicles. 

    The pressure and heat applied to the brake system can cause brakes to fail. This condition is known as “brake fade.” Runaway tractor-trailers experiencing brake fade can cause devastating truck accidents and collisions.  

    Brake fade

    The condition of brake fade refers to the loss of effectiveness of the brakes on a tractor-trailer. Brake fade can occur in three different ways. 

        • Friction fade Friction fade is the reduction of friction between the brake pad and drum. This can occur if the brake parts were not properly produced, or if the pads do not correctly fit the drums or were poorly manufactured or maintained. 
        • Mechanical fade When brake drums are exposed to intense friction and extreme heat, they may expand. This expansion causes the brake pad to lose effectiveness since it cannot create the proper friction to slow the vehicle.
        • Domino fade If any of the brakes on a semi-truck need to be adjusted or the truck’s load is not distributed properly, it can overload some of the vehicle’s brakes taking the bulk of the load and cause them to fail. The remaining brakes will likely become overheated due to overuse. This is the domino effect that causes multiple brakes to fail.

    Who may be at fault

    In a truck accident case, there is often more than one contributing factor. Yet, the more well-trained and experienced a truck driver is, the more likely he or she is to do a thorough pre-drive inspection and handle downhills in the correct manner. A well-trained driver knows what to do in order to drive as safely as possible down hills and mountains. 

    Some trucking companies provide little training for their employees. The combination of a poorly maintained truck, a negligent trucking company, and an inexperienced driver can prove to be extremely dangerous to other drivers on the road. 

    What Brake Issues on Trucks Mean For Your Case

    Large truck accidents can cause catastrophic amounts of property damage along with grave injuries. If you have experienced the adverse effects of a truck accident, you shouldn’t have to fight your case alone. Tractor-trailer brakes work in a specific way and the laws pertaining to truckers can be difficult to understand. You need someone who has experience with these types of accident cases to get to the bottom of what led up to your accident.

    At Munley Law, we know that in order for you to move on after a serious truck accident, you need justice. We have more than 55 years of experience in helping trucking accident victims get the compensation they deserve, and we want to help you too. Contact us today for a free consultation on your truck crash personal injury case.  

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