Causes of 18-Wheeler Trucking Accidents: Brake Failure
After Tires, Brakes Are the Most Common Failures On 18-wheelers
Tractor-trailer trucks can weigh over 70,000 pounds when fully loaded.
A vehicle of this weight would be almost impossible to stop if it was
traveling at normal highway speed (55 mph) on a level road bed, much less
on a twisting mountain road typical of those encountered in the western
United States. In order to operate safely, large trucks are forced to
rely in part on air brakes to control their speed.
Air brakes rely on air pressure rather than the hydraulic fluid used in
the braking systems of cars and lighter trucks. Since air brakes have
more components to store compressed air as well as to regulate the flow
of that air, it means that there are more components that can fail and
cause a failure of the truck’s braking system. Responsibility for
the safe operation of an 18-wheeler’s braking system is usually
shared by four groups:
- the brake manufacturer
- the manufacturer of the tractor and trailer
- the shop that installs and services the brakes
- the driver
The Brake Manufacturer
As a rule, brake manufacturers produce high-quality brakes and brake system
components. There are times, however, when a design or material defect
goes unnoticed until an accident occurs. If the same problem appears several
times, the federal highway safety authorities may order a recall, but
it is up to the vehicle operators to answer a recall. If a recalled part
is not replaced and an accident occurs, this can lead to a lawsuit that
will be very hard to defend.
The Manufacturer of the Tractor and Trailer
Contrary to what many people believe, tractors and trailers are manufactured
separately and often at factories that are hundreds of miles apart. When
they are put together, some trailer undercarriages are designed to support
refrigerated boxes, some are intended for dry boxes, and some are made
specifically for flatbed loads. Obviously, the braking system for each
type of load will also need to be matched to each trailer’s intended use.
When a trailer’s brakes are “mismatched” with the load,
brakes will experience greater wear than usual and will require more maintenance
and servicing. If this maintenance is not provided by trained technicians,
there is the possibility that a brake failure can occur.
The Shop That Installs and Services the Brakes
Due to the amount of mechanical stress exerted on the brakes of a big rig,
air brakes require regular servicing and inspection by trained brake technicians.
Unfortunately, much brake servicing is only done when a problem appears
and the service work is done at a truck stop’s service center. Since
there is no law requiring that brake service be performed by certified
brake technicians, there is always the possibility that brake problems
will not be noticed until they fail at a later time.
As the captain of a ship is responsible for everything that happens to
his ship, the driver is ultimately responsible for the safe operation
of his 18-wheeler, If a driver does not use safe braking practices, his
brakes will eventually start to fail and will malfunction when they are
applied suddenly. Evidence of brake failure will be found when the big
rig is examined after an accident and, if there is no obvious manufacturing
flaw or no evidence of improper installation, the driver and his or her
employer will most likely be held liable for the results of an accident.
Why Tractor-Trailer Accidents Victims Need a Truck Accident Lawyer
As you can see from the above-presented information, brake failures are
often a factor in big rig accidents. And you can also see that, with all
the possible “weak points” involved in the installation and
maintenance of braking systems, understanding what actually happened leading
up to an accident often requires the assistance of specialists from several areas.
A truck accident lawyer will have access to all the experts whose skills
can be employed to reconstruct an accident and determine what failures
led to the incident and, more importantly, who was responsible and thus
liable for any damages. Truck accident lawyers also have the experience
and training that will allow them to see through the usual attempts of
trucking companies to shift liability away from themselves onto someone
else or even try to convince the accident victim that they were in some
way responsible for their own injuries.
Anyone who has been injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler should
recognize that trucking companies and their insurance carriers will use
every means at their disposal to limit the amount of money that they will
have to pay out to settle a claim. Retaining a truck accident lawyer is
the best way to protect your legal right to compensation for your injuries.