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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.

The Driver

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.

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