Unannounced inspections catch hundreds of poorly maintained vehicles.
The idea of a fully-loaded 80,000-pound 18-wheeler screaming down the highway without functioning brakes is terrifying. Unfortunately, it's also far too common.
On April 19, 2023, inspectors from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) conducted their unannounced Brake Safety Day, in which they inspected nearly 7,000 vehicles throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The results were shocking, if sadly unsurprising: one in nine of the trucks inspected had brake issues that were sufficiently dangerous to take the vehicle off the road.
Some of the brake problems the inspectors found included:
- Brakes out of adjustment
- Audible air leaks
- Defective brake pads and linings
- Worn brake lines
- Broken brake drums
- Hydraulic fluid leaks
- Inoperative warning devices
- Mismatched brake chambers
- Missing brakes
Inspectors restricted 773 vehicles from travel until their brakes could be repaired. While we're glad to see that these specific issues are being addressed, the results also point to a broader problem: far too many trucks on our roads have defective or poorly maintained brakes, and the consequences can be severe.
Brake failure is a leading cause of commercial truck accidents
While most truck accidents are caused by driver error, mechanical issues also cause a significant share, and brake problems are the single most common equipment-related issue that leads to wrecks. According to Transport Topics, brake failure is a factor in nearly 30% of commercial truck crashes.
There are several ways brake failure can contribute to truck wrecks, including:
- Rear-end accidents: Even with good brakes, commercial trucks have a much longer stopping distance than passenger cars, so maintaining a safe following distance is critical. With defective brakes, a trucker may not be able to stop their vehicle in time to avoid rear-ending a car. Because of the sheer weight of a tractor-trailer, even a rear-end collision at a low speed can cause devastating injuries.
- Jackknife wrecks: A commercial truck jackknifes when the cab slows down faster than the trailer. The trailer pushes forward and bends against the cab, forming the distinctive shape of a pocketknife. Defective brakes make the risk of jackknifing much higher if they stop the cab and the trailer unevenly.
- Truck rollovers: Defective brakes can also cause rollovers if the defect is located on one side of the truck. If one side slows or stops faster than the other, then the truck can become destabilized and tip over, posing a threat to everyone else on the road.
Unfortunately, these risks are exacerbated by inexperienced truckers who may "ride the brakes" and cause additional wear and tear, or brake improperly when navigating curves or avoiding hazards. Many preventable wrecks are caused by a combination of driver error and mechanical failure. The consequences for victims can be catastrophic.
How an attorney can help after a truck accident caused by brake failure
If brake failure was a factor in a truck accident, there are several parties that can be held liable. The driver or the trucking company can be held responsible if their failure to maintain the brakes led to the wreck. The company responsible for maintenance can also be liable under some circumstances. And if the brakes themselves were defective, then the manufacturer can also be held responsible.
This is important because the consequences of a truck accident can be severe, and the high cost demands legal recourse. An experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate, get to the bottom of what happened, and fight for the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you've been hurt or lost a loved one in a truck wreck in East Texas, give us a call or contact us online for a free consultation with truck accident attorney Jeff Weinstein.