Have you ever realized just a little too late that you need to brake to avoid hitting the car in front of you? It usually happens during rush hour traffic. One minute you’re cruising along at 60 miles an hour, and the next you crest a hill and realize that there’s only 50 yards between you and a completely stopped line of cars.
It’s a terrifying experience, but we usually manage by slamming on the brakes and barely making it to a full stop in time. Imagine how much worse it would be if you needed 10 times the distance to bring your vehicle to a full stop. Imagine how much worse it would be than that if your brakes simply stopped working as you were midway through slowing down.
This is the reality of what happens when a semi truck cannot brake. If you have been in an accident where a semi plowed into your vehicle, the damage can be devastating and the accident can seem inexcusable – and, as it turns out, it is. Most semi truck brake failures are wholly avoidable, and the truck drivers, truck companies, and brake manufacturers ought to do everything in their power to help avoid them.
And if they are negligent, you ought to do everything in your power to ensure they are held liable for the damage they’ve caused.
How Brake Failures Occur
Brake failures occur when one of three things happens: the brake manufacturer creates a faulty product; the trucking company doesn’t do its regular maintenance promptly enough or chooses not to replace brakes that are showing wear; or the trucker overloads the brakes to the point that they wear out far before their time. In any of these cases, the brake failure is completely avoidable if all parties involved are doing their job properly and within the confines of the law.
Brakes wear through more rapidly if the trucker is overloading the truck or driving too fast. In the first case, it is harder for the brakes to bring the truck to a full stop because there is more force working in the opposite direction. If the driver is operating the truck at far above the speed limit, any braking activity is, again, working against the forces of physics to bring the weight of the truck down to a lower speed. If the brakes are not faulty, and the trucking company has been doing their maintenance properly, the cause is more often than not a truck that has been frequently (and illegally) overloaded.
Drivers are also required to perform a pre-trip inspection of their equipment that includes checking the brakes to ensure they function properly and have no missing or loose components, and listening for leaks in the brake chamber. If a driver fails to perform his pre-trip inspection for mechanical failures or deliberately ignores a problem to save time, he can be liable.
Finally, brake failures can occur if the driver is not using his brakes properly. Some drivers deliberately unhook their front brakes and rely only on the rear brakes and downshifting to bring the truck to a stop. This saves on fuel and brake wear, but is incredibly dangerous. In any situation where a truck needs to brake more rapidly than normal, the front brakes would normally take up the slack, but the truck driver is unable to engage them.
If you’ve ever been in a semi accident where brake failure was the cause, contact a lawyer who knows how to investigate the potential causes of failed brakes and find the party responsible. Contact the Appel Law Firm.