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Brake Malfunctions a Major Cause of Trucking Accidents

Heavy trucks are a vital part of the American economy. However, their sheer size puts them at great risk of causing significant harm in the event of a collision. For that reason, it is extremely important for truck drivers and trucking companies to ensure that their vehicles are well-maintained. Negligent maintenance can lead to trucking mechanical errors that put everyone on the road at risk.

Brake malfunctions are one of the most dangerous types of mechanical errors. Failing brakes can cause a truck to careen out of control, striking whatever lies in its path. Truck drivers who try to maneuver around obstacles can lose control of their vehicles, resulting in jackknifes, rollover accidents and spilled cargo.

Truck brakes can malfunction for a number of reasons, most of which are related to maintenance oversights or driving errors. Some of the most common causes of brake malfunctions include:

  • Air supply damage: Truck brakes rely on a significant amount of air pressure to function properly. If that air supply is leaky or otherwise damaged, the truck's brakes will not function properly. If the braking system is otherwise in good shape though, the truck's spring brakes should deploy to provide sufficient stopping force under normal speed and weather conditions.
  • Overheating: Brakes can malfunction when they become overheated because of dragging or over-application. Overheating causes the brake drums to expand, which then pushes the rest of the brake out of adjustment. As a result, stopping power is greatly diminished.
  • Adjustment errors: Modern truck brakes are equipped with automatic brake adjusters. Making too many manual adjustments to automatic adjusters can cause their clutch mechanisms to give out. When that happens, the brakes "unadjust" each time they are applied. On a long trip, these unadjustments can add up to the point where the truck no longer has adequate stopping power.

Of course, brake malfunctions aren't the only type of errors that can result in serious truck accidents. According to researchers at the University of Kansas, approximately 73 percent of truck crashes have contributing causes that can be traced back to the truck driver. In addition to brake malfunctions, many truck drivers and trucking companies are cited for the following safety violations:

  • Malfunctioning headlights, taillights and turn signals
  • Missing or defecting safety lighting, such as beacons or retro-reflective striping
  • Worn tires
  • Oil and grease leaks

All truck drivers and trucking companies have a duty to keep their vehicles in reasonably safe condition. When they fail to uphold this duty and an accident is caused by negligent truck maintenance, injured victims have a right to seek financial compensation for their losses. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, the attorneys at Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC can help you understand your options.