Causes of 18-Wheeler Crashes: Brake Maintenance Safety

by Amber Cortez | August 31st, 2016 | 18 Wheelers, Blog

When brakes malfunction and a serious accident occurs, a variety of parties may be liable for the ensuing damage.

The federal government has set very strict standards and regulations on the braking systems of 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles. For instance, semi-trucks must meet specific requirements such as creating a certain braking force based on a percentage of their weight, as well as being able to decelerate at a rate relative to its size.

If these standards are not met, it could be because of poor manufacturing and design on part of the manufacturer. It could also mean the party(ies) responsible for properly maintaining the brakes – the driver or the company that loaded the truck –  are also to blame.

At J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys, we’ve handled a multitude of 18-wheeler accidents and our lawyers understand that an immediate response, and quick acquisition of evidence, is fundamental to developing a meaningful argument to secure your justice and damages. Our team is available to respond to a trucking accident at any time – day or night – and we’ll make sure to investigate all responsible parties for faulty brakes.

As tractor-trailers can require 50% more distance to effectively stop, it’s essential that the brakes, and the trucks themselves, are properly maintained. Unfortunately, truck brakes are only replaced once they are worn down to the nubs or in the event that the driver had a “close call”.  As brake failures are rarely spontaneous events, but rather performance problems stemming from maintenance problems, the parties responsible in an 18-wheeler crash involving faulty equipment can include:

The Driver

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring the semi-truck has proper brake settings and for driving safely. Additionally, truck drivers have also been known to purposely depower the front brakes and instead rely on the trailer brakes, as well as downshifting, which increases the risk of an accident.

The Company that Loaded the Truck

Because of the trucking industry’s emphasis on speed and “timeliness”, there can be a detrimental loss to protocols, which can ultimately have a negative effect on the vehicle. In the attempt to rush proper procedures, improper loading and overloading can occur, which can cause the brakes to malfunction.

The Party Responsible for Brake Maintenance

Depending on the specific situation, the party responsible for brake maintenance can either be the owner-operator of the truck or the leasing company. This party is responsible for conducting the mandatory inspection, keeping maintenance logs, and complying with federal recalls. Any missteps in these areas can lead to equipment malfunctioning.

The Manufacturer

If the brake malfunction is the result of an error in the manufacturing process, then it becomes a product liability issue. This is usually because the manufacturer did not design the brakes properly or there was a failure to meet federal standards during the process.

As trucking companies operate massive fleets of trucks – sometimes into the thousands – there is a tendency to overlook the necessary maintenance needs of so many vehicles. Also, truck brakes require special parts and skilled laborers to replace them. Considering that brake linings should be replaced every 60,000 – 70,000 miles, this maintenance should easily occur three to four times a year, if properly followed. However, companies may believe that the cost of performing this tasks four times a year to thousands of trucks utilizing a specialized mechanic is too high.

Yet, according to the American Trucking Associations, total trucking industry revenue in 2014 was $700.4 billion, which besides being an unbelievable number, was also the first time the industry had topped $700 billion. With so much income at their disposal, there is no excuse for these companies to dismiss vital maintenance needs that can lead to serious injuries, or even death.

In fact, Texas is one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. for fatal collisions involving tractor-trailers, with 553 fatalities occurring last year. This number does not include the thousands more that were seriously injured.

At J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys, our competent and experienced truck accident attorneys are dedicated to defending the rights of the injured and ensuring the truckers, companies, and manufacturers are held accountable for their negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered irreversible pain and suffering because of an accident involving an 18-wheeler, then contact our offices today at (956) 630-6700.

Get the quality legal representation you need to fight for your rights. Get J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys.


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