Truck accidents can be far more dangerous than car accidents. It makes sense that truckers and trucking companies do what that they can to ensure that these kinds of accidents do not happen. Trucks can weigh 30,000 pounds when they are empty, and up to 80,000 when they are full. When compared to cars, which weigh around 3,000 pounds, trucks can do far more damage and cause far worse injuries when they are involved in a crash.
Trucking is a for-profit business. Unfortunately, some trucking companies put off regular maintenance and safety repairs that may take a truck off the road for a time. Properly maintaining a braking system while on the road takes time, which delays deliveries and makes the company lose money while fixing a nearly broken braking system means taking the affected truck off the road. As a result of delayed repairs, innocent people can get hurt if a truck's brakes fail while on the road.
Truck Brake Failures Cause Accidents
One of the most important safety features on a truck that allows truck drivers to control where they are going is the brake system. When the brakes function, a trucker can bring his or her vehicle to a controlled stop within the expected stopping distance. When they fail, though, truckers are powerless to stop the thousands of pounds of truck and cargo in a way that can avoid an accident. It also means that they are unable to slow down enough to steer without losing control of their truck, which can make them susceptible to a jackknife crash or a rollover accident.
Truck brake failures are surprisingly common in the United States. In a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which looked at 967 truck crashes in 17 states between 2001 and 2003, brake failure contributed in some way to nearly one out of every three trucking accidents. This high number was in sharp contrast to regular passenger vehicles, which only had brake failures contribute to 5% of their crashes in the study.
Design Defects that Cause Brake Failures
One of the ways for truck brakes to fail and cause an accident is if they were designed or manufactured in a defective way.
Like trucking companies, the small handful of corporations that design and make truck brakes are all for-profit companies. This means that they will sacrifice the safety of other drivers on the road if it would still make them money. Because of this, truck braking systems are increasingly being built that use cheaper materials and simpler designs. While these brakes save the manufacturer money, though, they can fail quickly and more often because of their poor design.
Manufacturing Defects Can Also Cause Brake Failures in Trucks
Even if a braking system is designed well, that does not mean that it will always perform up to specification. Whenever a design gets approved, no matter how safe it is, it still needs to be manufactured according to the design. If it does not come out of the factory the way the design meant it, then the brake system might have crucial weaknesses when it leaves the shop.
Whenever you get hurt in a truck accident that was caused by the truck's brakes failing, if it was because of a design or a manufacturing issue, then you could have a products liability claim on your hands.
Brake Failures Caused by Poor Maintenance
Failing brakes can also be caused by poor maintenance – properly maintaining a truck's braking system is necessary because of how brakes wear down over a long period of time.
While on the road, brakes need to be inspected regularly by truck drivers for potential problems that will make it more difficult to stop. Truckers are the best set of eyes when it comes to reporting brake problems because they can notice when their brakes do not “feel right” while they drive, and can easily check the braking system on a continual basis when they are about to get back on the road. However, these inspections take time, and that cuts into the delivery time of the cargo the truck is responsible for delivering. This means that brake inspections end up costing both the trucker and their trucking company money. Some trucking companies skip regular and in-depth brake inspections because of the time and money involved.
Even if a problem with a truck's brakes is detected, that does not mean that the trucking company will take the necessary action to fix the issue. When a truck is taken off the road so it can stay in the shop and have badly needed repairs done to its brakes, the trucking company may lose profits. Because of this, even if a truck's brakes needs work, the trucking company is likely to delay repairs as long as it can. Additionally, when the brakes are fixed, trucking companies often only fix the brake that is most worn. This creates a brake imbalance that puts most of the strain of stopping on the newest, best-performing brake on the truck, which wears down that brake faster than the others.
Washington, D.C. Truck Accident Attorneys
A truck accident is one of the worst things that can happen to you while you are on the roads in the District of Columbia. They often cause significant damage to your car and can result in serious or even fatal personal injuries. That truckers and trucking companies pay so little attention to the brakes that prevent these kinds of accidents from happening can be appalling.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident in Washington, D.C. after the truck's brakes failed, call the personal injury attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online for a free consultation.