In Philadelphia and elsewhere in the United States, truck crashes are some of the most dangerous kinds of accidents you can be involved in. Trucks spend most of their time on the highway, so any truck accident that happens often involves speeds in excess of fifty miles per hour. Worse, any collisions involving a truck or a tractor trailer come with significantly more weight than crashes that only involve passenger vehicles. While passenger vehicles like cars or even SUVs only weigh approximately 3,000 pounds each, a single tractor trailer – even an empty one – can weigh up to ten times as much. When they are full of cargo, tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, making any crash they are involved in a potentially severe one.
One of the best ways to ensure that these crashes never happen is to keep the braking systems on these trucks in working order. However, because trucking is a for-profit business, trucking companies and drivers tend to focus far more on their own bottom line than on the safety of other people on the road. This often means they will let the brakes on their vehicles deteriorate to the point of failure, rather than pay to have them properly maintained. If these brakes do end up failing in Philadelphia, though, it is often an innocent driver like you who is the one to suffer.
Brake Failures Can Cause Truck Accidents
The brakes on a truck are one of the most important safety mechanisms that a trucker can use to prevent or minimize a trucking accident. When they function properly, the truck driver can bring their massive vehicle to a halt before colliding with something else while on the road, avoiding a potentially fatal accident. However, when those brakes fail, the driver is often left helpless and unable to avoid a collision or to slow down enough to safely turn away from the crash without creating an equally serious jackknife or rollover accident.
Unfortunately, truck brakes fail at a staggering rate in the United States. According to a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a truck's brake failure contributed to nearly one out of every three trucking accidents between 2001 and 2003. This number seems even more extreme when you consider that, during this same period, failing brakes on passenger vehicles only contributed to 5% of the accidents in the FMCSA's study.
Not all truck brake failures are the same, though. There are several different reasons why they fail, ranging from design flaws to maintenance issues.
Defective Designs Can Cause Truck Brake Failures
One way for the brakes on a tractor trailer to fail and cause an accident is if they were defectively designed.
The companies that design braking systems that are used on large trucks in the U.S. are primarily interested in turning a profit. If they come up with a brake design that saves them some money, they are likely to adopt it, even if it also comes with a slight increase in the risk of a brake failure. These sacrifices have been going on for decades, so truck brakes now are made with cheaper materials and with designs that have done away with any safety precaution that has been deemed extraneous. As a result, truck brake failures have become more commonplace than they once were.
Manufacturing Defects and Truck Brake Failures
Even if a truck brake design is perfectly safe, that does not necessarily mean that the braking system will be manufactured and assembled properly. Manufacturing defects or mistakes can turn a safely designed braking system into a dangerous one, prone to a serious failure that can cause an accident. When a truck's braking system fails and it was because of either a design or a manufacturing defect, you might have a products liability claim that you can pursue to get the compensation that you need and deserve.
Poor Maintenance and Truck Brake Failures
While design and manufacturing defects can cause a truck's brakes to fail, the most common culprit is simply poor maintenance. Brakes wear down over time as they bring vehicles to a stop dozens of times every day. The brakes on a truck wear down even more quickly than those that are used on passenger vehicles because the amount of weight that they have to deal with regularly is far higher.
To combat this wear and tear that brakes go through, truck drivers need to regularly inspect their vehicle's brakes while they are on the road. They are in the best position to notice when their truck's brakes are wearing thin or are not working properly, anymore. However, these inspections take time, and truckers are typically paid by the number of miles they travel, making these inspections an inconvenience for them, at best. Therefore, the number of times they actually perform these inspections is far lower than it should be.
Even if a brake problem is detected during a truck driver's inspection, that does not mean that the trucking company or the party responsible for fixing it will do what they need to do. Whenever a truck is taken off the road for repairs, it not only costs the trucking company money to make the repairs but also means the truck is not making any profit for the period of time it is in the shop. Trucking companies tend to put off these repairs for as long as possible and only do the minimal amount necessary to prevent a pending brake failure. This often means the trucking company will only replace the brake that is worn and could potentially fail, putting the rest of the brakes on the truck out of balance, which can cause a crash, itself.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
Truck crashes often leave their victims in dire straits and in need of financial compensation to make themselves whole, once again. The personal injury attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can make that happen. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation if you want to explore your legal options after you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident.