It is a sad and unacceptable truth that the number one cause of truck accidents is easily preventable. According to a 2006 study by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, malfunctioning brakes cause more than a quarter of all truck accidents.
The study found the accidents to be caused by
- Brake Failure
- Brakes out of adjustment
- Worn brake components
- Other issues with brakes
All of these brake problems could be solved by routine and diligent brake maintenance.
Truck Brakes vs. Car Brakes
The brakes of a tractor-trailer, or 18-wheeler, are far more complex than car brakes. This is because they must have the ability to stop the forward motion of up to 80,000 pounds, whereas a regular passenger vehicle only weighs about 5,000 pounds.
The tire and brake assemblies of a semi truck require regular maintenance by a specifically trained mechanic. Without this maintenance, the brakes will literally fall apart. Not only will unmaintained brakes fail to stop a truck when needed, but broken brake components weighing up to 100 pounds have caused serious accidents when they’ve flown off the truck and struck other vehicles.
Total brake failure is rare in trucks, but worn brakes can be just as much of a problem. A tractor-trailer needs at least 100 feet of additional room to stop than a passenger vehicle and even more in poor weather conditions. Without properly functioning brakes, a truck could need even more space to come to a stop. Negligent or deficient brake maintenance is the cause of many rear-end accidents. Many of these accidents prove fatal due to the size discrepancy between trucks and cars, the stronger material comprising trucks, and the likelihood of trucks to be carrying flammable or explosive materials.
Why Don’t Truck Companies Perform Maintenance?
More than 3,300 people died in trucking accidents in 2009, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. One quarter, or approximately 825 people, may have been killed by preventable brake issues. With more than 800 lives at stake, it’s puzzling as to why trucking companies would not follow government regulation and perform the brake maintenance that could save lives.
Some truck companies operate massive fleets with thousands of trucks. Brake maintenance should be performed based on truck usage, but generally heavy duty brake linings should be replaced every 60,000 to 70,000 miles, which can easily equal three or four times a year. These trucks can’t pull up to a Brake Masters; truck brakes require special parts and a skilled laborer to replace. The cost of performing maintenance four times a year on thousands of trucks utilizing a specialized mechanic is high. But the cost of human lives lost to poor or nonexistent brake repair is immeasurable.
The top 50 trucking companies saw a 9.4 percent rise in revenue in 2010, bringing total earnings to $85.4 billion dollars for those companies alone. With that income comes great responsibility. Truck companies that can’t afford to operate safe vehicles shouldn’t be in the trucking business.
If you or someone you know was involved in a truck accident, please contact our trucking attorneys for a free consultation to see if you may be eligible for a trucking accident claim. Our expert trucking lawyers can work with you to get you the compensation you deserve.