Brake Failure and Virginia Truck Accidents

According to national statistics, mechanical failure is one of the leading causes of commercial truck accidents in the United States. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cites brake failure as one of the most common types of mechanical failure – and one of the deadliest. The federal agency estimates that almost 30 percent of all truck accidents are the result of the vehicle’s brakes failing.

Federal law requires that the components used in brakes must be built, installed, and maintained in order to prevent brake failure. State and federal laws require all commercial trucks have working brakes that not only bring the truck to a stop but can also maintain that stop. The proper functioning and use of brakes are so critical on commercial trucks that there is even an entire section devoted to it in the Virginia truck driver’s manual. The manual explains what equipment is required, how to properly use the equipment, and how to conduct inspections.

Why Do Truck Brakes Fail?

There are a variety of reasons why truck brakes fail. The most common that we see here in the cases our Virginia personal injury law firm handles include the following:

  • Inadequate brake maintenance: While the majority of trucking companies follow federal and state regulations and make sure they keep up with truck maintenance, there are still far too many companies that try to avoid these rules, despite the fact it puts everyone on the road – including their own driver – at dangerous risk. Mechanical issues can develop over time that will cause the brakes to fail, such as brake pads that are too thin, brakes that overheat, and brakes covered with oil or grease. Some of these issues sometimes allow the truck to brake in ordinary situations, but not when hard braking is required. Even these deficiencies will eventually wear to the point that the brakes fail at some point.
  • Disconnecting front brakes: In order to cut corners and save money on tire wear and brake maintenance, come trucking companies or owner/operators will disconnect the brakes on the tractor, leaving the entire burden of braking on the trailer brakes.
  • Overloaded truck: When a truck is hauling too much weight, this requires excessive braking distance in order to come to a full stop, even if the brakes are in good working order. When brakes are poorly maintained and the truck is overloaded, it is a recipe for a deadly disaster.
  • Brake imbalance: When a company uses mechanical components that are mismatched, this can cause an imbalance in the brake system and cause uneven distribution. This can result in brakes locking up, causing the truck to jackknife or skid. Overheating while descending hills is also a common issue.
  • Improper braking: If a truck driver has not had the correct training on the proper braking technique while traveling downhill, the brakes can overheat and weaken the force of the entire braking system. This will be made even worse if the brakes on the vehicle are not properly maintained.

Let Our Firm Help

Accidents involving tractor-trailers can be much more dangerous than other vehicle accidents. The size and weight of the trucks alone are enough to cause substantial damage to other vehicles in any kind of collision. Far too often, the injuries sustained by victims of tractor-trailer accidents are severe ones, requiring months – if not years – of rehab and recovery.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a tractor-trailer, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to meet with one of our skilled Virginia truck accident attorneys to find out what legal recourse you may have against the truck driver and any other parties who may be held responsible for your injuries.

Our Va. personal injury firm also offers a free truck accident injury guide for accident victims. The guide covers topics such as the tactics used by truck companies to deny or reduce injury claims, common violations of trucking companies, and the difference between commercial truck insurance and other types of vehicle insurance.