How Does Tractor-Trailer Brake Failure Cause Accidents?

Published on Jun 2, 2022 at 8:24 pm in Truck Accidents.

How Does Tractor-Trailer Brake Failure Cause Accidents?

Brake failure is one of the most dangerous situations involving a tractor-trailer. When a large, heavy machine doesn’t have the ability to stop, large-scale devastation can result. If a driver loses control of the semi-truck, anything in the vehicle’s path can be destroyed. Other cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, and even nearby buildings may be caught in the destruction caused by tractor-trailer brake failure.

There’s no question that tractor-trailer brake failure causes accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognizes that most brake malfunction collisions are very serious in nature. FMCSA regulations governing brake use, maintenance, and inspection are rigorous. But not every motor carrier adheres to these mandatory guidelines.

Brake malfunction crashes can be prevented. By performing proper maintenance and regular inspections, brake issues can usually be identified before they cause a catastrophe on the road. Unfortunately, vehicle maintenance negligence is widespread in the commercial truck industry. While poor maintenance practices may be one cause of brake failure, there are other types of negligence that can also result in brake failure.

The truck accident lawyers from Belsky & Horowitz, LLC have experience analyzing a truck accident scene and determining the cause of the crash. We use our expertise to help injured victims of 18-wheeler brake failure accidents.

What Causes Tractor-Trailer Brake Malfunction?

Numerous factors can cause tractor-trailer brake failure. Many of these factors are related to improper maintenance, driver error, or company oversight.

The brakes used in commercial trucks are different from the ones used in most passenger vehicles. For tractor-trailers, brakes running on simple hydraulic pressure lines aren’t sufficient. A stronger brake system is needed to control a 40-ton vehicle like a semi-truck.

Large trucks generally use a complex brake system consisting of multiple units, including service, parking, and emergency brakes. If these braking systems are used improperly or not maintained well, they can fail while the driver is behind the wheel.

The following problems may lead to tractor-trailer brake failure:

  • Overloading, which puts excessive pressure on multiple mechanical systems
  • Improper brake use on downward inclines
  • Brake parts that were not installed correctly
  • Failure to notice and report signs that brakes are not functioning normally
  • Wear and tear that is not addressed during pre-trip inspections, which may include:
    • Leaking fluid lines
    • Other air supply or hydraulic fluid issues
    • Misalignment
    • Sticky calipers
    • Issues related to overheating
    • Worn out components

In other situations, a manufacturing defect may cause brake failure. If brakes were designed or manufactured with an inherent flaw, it may not be the company or driver’s fault if they fail.

What Accidents Can Be Caused by Semi Truck Brake Failure?

A truck without brakes can’t be controlled, which is a serious issue in itself. Additionally, a driver may resort to various tactics in an attempt to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible. Some of these tactics may put other motorists at risk. If the driver is inexperienced, panic may take over and prevent them from making safe choices. The amount of training a trucker received will also influence how they handle brake failure.

Another factor to consider is that brakes most often fail when they are needed most. Only when the driver is attempting to use the brakes do they realize they are not working. Brake failure often happens on downward hills or near sharp curves.

When a semi-truck’s brakes stop working, several types of accidents may result.

  • Jackknife Accidents. A jackknife accident happens when the trailer of a truck pushes the cab to one side, forming a V-shape. A jackknife may occur if the driver yanks the steering wheel in one direction or pulls sharply on the emergency brake. A high percentage of jackknife accidents are fatal.
  • Rollovers. When a truck loses balance and tips over, it’s referred to as a rollover accident. This may happen on a sharp curve or when turns are taken too quickly. A rollover is more likely to occur if a tractor-trailer’s cargo was loaded unevenly.
  • Spilled Cargo. Jackknife accidents and rollovers can both cause cargo to spill out onto the roadway. If a truck driver loses control of the vehicle due to brake malfunction, they may also lose the truck’s cargo. This situation is especially dangerous when the truck is carrying hazardous materials—like toxic gas or liquids.
  • Override Accidents. In one of the most dangerous scenarios, an out-of-control semi-truck can run over vehicles in its path. Vehicle occupants are often killed or very seriously injured when a smaller passenger car is run over by a tractor-trailer and is caught underneath.

How Does a Truck Accident Lawyer Prove Liability After an Accident?

When brakes fail, it’s not immediately obvious who was at fault. Determining who is liable for a truck accident can be a very complicated task. When brakes malfunction, one or more of these parties may be found liable:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company
  • The truck owner
  • The mechanic or company responsible for brake installation
  • The maintenance company responsible for brake repairs
  • The shipping company responsible for loading cargo
  • The truck manufacturer
  • The manufacturer of brake systems or components

When a truck accident attorney from Belsky & Horowitz, LLC takes your case, you can be sure that no detail will be unexplored. Our lawyers take the time needed to review company records and installation, maintenance, and inspection reports.

How much training on proper brake use did the driver receive? Did the company allow a truck with worn-out brakes to be taken on the road? How did the driver respond when their brakes began to fail? Did a shipping company’s improper loading techniques cause the brakes to give out?

We’ll ask these questions and more to make sure the full story is uncovered. Our attorneys will trace the life of the brake systems all the way back to the manufacturing companies if need be. We won’t stop until we have a complete understanding of what transpired that led to the accident.

If you or a loved one was harmed in an accident caused by tractor-trailer brake failure, we may be able to help you recover financially. Contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer about your case. We’ll begin with a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how our firm can best serve you.



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