Most people understand the importance of maintaining the brakes on their vehicles and not driving their vehicles if the brakes are not working right. That’s just common sense. It would seem a no-brainer to expect truckers and trucking companies to take these practical rules more seriously given the catastrophic injuries or fatalities that can result in a wreck when a truck is involved. Sadly, not only do trucking companies fail to maintain their brakes and repair them when necessary, they actually make adjustments to the brakes that make them work less effectively—all to save money.
What FMSCA Rules Are Truckers and Trucking Companies Supposed to Follow?
The Federal Motor Carrier Service Administration (FMCSA) has rules regarding truck and brake maintenance that are designed to ensure that trucks are not driven on our roads and highways when the brakes do not work properly. Some of these regulations include:
- The trucking company must maintain records showing that the truck—and its braking system—maintenance has been performed according to schedule.
- A trucker is supposed to conduct a detailed pre-inspection of the truck and trailer before taking it on a trip to ensure it is in good working condition. He must also review the inspection report of the last driver and sign off that any needed repairs—including repairs to the brakes—have been completed.
- A trucker must complete a daily inspection of the truck at the end of the work shift.
- A trucker is prohibited from driving a truck in need of maintenance or is likely to break down.
Federal regulations also detail what is required when inspecting the brakes. A truck driver should inspect the following:
- The brake pads to be certain they function properly and do not have missing or broken parts
- The brake components to ensure there are no loose parts
- The brake chamber for leaks by listening for air leaks
Common Ways Brake Problems Causes Accidents
Mechanical failures of the brakes or maintenance issues are a huge cause of truck crashes. Even worse, trucking companies deliberately adjust the brakes, knowing that they will be less effective, and truckers drive these trucks with known problems. Common reasons that brake issues cause crashes include:
- Manufacturer defect. If brakes are defective, a crash could be the result. Federal regulations require trucks meet certain standards regarding braking force, deceleration speed, and the automatic brake adjustment system.
- Brake recalls. When the federal government determines certain truck brakes are unsafe, they could order the manufacturer to issue a recall of the brakes or parts. If a truck is driven with an outstanding brake recall, it can be powerful evidence that the brakes were dangerous when their failure causes a crash.
- Improper loading. If the load is not evenly distributed, it can cause the brakes to overheat and malfunction.
- Inadequate maintenance and repair. When trucking companies and truckers do not follow the federal rules regarding inspection and maintenance and fail to make needed repairs, truck brakes can fail when they are needed the most. It is equally negligent for a trucker or trucking company to do a required inspection and then ignore needed maintenance and repair problems.
- Depowering front brakes. Believe it or not, some trucking companies deliberately unhook the front brakes, forcing the trucker to rely only on the back brakes and trailer brakes to slow down the truck. They do this to reduce the wear and tear on the brakes and save money—sacrificing safety for profits.
- Glazed brakes. A common brake problem is deglazing of the brakes caused when they are overused and reheated. This can cause the pads to harden and become less effective. Once this damage occurs, it cannot be repaired, and the braking pad must be replaced.
If you suspect truck braking issues caused your crash, you need an experienced truck accident attorney who can determine whether federal rules were violated and what particular brake problem caused your accident. In addition, he can send a spoliation letter to the trucking company to preserve evidence important to your case. Don’t wait. Call our firm today at (404) 998-5252 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with David Brauns.