Commercial trucks are some of the largest and heaviest vehicles on the roadway, and driving them safely requires two key components: a safe, properly functioning truck and an experienced, highly trained truck operator. Unfortunately, brake failure is a common cause of today’s commercial truck crashes, and while some brake failures result from faulty parts or mechanics, other instances of brake failure develop because of truck driver error.
Getting a large truck from the top of a steep hill to the bottom requires more than just brakes – it requires using those brakes correctly, and part of that means not relying exclusively on brake performance to slow and ultimately stop a commercial truck.
Common brake failure issues
When a tractor-trailer's brakes fail to work properly, whether due to malfunction or driver error, the truck can pick up considerable speed when traveling down hills, potentially endangering everyone in its path. Typically, the more education, experience and training a truck driver has about the brake system and how and when to use it, the better the driver’s chances of avoiding truck crashes that arise due to brake failure.
For example, most well-trained and seasoned semi-truck drivers know that riding a truck’s brakes down a long hill can lead to brake failure. How? If a driver presses the truck’s brakes for an extended period of time, the brake system can potentially overheat, and if this occurs, they can fail and even catch fire. Using what is known as a jake brake can potentially help truck drivers avoid riding their brakes down steep hills, but some drivers who lack driving experience may be unaware of this.
A truck’s brake system can also fail if the brakes themselves do not receive a steady stream of the compressed air required to function properly. If the brakes do not get this stream of compressed air, they essentially apply themselves, which can cause the entire brake system to lock up and fail.
Though not all brake failure issues are avoidable, many of them are, and the more training and knowledge a trucker has about brake failure issues, the less likely he or she will be to unnecessarily endanger everyone else on the roadway.