Truck Accidents

Brake Failure


Commercial Truck Brake Systems Should Not Fail

80,000-pound trucks are required to have regular brake inspections.

Air Brakes Require Proper Adjustment

Air Brakes work differently than car brakes

Many commercial motor vehicles use air brakes. A typical passenger car uses hydraulic fluid to activate disc brakes. A car stores hydraulic fluid in a chamber. When the brake pedal is pressed the hydraulic fluid is pumped through hoses into a piston that presses two brake shoes which press against a brake pad or against a brake rotor. If a brake hose develops a leak the hydraulic system will fail. Most large commercial trucks and buses use air brakes to avoid this problem.

The most common braking system for large commercial trucks and buses is the foundation air brake system. Unlike a car’s braking system, the starting position or resting position for truck brakes is that they are activated. The truck uses air lines or brake pipes to build up air pressure. This built up air pressure causes the brakes to release. If the air lines develop a leak the brakes activate and that is safer than the alternative. The air that feeds the brake lines is stored in a compressor tank. When the brake pedal is pressed compressed air is released from the tank causing the brakes to return to their activated position.

Air Brakes must be properly Adjusted

Regular inspections of air brakes are required

The mechanism used by air brakes involves compressed air causing the brakes to release. When the compressed air is released a pushrod pushes a brake s-cam. The s-cam pushes the brake shoes outward inside of a brake drum. The brake drum is a hollow drum inside the wheel. As the brake pads are pressed against the drum, the truck slows to a stop. The air brake system requires proper adjustment and adequate air pressure. If the push rod and s-cam are out of adjustment the brake pads may not fully engage against the brake drum. Brake pads that are lightly pressing against a brake drum will result in very little stopping power but a lot of heat. If you have ever seen a truck with a tire that has caught fire this is a sign of an improperly adjusted braking system. The brakes rubbed against a drum generating heat that resulted in the rubber tire catching fire.

Similar problems could occur if the air pressure system has leaks or is improperly calibrated. If an air compressor can’t keep up with leaks in the system, the brakes may not fully disengage while driving. This can generate heat in the same fashion that improperly adjusted push rods and s-cams can. A tire that catches fire is a symptom this problem, but the real danger is a lack or adequate braking power. The braking system may work fine while driving on level areas but the problem can become dangerous when trucks are descending down steep hills or mountains.

Section 393.40 of the Federal Motor Carrier Act Regulations requires brakes to be properly adjusted.

Standard Vehicle Inspection Reports Require Brake Adjustment Measurements

Vehicle Inspection Reports Document Failing Brakes

A vehicle inspection report for a commercial vehicle with air brakes will have a brake adjustment section. The brake adjustment section should document how far out of adjustment each push rod stroke is out of adjustment per brake chamber.  There are different types of brake chambers that have different acceptable measurements that are contained in the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Act regulations.  Trucks are often equipped with devices to minimize the braking force on the front brakes. This is done to prevent the front brakes from engaging with greater force and effectiveness than the rear brakes leading to the tractor stopping or slowing more abruptly than the trailer. When this occurs, the tractor-trailer is in danger of jack knifing.

Under current regulations most commercial bus, truck and truck tractors must be equipped with a warning signal to alert the driver when a failure occurs in the trucks braking system.  These warnings apply to commercial vehicles with hydraulic brakes, air brakes, vacuum brakes and hydraulic hybrid braking systems.  Performance standards for brakes are detailed in the regulations.  In serious truck accidents were a brake failure or lack of braking performance is suspected it is important to reach out to a commercial truck accident lawyer.

George dealt with the facts, was always prepared, and was very knowledgeable regarding the law(s). I appreciate what George did for me and his professionalism throughout the case. To this day we remain friends and I count on him when I have legal questions or issues. 

Repeat Client 

Commercial motor vehicles have complex braking systems that are required to meet certain performance standards and must be regularly inspected and maintained.

George Patterson, Board Certified Truck Accident Attorney

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The Bowie truck accident lawyers at Patterson Law serve clients in Prince George's, Montgomery, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Howard, Anne Arundel, Queen Anne's and Baltimore Counties. Our clients are from Silver Spring, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Forestville, Prince Frederick, Leonardtown, Annapolis, Edgewater, Rockville, Mayo, Bethesda, Germantown, Olney, Beltsville, Deale, Bethesda, Severna Park, Largo, Landover, Oxon Hill, La Plata, Waldorf, Crofton, Columbia and Riverdale.

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If you or loved one was involved in a crash with a commercial truck were brake failure or inadequate brake performance is suspected please contact a seven-time Top 100 Maryland Super Lawyer for a free consultation.  Patterson Law has offices in Bowie and Annapolis and can be reached at 301-888-4878.

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