How the Law Protects You From Brake Malfunctions on Commercial Trucks

Galvin B. Kennedy
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Galvin Kennedy is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice to overtime and wage claims.
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A commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, according to federal law. This heavy weight means that trucks require more resistance and a longer duration of time to stop than lighter-weight passenger vehicles. Because brakes play such an important part in preventing these trucks from colliding with roadway hazards, brake functionality is a crucial component of safe driving in the commercial trucking industry.

Interstate and Intrastate Maintenance Regulations

Truck drivers and their employers are required to inspect a truck’s brakes regularly and perform ongoing maintenance and repairs. Specific inspection and documentation requirements vary based on where the truck’s cargo originated and where it is going. Vehicles that will be crossing state borders to conduct a delivery are expected to adhere to federal law in regards to vehicle upkeep and maintenance, whereas vehicles operating strictly within state borders will be held to the regulations set forth by the state.

Common Problems Found During Commercial Truck Brake Inspections

During an inspection, a trained truck driver or maintenance provider may notice:

  • Brake hose and tube kinks or chafing
  • Out-of-adjustment brakes
  • Brake imbalances
  • Problems with brake air pressure
  • Broken brake linings or drums
  • Outdated brakes and related equipment that do not meet current industry standards

Identifying Brake Deficiencies

Even when brakes seem to be functioning well in normal, everyday traffic, deficient brakes may underperform during an emergency stop when the An Auto Mechanic Working on a Commerical Truck's Brakesdriver has little time and space remaining to avoid a collision. As such, early detection of any brake-related issues can prevent crashes and save lives. Drivers are responsible for inspecting their brakes regularly, documenting these inspections and addressing any concerns or faults before conducting a new delivery.

In addition to malfunctions found during regular inspections, truck drivers should also monitor the functionality of the brakes while on the road. Some signs that a truck’s brakes may need to be replaced or inspected include:

  • Unusual noises: Noises, such as grinding or squealing, that occur when a truck’s brakes are used may indicate that the brakes are worn. Worn brakes should be replaced as quickly as possible to prevent poor brake performance or brake failure.
  • Speed resistance without brake pedal use: If it feels as if a truck’s brakes are activated, even during acceleration, they may be dragging. This can quickly cause excessive wear and could indicate an underlying mechanical issue with the braking equipment.
  • Brake pulsation: Pulsating brakes may warn a driver of an issue with the brake’s drum and could also indicate heat damage.

Truck drivers who notice problems with their brakes while driving should seek repairs immediately and refrain from driving until the problem is resolved.

Brakes and Truck Weight

In addition to properly maintaining their vehicles, truck drivers are expected to not exceed vehicle weight limits. This means that drivers must check a vehicle for excess weight prior to departing for a delivery. Overloaded trucks may place excess stress on the brakes and may lengthen the truck’s stopping time or cause brake failure while driving.

The Risks of Truck Driver Negligence

Truck drivers who fail to adhere to standardized safety regulations place themselves and other drivers at risk for:

  • Broken bones
  • Shock
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Dismemberment
  • Permanent disabilities
  • Brain injuries
  • Complications from existing injuries
  • Death

Drivers are required to study and retain knowledge of basic safety regulations prior to earning a Commercial Driver License (CDL). When a driver fails to adhere to the rules set forth by the federal and state governments, thus placing lives at risk, he or she may be held liable for any injuries, property damage, or wrongful deaths that occur. Other parties who may be liable include:

  • The trucking company
  • Vehicle maintenance providers
  • Truck part manufacturers

Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Legal Defense

If you or a loved one has been involved in a collision with a commercial truck due to faulty or improperly-maintained brakes, the firm may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries, as well as other damages. To discuss your case and learn more about your legal rights, contact the firm today. For more information pertaining to trucking industry crashes due to negligence, you may also visit our legal blog.


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