Bad Truck Brakes, Bad Truck Drivers

truck pressured air for brakes pixlr

We’re in the middle of a week that will expose how many dangerous, unsafe commercial trucks are on the road.  And early next month another event will spotlight another major cause of fatal trucking accidents.

It’s been more than a dozen years since the federal government released the findings of research on the causes of serious big rig crashes, called the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. To date it’s the most comprehensive look at the factors leading to catastrophic trucking accidents.

Leading Causes of Fatal Truck Crashes

After reviewing nearly 1,000 crashes involving tractor-trailers, the study identified several reasons for why the accidents occurred, including driver error. Breaking down driver error even further, researchers cited these driver issues:

  • Non-performance – fatigued trucker falling asleep at the wheel, for example
  • Recognition – inattentive or distracted truck drivers
  • Decisions – poor decisions made, such as following cars too closely
  • Performance – wrong, dangerous action taken by a panicked truck driver

Improperly maintained commercial trucks was another major cause of serious trucking accidents, per the study.  Specifically, the researchers found defective truck brakes as the chief vehicle-related issue.

Given that - and data from fatal trucking accidents since the study - the Commercial Vehicle Alliance now conducts its annual Brake Safety Week.  The event involves law enforcement throughout the United States and Canada conducting random inspections of 18-wheelers to identify those with defective brakes.

This year’s event began August 23 and concludes August 29.

Dangers of Defective Commercial Truck Brakes

The organizers said they will be paying special attention to worn commercial truck brake hoses and tubing because if they fail a truck’s ability to stop is seriously compromised. They also said that, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s most recent statistics, bad brakes are the third leading cause of fatal big rig accidents.

But the CVSA is not relying solely on federal government reports to document the dangers of defective truck brakes.  It has its own findings.  Just last year during Brake Safety Week, 13.5% of all semis inspected were pulled off the road for having unsafe brakes.  These trucks were given out-of-service violations, meaning their brakes had to be repaired before ever being allowed back on the highway again.

As noted in the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” driver error was the number one cause of serious commercial truck accidents.  The CVSA will hold another event in September that addresses this issue.

Delayed from earlier this year by COVID-19, the CVSA’s annual International Roadcheck event will be conducted September 9 -11.  Law enforcement will again fan out nationwide for three days of random commercial truck inspections – of both trucks and truckers.

The 2019 event found numerous serious issues with the readiness of truck drivers and their rigs.  Bad truck brakes again led the way in terms of unsafe trucks, with 28% of the vehicles given out-of-service violations for defective braking systems.

More than 3,000 commercial truck drivers also were immediately taken off the road for violations found during the inspections.  Two of the top three violations involved factors that could signify a dangerously tired trucker:

  • Hours of service violations – truck drivers found exceeding maximum number of hours per day or per week they legally can drive
  • False logs – truckers found incorrectly or deceptively logging their driving and resting times

In 2018, commercial truck crashes killed 4,136 people in the United States.  The federal government estimated in May that the final data will show an increase in truck accident deaths in 2019.

Defective truck brakes and inattentive, fatigued truckers have been found time and time again to be dire threats to other drivers.  But it appears little has been done by the industry to put a stop to these known dangers.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a crash with a commercial truck, contact a truck accident lawyer about holding all those responsible for their negligence.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles August 25, 2020

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