blog home Truck Accident What do tractor trailers have to do to keep you safe?

What do tractor trailers have to do to keep you safe?

By John Singleton on January 5, 2023

A tractor trailer weighs up to 40 tons. Even under the best circumstances, the combination of a tractor and trailer take a lot longer to stop than a car. Aircraft carriers don’t stop on a dime either. And because trucks have so much mass, collisions with cars and motorcycles are likely to cause severe injuries.

Brake failure is a major cause of big truck crashes, but it is preventable. Countless deaths and injuries could be eliminated if trucking companies made sure their trucks were safely maintained and truck drivers used correct braking techniques.

What causes truck brakes to fail?

A tractor trailer has 18 wheels, and it relies on a complex mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and air braking system. The brakes must be properly adjusted and evenly balanced, and drivers have to know what they are doing to keep everyone safe on the road.

Catastrophic brake failure is caused by the following types of negligent behavior:

  • Poor maintenance. Brakes rely on friction, which naturally generates heat. Thus, brakes must remain properly adjusted to prevent overheating.
  • Lack of inspections. If the brake system wears out faster in one part of a truck, it is a telltale sign of mechanical issues or balance problems that can lead to failure.
  • Poor training. Not all trucking schools are created equal. The best schools are state accredited. In Virginia, trucking school accreditation is regulated by the DMV. Trucking companies should use only accredited schools and also provide regular safety training to their employees.
  • Inexperienced drivers. The more miles a driver has logged, the less likely he is to make braking mistakes that can cost people their lives. Thus, paying experienced drives more in order to retain them is critical.
  • Negligent hiring. Large trucking firms have high turnover rates, and they are always looking for new drivers. Instead of offering drivers higher salaries and better working conditions, companies often cut corners by hiring new drivers with limited or unsafe driving records.
  • Overloaded trucks cause wear and tear on brakes, increase stopping distance, and make crashes more deadly when they occur. Weight must be carefully monitored and corrected if needed.
  • Speeding puts stress on brakes and increases the chances that mechanical failure will occur. Trucking companies must monitor drivers closely, create incentives for safe driving, and employ consequences for unsafe driving.

Which braking techniques save lives?

The best way to protect brakes is to apply them gradually. And truckers must pay attention to the flow of traffic at all times. Otherwise, they may be forced to make a sudden stop.

Distracted driving is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents, and when a trucker takes his eyes of the road, the results can be devastating. In addition to harming the truck’s brakes, sudden stops also result in rear-end collisions and jackknife accidents.

What are safe downhill trucking practices?

A truck’s brakes are most likely to fail when it is traveling down a steep grade. If the driver uses improper braking techniques, the brakes stop working altogether.

When a driver applies the brakes, the brake shoes rub against the drum of the wheel (or pads against the disc), creating the friction that causes the vehicle’s speed to decrease. Friction is always accompanied by heat, but truck drums and shoes are designed to accommodate heat under normal circumstances.

Excessive heat from overuse causes the drums to expand, so the shoes have to move farther to make contact. Eventually, overuse will cause the brakes to fail, and the truck will be unable to stop.

What do experienced truck drivers always do?

Experienced truck drivers use the following techniques to avoid crashes caused by brake fade:

  • Conduct a pre-shift inspection
  • Correct any problems before beginning a trip
  • Apply brakes intermittently
  • Keep an eye on the brake gauge
  • Do not get distracted
  • Apply steady pressure when braking
  • Use downshifting to reduce speed
  • Begin braking before truck speed begins to increase
  • Keep your truck aligned with the trailer
  • Pay attention to steep grade warning signs
  • Pull over if brakes get too hot
  • Use runaway ramps if unable to stop

Were you hurt by a careless trucker?

If you or your loved one were injured in a trucking accident, you do not have to deal with the aftermath alone. You do not have to pay astronomical medical costs and other huge expenses on your own either. The experienced Virginia truck accident lawyers at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys will file a claim to help you get the money you need to heal from your injuries and put your life back together.

We’ve dedicated our practice to helping our friends and neighbors in their time of need. And we have a special empathy for people hurt in accidents because we’ve been there ourselves.

Call (804) 413-6777 to schedule a FREE consultation today. And remember, we don’t get paid until you do.

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