FMCSA: Serious brake problems found in 15 percent of semi-trucks

Imagine a fully-loaded semi-truck, out of control and careening down a busy road because its brakes have failed. While this might seem like the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, it actually happens much more often than you might think.

In fact, just this past summer there were two high-profile trucking accidents in the United States caused by out-of-control vehicles with failed brakes. In one, a truck tore through a shopping center before overturning into a river. In the other, a truck careened down an exit ramp, narrowly avoiding a potentially disastrous collision with a gas station.

Of course, even less dramatic brake failures can have devastating consequences. Especially as winter weather approaches, large trucks need all the stopping distance they can get. Anything that limits a truck's ability to stop can result in catastrophic accidents.

This is why it is so alarming to learn of significant brake failure rates among heavy trucks in the United States. In September 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration observed "Brake Safety Week," its annual enforcement and education campaign aimed at increasing regulatory compliance on brake-related issues. Inspections during that week revealed that more than 15 percent of trucks had brake-related safety violations that rendered them out of service.

The brake-related OOS rate was the highest it had been since 2008. Approximately half of the violations related to poorly-adjusted brakes.

Semi-truck brakes can fail for a number of different reasons. Improper adjustment --or over adjustment of auto-adjusting brakes -- can take away braking force and increase stopping distance. In other cases, leaks in the air supply can minimize effectiveness. Excessive or prolonged braking can also lead to overheating, which can push brake parts out of adjustment. These are just a few of the many different types of mechanical defects that can lead to truck accidents.


Missouri truck accident lawsuits

In Missouri, as in the rest of the country, all truck drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a way that does not put other motorists at unreasonable risk of harm. In addition, trucking companies have a responsibility to ensure that their trucks are well-maintained and fit for highway travel. 

When these duties aren't upheld and an accident occurs, injured victims have a right to hold the negligent truck driver or trucking company accountable. Victims of Missouri truck accidents can pursue personal injury lawsuits to recover financial compensation for losses including medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity and pain and suffering.

Because the causes underlying a truck accident can be so complex, it is important for victims to consult with an experienced St. Louis personal injury attorney who can work with a team of experts to help determine the reason for the accident and prove fault.