Today’s commercial trucks are substantially larger and heavier than standard passenger vehicles, so it takes more force to stop them than it would a smaller, lighter vehicle. When commercial trucks are traveling downhill at high speeds, it takes even more effort and force to effectively stop them, and truck drivers must recognize that they should not rely on a truck’s air brake system alone to safely see a truck down a steep hill.
Air brakes systems, which rely on a stream of compressed air to keep them functioning properly, are, in many cases, an effective means of stopping an oversize truck, but they are not immune to errors. While issues may arise within a truck’s air brake system, itself, other problems may result from a truck driver not recognizing how to properly and safely use this advanced braking system. Regardless of how air brake issues arise, they pose a serious safety threat not only to the person driving the truck, but to everyone else that person encounters on the roadway.
Air brake system issues
In some instances, the stream of air needed to keep the brakes open and working properly may cease. When the brakes fail to receive this airstream, they typically apply themselves and lock up, rendering the entire brake system unusable.
Air brake user errors
Another common reason that air brake systems fail is that a truck driver relies on them too much. Experienced, well-trained drivers should know not to “ride” the brakes when navigating their way down hills, as this may cause the brakes to overheat, catch on fire and fail to function. Using them sporadically and in conjunction with other methods intended to help slow the truck may help truckers brake their vehicles without over-relying on the air brakes.
Brake failure issues are a common factor in a high percentage of commercial truck crashes. Many commercial truck crashes may have been avoidable, had drivers received adequate training regarding the air brake system.