The Importance of Proper Braking Techniques for Big Trucks
Thousands of people are killed or seriously injured in trucking accidents every year in the U.S. In the most recent year for which statistics are available, 4,842 large commercial trucks were involved in fatal crashes, and 107,000 were involved in injury crashes, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Brake failure is a leading cause of truck accidents.
How Is Proper Downhill Braking Done in a Big Truck?
On a long or steep downgrade, a truck’s brakes should be used only to assist the braking effect of the engine. The driver should shift to the proper low gear, then:
- Apply the brakes just enough to feel the truck slow down (for approximately three seconds).
- Release the brakes when speed has been reduced to approximately five mph below the safe speed.
- Repeat the above two steps when the vehicle’s speed has increased to the safe speed.
If the low air pressure warning light comes on, the driver should stop and park the truck as soon as safely possible. The warning light may indicate an air leak, which could make controlled braking impossible. Truck drivers should not use the parking brakes if the brakes are hot from coming down a long or steep hill, or they could be damaged by the heat.
What Makes Proper Downhill Braking So Important?
When brakes are used to slow or stop a vehicle, the brake shoes or pads rub against the brake drums or discs, creating friction and heat. In a large commercial truck, excessive heat can build up from using the brakes too much while traveling downhill instead of relying on the engine braking effect. This can lead to brake fade or brake failure, which can cause a deadly crash.
Excessive heat causes chemical changes in the lining of the brakes, which reduces friction. Overheated brake drums expand, reducing contact with the brake shoes and linings. This is known as brake fade. Continued use under these conditions can cause a truck’s brakes to fail.
Why Is It Important for Trucking Companies to Hire Experienced Drivers?
The importance of proper braking techniques is only one reason why trucking companies should hire experienced drivers. Truck drivers with years of experience have learned from that experience. They are less likely to drive recklessly or inattentively, or to make deadly mistakes on the road. Big rigs require more skill and concentration to operate safely. A fully loaded 18-wheeler can weigh more than 80,000 pounds, as compared to the average weight of 4,000 pounds for a passenger vehicle. In a collision with a big truck, passenger vehicle occupants are likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries.
How Can a Lawyer Help If Improper Braking Caused Your Truck Accident?
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a large commercial truck, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Our firm can thoroughly investigate your truck accident to obtain and preserve evidence and to determine what caused the crash and who is responsible. For example, truck black box data could show that the driver was braking improperly, or the brake system failed leading up to the crash.
The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV has a successful track record representing injured people in truck accidents and other serious personal injury matters. Mr. Low is rated 10.0 Superb by Avvo and has tried cases in 14 different states.
We offer a free initial consultation. Contact us at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free at (888) 454-5569 for dedicated advocacy after a serious crash involving a big truck.