Semi-Truck Crashes Caused By Negligent Brake Maintenance — Brakes that are “Out of Adjustment” – By Skip Pita, Pita Weber & Del Prado
Mechanical failures on a semi-trucks can cause serious crashes. Each failure is unique and can involve different federal regulations that may have been violated. In a truck accident case, it is critical that you a lawyer with experience handling truck accident cases.
Let’s consider truck brake failures — specifically, Brake Chamber Failures. First thing to keep in mind — brake systems on Semi-Trucks differ from brakes on passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicles and light trucks use hydraulic brake systems. Semi-Trucks are equipped with Air Brake systems that use compressed air, stored in tanks, to produce the necessary force to slow these heavy machines and loaded trailers down. When a trailer is attached, the air brake hoses are connected from the tractor are connected to the trailer. You have probably seen those coiled tubes on the back of a tractor. Pressurized air is carried through those tubes to the air brake chambers on each trailer wheel.
Brake failure can occur at anyone one of the brake chambers. The system works quite simply: when the driver applies the brakes: air pushes a metal rod (a “push rod”) that, in turn, then pushes a clamp (think brake shoe) against the wheel’s drum. When working correctly, the system provides the braking force to slow the rig down.
But all too often brakes are not maintained correctly and there is insufficient braking force available. When brake failure occurs, it usually does so in one of two ways. First, brake failure can occur when the clamp (or brake shoe) makes insufficient contact with the drum on the wheel. Here, the pushrod is doing its job but the clamp is either too worn down or needs to be re-adjusted. The weak or non-existent contact results in insufficient braking force.
Second, brake failure can occur where the push rod is simply not extending far enough. Here, the clamp may be in good condition and in the right position, but the pushrod is failing to extend a sufficient length, resulting in insufficient brake force.
In either case, the brakes are, what the industry calls, “Out of Adjustment.” That is the technical terminology used when the brake chamber is not producing sufficient braking force. In major crash cases, the highway patrol will often have the brakes measured ane will cite truck drivers for brakes that are “Out of Adjustment.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations set the standards for brake chambers. For example, the most common type of clamp is called a “Type 30.” Under the regulations, if the push rod has to push beyond 2 inches before it presses the clamp against the shoe, the brakes must be readjusted so that push rod “stroke” does not exceed 2 inches. Truckers and trucking companies must consistently measure this brake stroke length to make sure that the brakes are properly set to provide the required braking force. For the specific regulations addressing brakes, see Part 396 of the Code of Federal Regulations — Inspection, Repair and Maintenance. Specifically, look at, §§396.3(a)(1); 393.47(a)-(e), and the table that sets stroke length for each type of clamp type brake chambers–§393.47(e).
For an excellent example and tutorial of how to properly measure brake stroke length, an excellent video is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Cc8LgcCD4 As the mechanic in the video says, “ measuring brake stroke length is not that hard at all, it’s just a matter of using a tape measure and applying the brakes.” Even though it’s not complicated, all to often brake stroke measurement does not get done because of complacency or it is done incompetently. And this negligent failure to maintain the brakes can lead to catastrophic crashes, causing serious injury or death.
And “automatic slack adjusters” do not solve the problem. In a 2014 study, 54% of the trucks found to have brakes that were “out of adjustment” had automatic slack adjusters. https://www.todaystrucking.com/brake-adjustment-shocking-driver-study/
At Pita Weber & Del Prado, we understand trucks. We have had the honor of representing people who have lost loved ones or have been seriously injured because of the negligent operation of semi-trucks. And this includes negligent brake maintenance.
Please contact us if we can assist you with a truck accident case or any other case where another’s negligence has caused serious injury or death.
At Pita Weber & Del Prado, we are committed to people, we are committed to justice. Call us today at 305.670.2998 if you or somebody you know may have in an accident which may be due to a truck or an automobile malfunction.