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Georgia Trucking Accidents Caused by Air Brake Failure

September 03, 2016

Although faulty brakes constitute a factor in only two percent of collisions involving vehicles other than large trucks, brake-related issues constitute a factor in 27 percent of semi-truck crashes according to American Trucking Associations (link downloads PDF report). While there are many vehicle-related issues that can contribute to a tractor-trailer collision, unsafe brakes constitute one of the most dangerous types of vehicle malfunction. In this blog, our Atlanta tractor-trailer accident lawyers examine the role of brake issues in accidents involving large trucks.

How Tractor-Trailer Braking Systems Differ from Passenger Cars

Since semi-trucks are much heavier than passenger cars, vans, and pickups, truck drivers require a much longer time to stop when confronted with a road hazard. Because of their size and weight, large trucks are equipped with a different type of braking system than passenger cars. They frequently come equipped with compressed air brake systems whereas passenger cars rely on hydraulic brake systems.

A compressed brake system is comprised of several components, including an air compressor driven by the engine, control panels, a compressed air storage tank, service brakes, and parking brakes. When a truck driver pushes down on the brake pedal, pressure is generated and propelled into the brake chamber. The air slows the rotation speed of the wheels of the tractor-trailer. Although this type of braking system is more efficient at reducing the speed of heavier vehicles, air brake systems can fail without adequate and timely maintenance. When air brakes on a large truck fail, the prospect of an 80,000 pound vehicle streaking down the highway out-of-control can be a terrifying sight.

The vast majority of tractor-trailers are equipped with a backup braking system designed to avert collisions when a big-rig cannot stop or slow properly. Despite this form of redundancy and the general reliability of air brake systems, trucking accidents involving brake failure cause a significant number of motor vehicle accidents. In most instances, the brakes fail on a large truck because the operator's driving places too much stress on the brakes, or the driver fails to properly engage the braking system.

Mitigating the Risk of Brake Failure Leading to Semi-Truck Accidents

Even when problems exist with the air brake system, the brakes offer some resistance, which allows the truck driver to gradually bring the vehicle to a stop. However, mechanical or maintenance issues can interfere with the efficient functioning of the brakes. If these problems are not detected and rectified before leaving on a route, minor errors by the driver can exacerbate stress on the brake system when an emergency occurs.

Commercial drivers need to anticipate that air brakes and backup brake systems might not function at full capacity all of the time. Drivers can mitigate the risk of a trucking accident if they reduce the amount of stress and wear on the braking system by avoiding riding on the brakes on sharp inclines or stopping short. Safe driving practices can prevent situations that necessitate placing excessive stress on the brakes, such as traveling at a safe speed, observing a proper following distance, and anticipating potential road hazards that would otherwise necessitate slamming on the brakes.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 39 Years of Legal Experience to Work For You!

Brake sensitivity also is a factor in many large-truck crashes, particularly when drivers use too much force engaging the brakes. This mistake is common among novice drivers who utilize excess pressure when activating the brakes. When inexperienced drivers must navigate wet and slippery roadways, the risk of a jackknife accident caused by applying the brakes too quickly and rapidly increases significantly.

If you are injured or lose a loved one in a tractor-trailer accident, our lawyers work diligently in pursuit of a full recovery for our clients within the bounds of the law. Our Atlanta tractor-trailer lawyers represent those who suffer serious injuries throughout Georgia and in the Southeast. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law
17 Executive Park Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 529-6333
(800) LAW-NEED
Hours: Open Today · Open 24 hours

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Category: Truck Accidents

Please Note:
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.