Commercial trucking companies and owner-operators are required to regularly inspect and maintain their vehicles, per requirements set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). One of the most common causes of larger commercial truck accidents involves brake failure. Brakes must be regularly inspected and maintained as needed, and a failure to do so could result in a truck company or owner operator being held negligent if an accident occurs.
It is important to understand that truck carriers and owner-operators are required to regularly inspect and maintain various parts of these vehicles, and we can see this requirement set forth in federal regulation from the FMCSA.
Not only are trucking companies and owner-operators required to regularly inspect and maintain these vehicles, but they must keep records of the inspection and maintenance for a certain amount of time after they occur.
In April of 2019, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos was operating a large commercial vehicle on Interstate 70 West of Denver. According to Aguilera-Mederos, his brakes failed when he was traveling at 85 mph. Unfortunately, Aguilera-Mederos crashed and caused a 28 car pileup that left four individuals dead.
Aguilera-Mederos was put on trial and was sentenced to 110 years in prison in December of 2021. You may remember, but this sentence subsequently led to a strike amongst commercial truck drivers operating in the state of Colorado. The drivers saw this punishment as unnecessarily harsh, particularly for something, they thought, was out of the driver’s control. The governor of Colorado later reduced the sentence to 10 years, with Aguilera-Mederos eligible for parole in December of 2026.
While not entirely blameless, the brakes on Aguilera-Mederos’s truck did fail. Even though he was speeding at the time the incident occurred, had the brakes been operating correctly, it is very unlikely that a crash of this severity would have happened.
Larger commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This means that trucks have longer stopping distances than smaller vehicles. As such, any wear and tear or failure of the brakes will increase the time that it takes for a larger truck to stop. Brake maintenance is absolutely critical for commercial truck drivers and carriers. Even if the regular inspection of brakes only increases the stopping distance by a few feet, this can help keep other motorists as well as the truck driver safe.
In addition to safety, brakes that are working properly and up to code can help trucking carriers and owner-operators save money by preventing accidents and reducing the chance the drivers will be cited.
Most issues with large truck brakes are caused by the improper or insufficient maintenance of the braking system. Improper brakes can lead to brake imbalance, thinned brake pads, brakes permeated with grease, as well as worn-out brakes caused by worn-out tires.
It is crucial for a larger commercial vehicle to undergo a performance-based brake test (PBBT) regularly. These tests will quantitatively assess great performance for the vehicle and directly measure the force the brake applies on each wheel and axle, as well as on the overall vehicle.
The PBBT will also test the overall truck’s braking capability by performing stop tests, which tests the vehicle’s stopping distance under various conditions.
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