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Air brake failure a factor in close to 30% of truck crashes

You may feel uncomfortable when you encounter commercial trucks on Pennsylvania’s roadways, and you may try to avoid driving alongside them when possible. You may also want to try to avoid driving in front of semi-trucks when navigating steep hills because brake failure issues are a frequent factor in commercial truck crashes.

According to Transport Topics, brake failure issues now contribute to 29.4% of all truck wrecks. How do air brakes fail, and is there anything truck drivers might do to reduce the chances of their brakes failing?

Brake failure caused by system malfunctions

Sometimes, a truck’s air brakes fail because something interferes with the airstream they need to stay open and functioning. When the airstream stops, the brakes may automatically apply themselves and lock up, resulting in the truck driver losing control.

Brake failure caused by truck driver mistakes

More often, air brakes fail because of the actions of the truck driver. Truckers, and more frequently, newer truckers, may overuse the brakes when traveling downhill. This may lead to premature brake fade and performance issues. If a trucker relies too much on the brakes by “riding” them all the way downhill, it may result in the brakes overheating and catching on fire. However, some truckers see smoke coming from their vehicles and panic and hit the brakes even harder. Instead of over-relying on the brakes, truck drivers should hit them only briefly and engage the jake brake to help slow their vehicles.

Research shows that most truck crashes are the result of truck driver errors rather than issues within the brake system.