It takes more to stop a semitruck than it does a traditional passenger car, and most modern commercial trucks across Alabama and the nation now rely on air brake systems. Air brakes activate when a steady stream of compressed air comes in contact with them. However, these braking systems are prone to failing in two important ways. Air brake failure issues are more common than many believe, and they contribute to a large percentage of modern-day truck crashes.
According to Transport Topics, a study of 967 commercial truck wrecks revealed that air brake failure played a role in 29.4% of them. How do air brakes fail, and is there anything truck drivers and fleet owners might do to better protect everyone on the road?
Air brake system malfunctions
Sometimes, air brake systems fail when something stops the compressed air stream the brake system needs to operate from coming through. When the airstream stops, the brakes lock up and apply themselves, which may lead to crashes and a loss of control for the truck driver.
Air brake user errors
Air brakes are also prone to failing when truckers overuse them. Riding the brakes down steep hills may lead to early brake fade and performance issues. When a trucker overuses the brakes and they overheat, they could potentially catch on fire. Instead of over-relying on the brakes when navigating steep hills, truckers should tap them now and again and use a jake brake, if possible, to help slow the vehicle.
Many commercial truck crashes that result from brake failure, and particularly, those that result from the brakes overheating, are preventable.