Based on size and weight alone, semitrucks pose a significant danger to smaller passenger cars. When those massive trucks also lack adequate braking systems, they can become even more of a highway hazard. Unfortunately, many highway truck crashes result from brake failure issues, and when a truck loses its brakes, it can lead to serious injuries and even death.
Because severe injuries and highway fatalities can result from truck crashes, it is critical that trucking companies train their drivers so they realize they do not have to rely on the brake system, exclusively, to get them safely down hills. There are other things truck drivers can do, such as shifting into a lower gear or pressing the brakes just enough to initiate a slowdown, to help slow the speed of the truck when traveling down steep hills.
Common causes of air brake failure
Air brake systems can fail in several different ways, but most truck crashes resulting from brake failure occur because of one of two circumstances. In some cases, brake systems can fail because of some type of malfunction within the system itself. Air brakes, as the name implies, work when they receive a constant stream of air that ensures that they stay open while a truck is in motion. If the air brake system malfunctions, though, the brakes can stop getting this stream of air, which can make them brake automatically and potentially lock up.
Other brake failure issues happen because drivers are either unaware of how to properly use their brakes, or because they are negligent when driving and simply fail to use them properly. In many cases, inexperienced truck drivers rely too much on the air brakes to stop their vehicles when traveling downhill, even though overuse can lead the brakes to overheat and catch on fire.
The brake system is arguably the most important element of a commercial truck, so it is critical that all working truck drivers know how to use them properly.