It is very important for truckers to use proper braking techniques while operating a big rig – particularly on a steep, downhill grade. If they fail to do so, it could cause the truck’s brakes to fail, resulting in a deadly crash. In a collision with an 80,000 pound fully loaded 18-wheeler, passenger vehicle occupants are likely to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Why Is Braking Properly So Important for Professional Truckers?
A truck’s brake shoes, or pads rub against the brake drum or discs to slow or stop the truck. This creates friction and heat. Although truck brakes are designed to withstand heat, they can fade or fail from excessive heat when drivers use the brakes too much instead of using the engine braking effect to slow the truck.
What Is the Proper Truck Braking Technique on Downhill Grades?
On a long, steep, downhill run, a truck’s brakes should only be used to support and enhance the braking effect of the engine. With the vehicle in the proper low gear, the following is the correct way to brake:
- Apply the brakes just enough to feel the truck slow down. Brake application should last approximately three seconds.
- Once the vehicle’s speed is reduced to approximately five miles per hour below an established safe speed, release the brakes.
- When the truck’s speed has increased to the safe speed once again, repeat the two steps above.
If your safe speed is 35 miles per hour, for example, on a downhill grade, do not apply the brakes until you reach that speed. At that point, apply the brakes just enough to reduce your speed to 30 miles per hour, then release them. Continue this process until you reach the bottom of the hill.
What Can Go Wrong When Truckers Fail to Brake Properly?
Excessive use of the brakes causes overheating, which can lead to brake fade. This occurs when chemical changes in the brake lining that reduce friction and expansion of the brake drums are caused by excessive heat. As the drums expand, the brake shoes must move further to make contact, and the force of contact is reduced. With continued use after brake fade occurs, the truck’s brakes could fail completely to stop or slow the vehicle.
How Can You Prove Improper Braking Caused Your Accident?
If you have been seriously injured in a collision with a large commercial truck that you believe may have been caused by improper braking, your best course of action is to speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Trucking accidents are complex cases involving state and federal regulations and multiple potentially liable parties.
Your lawyer can investigate the crash to determine fault and liability and secure evidence to support your claim. For example, the truck’s black box is a valuable source of evidence about how the driver was operating the vehicle leading up to the crash, including braking technique. Your attorney can take the necessary steps to preserve the black box as evidence in your case.
Why Choose WRSH?
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, we have recovered more than $1 billion in compensation for our clients. We have been named among the Best Law Firms by U.S. News & World Report. Our attorneys have been listed among New York Super Lawyers® and rated 10.0 Superb by Avvo. We invest in our clients’ cases to get them the best possible outcomes.
After a serious truck accident, call us at (212) 986-7353 to schedule a free consultation. We can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be entitled to claim.