Of course, every week should be brake safety week, but this coming week is the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)’s official Brake Safety Week. As a truck accident lawyer, I see some of the worst examples of trucks with bad brakes. I have required in some of my settlements that the truck company provide specific brake training to its drivers and mechanics.
There are several types of systemic failings that I have seen in my cases. The first is technical–simply not paying for the right equipment. All trucks since 1994 have been required to have automatic slack adjustors. This is a mechanism that is part of the brake system that automatically compensates for wear and tear in the system, including the drum and liners. I have handled many cases in which a motor carrier has chosen to illegally install old manual slack adjustors on trucks to save money.
Another systemic problem I have seen repeatedly is not having a preventative maintenance program or one person or department who is clearly responsible for brake maintenance. It is frightening how many drivers say that they relay entirely on the mechanics to maintain brakes and mechanics in the same company who say that don’t do anything with the brakes unless the driver complains about them. Often that has resulted in a truck on the road with no brakes and the first notice the mechanic gets is after my client is badly injured or killed.
Air brakes are complicated. I highly recommend CVSA’s air brake program for all drivers, mechanics and companies. It I successfully completed it years ago and refer back to it often. It takes approximately 10-15 hours to complete.