We all are purchasing more products online, which means that there are more and more commercial trucks on the roadways making deliveries. A study by a trucking industry safety consultant has found that air brake-related components are responsible for 51% of all brake failures on trucks. This data is similar to what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found when it studied the issue over a 33-month time period and concluded that brake failure is responsible for 30% of all large truck crashes.
One recent study used an inspection reporting system for safety inspections to evaluate the data from 20,788 documented failures of freight, passenger, and vocational transportation industry brake systems from May 2021 to May 2022. The five most common causes of brake systems were:
- The automatic braking system (ABS) caused two-thirds of all air brake failures.
- The parking and emergency brake system caused 18% of air brake failures. The parking brake element caused 98% of all reported cases.
- The wheel end subsystem, which includes brake drums behind the tires, caused 16% of air brake failures.
- The hydraulic brake subsystem caused 12% of air brake failures.
- The master brake subsystem caused 3% of air brake failures.
Functioning air brakes are essential for roadway safety
Air brakes stop or slow down the 80,000-pound semi-trucks we see on our roads daily. While consumer vehicles use hydraulics, large commercial vehicles (and trains) use air brakes. The way they work is that compressed air presses on pistons that engage the brake pad of the truck and its trailer. Unlike the sensitive power brakes in consumer vehicles, air brakes have a split-second delay.
When air brake systems fail, the results can be catastrophic for others in smaller non-commercial vehicles. Victims are often severely injured and sometimes die from their injuries.