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Kenneth J. Annis & Associates

Truck Brake Failure

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that brake problems caused 29 percent of all large truck crashes. In other words, an estimated 41,000 out of 141,000 large truck accidents were caused by a braking problem. Avoiding many of these problems starts with proper pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Drivers must complete pre-trip inspections and post-trip inspections to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. A commercial driver’s failure to properly conduct a pre-trip inspection not only violates the law but also endangers the trucker and every other motorist on the road. A careless driver runs the risk of operating an 85,000-pound vehicle with no brakes. The truck brake failure attorneys at Kenneth J. Annis & Associates understand the dangers inherent in brake failure and the commensurate responsibility of the driver to do his part to make sure his brakes do not fail.

The Commonwealth of Virginia mandates that every intrastate driver who operates a tractor-trailer truck conduct a pre-trip brake inspection. The driver must examine the brake drums and brake shoes before starting his trip. Specifically, the driver must closely look for cracked brake drums and shoe pads with debris, such as oil, grease, or brake fluid. The driver must also look for brake shoes that are too thin, broken, or missing. The driver needs to check the air brake lines as well. The driver must replace cracked or broken hoses before the trip. The driver also has a duty to pay attention to see if the air chamber has been damaged in any way. Lastly, the driver must examine the slack adjusters to make certain they are at less than a 90-degree angle when applying the brakes.

The driver must inspect the interior controls as well before leaving on the trip. At the outset, the driver must examine previous mechanical reports and inspection reports. Inspecting these reports alerts the driver to potential problems before beginning the interior inspection. As an integral part of the interior inspection, the driver must examine the steering, clutch, accelerator, and braking controls. Conducting a proper inspection requires the driver to inspect the foot brake, the trailer brake, and the parking brake to ensure all are responsive and in working order.

The driver also must perform a systems check as part of the pre-trip inspection. An air brake system check is performed by starting the tractor and allowing the air brakes to fill up to 100-120 pounds per square inch (psi). The driver next must turn off the engine and release the brakes. The driver then depresses the foot brake hard and holds it down for one minute. The driver must watch for a drop in air pressure in the brakes. Air pressure dropping lower than four psi means that the air braking system is not functioning properly. At that point, the driver should turn the engine on and watch the warning systems to ensure proper functioning by pumping the brakes. Pumping the brakes causes the air pressure to go down. At 60 psi, the low air pressure warning systems should activate. The driver then pumps the air down to 40 psi, at which point the parking brake knob activates. The driver must not operate the vehicle if the testing procedure reveals any malfunction.

A safe, conscientious driver conducts brake checks during the trip as well. The driver should check the brakes within the first 50 miles of the trip and then again every 150 miles or every three hours, whichever occurs first. Lastly, the post-trip must be completed, and the driver must sign the inspection report.

The truck brake failure attorneys at Kenneth J. Annis & Associates know how air brakes work and the procedures a driver must follow to reduce the potential for brake failure during the trip. The knowledge and skill of attorneys of Kenneth J. Annis & Associates are prepared to take on large trucking companies and their national insurance carriers. Call Kenneth J. Annis & Associates today at 202-785-2244 to schedule your free consultation.


1100 Connecticut Ave NW #645
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202-785-2244
Fax: 202-785-8181


We serve the following localities: Washington DC; Baltimore; Anne Arundel County including Annapolis and Glen Burnie; Prince George's County including Upper Marlboro, Hyattsville, and Bowie; Carroll County including Westminster and Eldersburg; and Montgomery County including Rockville, Germantown, and Bethesda.