Today’s commercial trucks sometimes weigh 80,000 pounds or more, so it takes more to slow and stop them than it does a traditional passenger vehicle. Most modern trucks now rely on air brake systems, which rely on air to function, rather than a hydraulic system. While many believe that air brakes are more reliable than other types of brake systems, they are still prone to failure in two key ways.
According to Transport Topics, air brake failure issues are common, contributing to 29.4% of today’s commercial truck crashes. How do air brakes typically fail, and is there anything that may help enhance public safety on the roadways?
Air brake systems must receive a consistent supply of air so that the brakes function as intended. If anything jeopardizes the airflow in the system, it may cause the brakes to lock up, leaving the truck driver with limited, if any, control. When a trucker lacks control and is also traveling quickly down a steep hill, anyone in his or her path is at risk.
Air brakes may also fail if the truck driver relies too much on the brakes when attempting to stop the vehicle, rather than employing other tactics. Some truckers, and particularly, inexperienced ones, tend to panic or overuse the brakes when making their way down steep hills. Overusing the brakes may result in the brakes overheating and catching on fire, though, and this is something well-trained and experienced truckers often recognize and avoid.
Instead of keeping the brakes pressed, truckers should use them sporadically on steep hills and consider other techniques, such as using the jake brake, to help slow their semi-trucks.