A Study of Bad Brakes

In the recent issue of TruckAccident Magazine, a publication that is FREE to the motoring public, David R. Lira of Girardi & Keese Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA, writes about his experience in a case where bad brakes were to blame for a major personal injury case he tried.

In his article, Lira highlights the need for careful and thorough mechanical inspections of the vehicles involved in truck v. automobile incidents.

Many defects and/or “out-of’ service” conditions can often be overlooked. In this case, the testimony of the truck driver was not available due to the truck driver’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment due to pending criminal charges arising from the incident. Key findings from the forensic inspections established that 40 percent of the brakes were out of adjustment, thus violating Federal regulations. Subsequent to the collision, an inspection of the subject was demanded and access was granted.

This vehicle was equipped with FMVSS- 121 dual circuit, air-powered brake system. Due to extensive fire damages, the brake hoses, air dryer, governor, air reservoirs and other components of the brake system were destroyed. Further, certain brake chambers were burned out, thus preventing brake adjustment testing as to these chambers. As to the chambers unaffected by the fire, an external pressured air source was utilized to simulate service brake application. Thereafter, brake adjustment measurements were taken. Legal brake adjustment limits were derived from the “Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, North American Standard Out-of-Service” Criteria. The braking system inspection did reveal deficiencies that compromised the distance required to stop the truck.

Brake adjustment limits are set by Federal regulation (49 CFR 571.121). Federal out-of-service criteria defines a brake that is one-eighth of an inch or more beyond the legal limit of adjustment as a defective brake. If the number of brakes that are out of adjustment exceeds 20 percent of the total number of individual brakes the vehicle is equipped with, the vehicle is not only in violation, but meets the criteria for being placed out of service. 

In this case, four of the 10 brakes the combination vehicle was equipped with were out of adjustment.

Gaining quick access to the involved tractor-trailer is critical to the investigation. Communications demanding presentation of the evidence should be the first letter out of the office in these cases.

Once the evidence is secured, thorough mechanical inspections should be conducted by qualified forensic consultants. You never know what you may find.

Read this article and others like it at TruckAccidentMagazine.com. Call Lori Tepper at APITLAmerica today at 888-772-4852, to learn more about TruckAccident Magazine.  Also, learn more about putting the brakes on unsafe trucking companies online at http://www.apitlamerica.com – APITLA is serving America’s truck accident victims.



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