Recently, a runaway truck in Colorado made national headlines. As the tractor-trailer descended from the Rocky Mountains, its brakes overheated. Because the vehicle’s braking system was unable to stop the truck, a multi-vehicle accident occurred. Four motorists lost their lives in a fiery crash at the base of the foothills.
Semi-trucks in the United States may weigh as much as 40 tons. Commercial trucks with large loads and special permission may weigh even more. By contrast, the average weight of a passenger vehicle is roughly 4,000 pounds. It is not difficult to see why a collision with an 18-wheeler may leave you with a serious injury. On West Virginia’s mountain roadways, you must understand the risk a semi-truck’s hot brakes pose.
Brakes on commercial trucks come in a few different designs. Generally, though, truck brakes work by pressing a pad against a rotor. When brakes are hot, the space between the pad and rotor increases. This makes truck brakes less efficient or downright ineffective.
Usually, truck brakes do not fail without warning. Operators who ignore smoke or burning smells may be asking for trouble. Further, truck drivers who rely too heavily on their brakes instead of shifting to a lower gear may encourage brakes to fail. Either way, operator error often contributes to semi-truck accidents.
Before climbing behind the wheel, truck drivers should inspect their vehicles for road-worthiness. If they identify a problem, drivers should not hit the road until they address the issue. Still, because truck drivers are often under extreme pressure to meet tight deadlines, they may shorten inspections or skip them altogether. Even worse, company culture may encourage drivers to ignore mechanical problems.
Commercial trucks are often large and heavy. If you are lucky, you never have to worry about having an accident with an 18-wheeler. Nevertheless, if a runaway truck hits your vehicle, you may have to act quickly both to recover from your injuries and protect your legal rights.