What to Do If Your Commercial Vehicle’s Brakes Fail

    Brake failure can be frightening regardless of the type of vehicle you drive. However, for commercial truck drivers, brake failure can be particularly terrifying as it makes them unable to control a vehicle weighing up to 80,000 pounds. The immense weight of commercial vehicles puts other motorists at severe risk if the truck’s brakes fail. As a trucker, the key to managing this situation is to remain calm, act effectively, and use methods to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop. 

    Stay Calm & Respond to the Situation

    The first and most crucial step is to stay calm and focused on what’s going on around your truck. Panicking can make it nearly impossible to effectively react to the situation at hand. Try to take a deep breath and assess the problem in its entirety. As soon as a mechanical issue arises, activate your truck’s hazard lights. This alerts other motorists to your plight and allows them to stay out of your way, thus reducing the chances of a collision and costly truck accident lawsuit in Atlanta.

    Attempt to Slow Down the Vehicle Gradually

    Your vehicle’s brakes may have limited use or be entirely non-functional, but there are still tactics you can use to bring the truck safely to a stop. As you’re driving, gradually downshift to lower gears. By doing so, you employ the engine’s resistance to slow the vehicle down. You should be careful not to downshift too aggressively, as doing so can cause the engine to stall and give you another problem to solve.

    Once you’re begun to noticeably reduce the vehicle’s speed, engage the emergency brake to further slow the truck down. Keep in mind that the emergency brake alone will not be sufficient to bring the truck to a full stop. Applying the emergency brake too forcefully or when you are moving at a high rate of speed can cause the wheels to lock. Make sure you’ve already begun to reduce the truck’s speed before engaging the emergency brake to avoid skidding or a rollover. 

    Use Auxiliary Slowing Systems 

    Some commercial trucks have additional systems that can help you overcome the loss of your vehicle’s brakes. If your truck has an engine brake, activate it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An engine brake uses the vehicle’s engine resistance to create a slowing effect.

    Some newer models of truck will also have a retarder system. A retarder is a hydraulic system that absorbs the truck’s kinetic energy and converts it into heat, effectively slowing down the vehicle. If your vehicle has this capability, be sure to review your owner’s manual before you encounter an emergency so you know when and how to use it effectively. 

    Safely Navigate to a Stop

    As soon as your truck’s brakes fail, your goal is to bring the truck to a stop in a safe, controlled manner. Ideally, you want to get your vehicle away from the flow of traffic as well to reduce the risk of being hit by an inattentive driver. As you attempt to bring the vehicle to a halt, look for potentially safe areas or escape routes to pull over to. Ideally, aim for a designated emergency pull-off area or wide shoulder of the freeway with minimal traffic flow.

    As you move your way out of the flow of traffic, use your traffic signals to warn other drivers of your intentions. Be cautious when crossing lanes and use the methods discussed above to continuously reduce your vehicle’s speed. Once you are close to a complete stop, do your best to get out of the active traffic lanes. 

    Contact Help and Assess the Situation

    Once the truck has come to a full stop, call the local emergency service number to inform them of the situation. Clearly explain where your vehicle is stopped, the nature of the problem, and any potential hazards that would require a more urgent response. If anyone was injured or a crash occurred, be sure to report those details as well. 

    Once you’ve called for help, take stock of the situation. If you are not in immediate danger and you can safely wait inside the vehicle for assistance, do so. If there are any threats, such as a damaged fuel tank or a fire, cautiously evacuate the vehicle and find a safe location away from danger. 

    When emergency responders arrive, explain the situation clearly and concisely. Explain how and when the brake failure occurred, what you did to stop the vehicle, and whether anyone was hurt. 

    Staying Safe After an Unexpected Brake Failure

    Brake failure is a serious situation in just about any circumstance. However, failing truck brakes can put everyone on the road in serious, imminent danger. If this situation happens to you, do your best to remain calm, in control, and aware of your surroundings. Even if your vehicle’s brakes are not fully functional, you can take steps to reduce your speed to a manageable level. We hope this article helps you stay safe if you ever experience this situation while driving!

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