Commercial Tractor-trailer Crashes Caused by Improper Braking Technique

For some motorists, it may be difficult to comprehend the shear mass of a fully-loaded commercial motor vehicle (CMV) such as an 18-wheel automobile carrier or gasoline tanker truck. For lack of a better description, however, imagine a small brick house rolling along the beltway at 55mph. Another way to look at it would be to remember that a loaded semi tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 20 times that of the average passenger car. Without putting too fine a point on it, a traffic collision between a large CMV and passenger vehicle can often result in serious injury, if not death.

Weight is a critical aspect of these large commercial vehicles that a great number of people fail to take into account when sharing the roadway with big rig semis. No doubt, when people consider the many dangerous characteristics of such large and heavy vehicles driving within mere feet of a family sedan or SUV, the reality of the situation can become quite evident. Now consider how you as a motorist might feel knowing that the trucker behind the wheel is perhaps not that well trained. It's a scary thought, to say the least.

As Baltimore automobile and trucking accident lawyers, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands the importance of having the best qualified professionals operating these behemoths on our public roadways. The possibility that a commercial truck driver may lack the skills or the experience to operate a large box truck or semi tractor-trailer is not a comforting thought; in fact, in the event of an emergency, the danger to that driver, as well as all of the people in the immediate vicinity, could be quite real.

As professional trial lawyers with years of experience in auto, truck and motorcycle personal injury cases, our law firm is prepared to assist victims of commercial trucking collisions brought on or made worse by an inexperienced individual behind the wheel. We know that there can be many contributing factors when investigating a personal injury claim involving a commercial vehicle. For instance, one of the many potential causes of serious trucking accidents here in Maryland involves poor braking technique on the part of the truck driver.

It is no secret that CMVs, especially those large and massive trucks, rely on well-maintained and fully functioning braking systems. With all of the mechanical stress placed on a truck's brakes, the margin for safety can be very thin. But even when a commercial truck's braking system is kept in good working order, the driver must be able to operate the brakes in a safe and reasonable manner. Sadly, it is an unfortunate fact that improper brake use can be a common cause of trucking-related traffic accidents.

The professionals at Lebowitz & Mzhen understand how a person's life can be turned upside down in just a few seconds when driver negligence is involved. Whether a beltway crash or interstate wreck is caused by mechanical failure or driver error, the results can often be devastating for the victims of such events. Being rushed to a local emergency room with any number of serious or critical injuries can be the end result of many a commercial trucking accident.

Depending on the particular circumstances, the occupants of vehicles that have been hit by an 18-wheeler or other large commercial vehicle can suffer from a range of severe or life-threatening injuries. These can include deep lacerations, compound fractures, closed-head trauma, spinal cord damage, first- and second-degree burns, and serious damage to the internal organs. In general, if driver negligence can be shown to have caused those severe injuries, there may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, which can help a victim recover various costs associated with the treatment of his or her injuries.

Obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) requires a great deal of driver training and education in order to become proficient in the operation of an 18-wheeler and to understand the important differences between driving a CMV and operating a passenger car or light truck. Size and weight are not the only critical factors when driving a commercial truck; another factor is that semi tractors pull behind them long and heavy trailers, the inherent instability of that tractor-trailer combination is an ever-present problem.

Because of the complex on-road dynamics involved with such commercial vehicles, if a driver does not understand how to maximize the vehicle's braking efficiency, the possibility of a tragic outcome can be that much more serious. Considering this, there are numerous opportunities for a commercial trucker who is short on experience to negligently operate his vehicle's brakes.

It is well understood, based on years of commercial trucking accidents, that the correct braking technique for a large CMV is dependent on applying the brakes judiciously to slow the vehicle down while not wearing them out prematurely or causing a dangerous overheating condition, such as when descending a steep roadway, which can cause partial or complete brake failure and result in a possible runaway situation.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers experienced in litigating trucking-related cases, the legal experts at Lebowitz & Mzhen know that a properly trained and competent commercial driver has a responsibility to understand the circumstances under which certain braking techniques should be used for maximum safety. This includes knowing when to apply steady braking pressure or when to "pump" the brake pedal for maximum effectiveness.

In addition to proper brake operation, a driver must also know how to evaluate the mechanical health of his vehicle's braking system, such as understanding how to accurately measure the air pressure of the braking system; being certain to leave the transmission in neutral when the parking brake is engaged; and knowing how to make best use of the vehicle's ABS and/or traction control system.

In many situations where a commercial truck accident has occurred, driver negligence may be indicated if proper following distance was not observed, or if the brakes were applied in an improper manner based on road surface and weather conditions; failing to maintain a safe speed on a decline in order to avoid a runaway situation; applying the brakes in a manner that causes the trailer to swing out, resulting in a jackknife or rollover situation; or, applying the brakes too hard for road/weather conditions which then results in a shifted load or loss of cargo that causes other vehicles to hit the spilled cargo.

While proper braking technique will allow a driver to navigate steep declines by selecting the best transmission gear for a given slope and applying the brakes judiciously while descending a hill, improper braking can rise to the level of negligence if a trucker breaches his duty to operate his rig with the reasonable care expected of a skilled commercial driver. If an injury-related or fatal accident results from such negligent operation, there may be grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

The skilled attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen understand the critical need to determine responsibility for any trucking-related injury accident. Proper and careful operation of a commercial motor vehicle is very important to avoiding the serious and sometimes fatal consequences of a bad trucking-related traffic wreck. The truck driver may be at fault, but his employer and any other third party entities may also share the blame for any given Maryland trucking collision. Our legal staff has the training and skills to assist victims in recovering damages following such tragic events.

When it comes to trucking-related highway accidents, Lebowitz & Mzhen is dedicated to its clients and makes every effort to assist the victim and his family during the often complex process that a personal injury lawsuit entails. Our legal team is well versed in the area of personal injury claims and experienced in fighting for victims' legal rights under the law.

Whether one's injuries were received in an automobile wreck, commercial trucking collision or motorcycle crash, as professionals in the field of trucking accident law, our lawyers look at every aspect of a traffic accident case, with the intent to understand the facts and work for the victim's best interests. As such, we welcome inquiries from auto and trucking accident victims, or from their families. If you or a loved one has been badly hurt as a result of a roadway collision, please take a moment to contact our legal offices at (800) 654-1949. We will be happy to arrange a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Or, you can email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen directly to set up a meeting regarding your trucking accident case.