Brake Fade Failure

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by R. Scott King, BSME ::::

Case Synopsis: Operator of a plumbing supply truck, equipped with airbrakes, lost control of his vehicle while descending a long hill. The operator reported his brakes failed during the descent causing his speed to increase uncontrollably. The truck overturned in a sharp curve in the roadway and struck several oncoming vehicles before coming to rest. Vehicle recovery personnel responding to the scene reported that the rear brakes on the truck did not engage when applied and that there was evidence of improper adjustment.

Analysis: Review of available maintenance and repair records revealed an absence of standard maintenance procedures typically required on a truck equipped with airbrakes. Furthermore, an inspection of the incident truck revealed several brake system deficiencies all with the potential for increased stopping distance and complete loss of braking from the affected wheels. Based on the physical evidence and maintenance records, as well as the operator and witness testimony, experts were able to determine the incident occurred because several of the brakes were improperly maintained and adjusted, causing the remaining brakes to overheat and fade during the long descent.

Result: These findings facilitated settlement between the various parties.

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