1 in 7 Trucks Pulled From the Road for Brake Violations During CVSA Brake Safety Day

 In Commercial Trucking Accidents, Passenger Bus, Trucking Accident

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) recently released data from its unannounced brake safety enforcement event, Brake Safety Day, and as usual, the results should concern all drivers who share the road with large trucks and buses.

On April 25, 2018, CVSA enforcement personnel inspected more than 11,000 commercial trucks and buses to identify underperforming and non-functional brake systems as well as violations involving antilock braking systems (ABSs). Almost 14 percent of the trucks and buses inspected were placed out of service with critical violations during the event, which was part of the CVSA’s Operation Airbrake safety program. 

A Full Breakdown of Results Shows More than 1,500 Critical Brake Safety Violations

The CVSA’s official results from April’s Brake Safety Day, as published on the organization’s website, break down as follows: 

  • 41 U.S. states and 11 Canadian provinces or territories participated in the event. 
  • In all, CVSA enforcement officials conducted 11,531 inspections — 10,074 in the United States and 1,457 in Canada. 
  • 13.8 percent (1,595) of all inspections resulted in a truck or bus being placed out of service for critical brake violations.

Unlike in previous years, the CVSA failed to report the number of vehicles that inspectors placed out of service during the event with other types of safety violations that weren’t brake-related. In previous years, this figure nearly doubled the total number of vehicles placed out of service. For example, during Brake Safety Day 2017, 12 percent of trucks and buses failed the brake check, but another 8.8 percent were placed out of service because inspectors found other safety violations that had nothing to do with brakes. And during the 2016 event, more than half the vehicles that were placed out of service failed for reasons that weren’t brake-related.

Why Brake Violations Matter, and Why 14 Percent Is an Unacceptable Failure Rate

This year’s 13.8 percent failure rate for brake violations — the highest since the CVSA launched Brake Safety Day in 2015 — indicates that brake safety practices in the trucking industry aren’t improving, and it’s yet another piece of data demonstrating that a large proportion of trucks on the road are unsafe and represent a serious hazard to drivers. 

Because large trucks and buses can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, they require a colossal amount of braking power to stop in an emergency. When these vehicles fail to stop, the consequences are often disastrous. This means that adequately-maintained braking systems are critical to the safety of ordinary drivers who share the roads with tractor-trailers, commercial buses, and other large vehicles. Bad truck brakes usually result from a combination of two factors: improper maintenance and a failure to train truck drivers to recognize brake issues during pre-trip inspections.

The near-14 percent failure rate for brake violations during the Brake Safety Day event is especially alarming given the generous criteria that CVSA inspectors use to determine whether a commercial vehicle is fit to remain in service. These standards, which come from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), only identify the most serious commercial vehicle violations that the federal government has determined  are an imminent threat to the public. The FMCSA’s criteria say that for a truck or bus to be placed out of service with a brake violation, 20 percent of the vehicle’s brakes must be defective and incapable of stopping the vehicle. In practice, this means that the federal safety standards for brakes are easy to comply with as long as truck and bus companies put forth minimal effort.

RELATED: Hit by a Truck Driver? They May Have Broken Rules and Regulations

The experts who investigate truck crashes agree that brake failures are far too common and continue to cause a high percentage of devastating wrecks. For example, the company Crash Forensics, which performs scientific analysis of motor vehicle crashes, notes on its website that brake failures are one of the most common crash factors its investigators uncover when they study the scenes of truck wrecks.

“Even though proper brake maintenance is so important [in preventing large truck crashes], it is far from standard practice in the trucking industry,” the Crash Forensics team notes on their website. “A large number of trucks are not regularly maintained, [and] the ones that are regularly maintained are most often not maintained properly. This fact is very evident to the crash investigator, who rarely ever sees 18 skid marks from an 18-wheel truck that locked its brakes at a crash scene.”

Meanwhile, data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) 2006 Large Truck Crash Causation Study, which is the largest and most comprehensive study ever performed on truck wrecks and the factors that cause them, shows that trucks with brake safety violations pose a serious threat to other drivers on the road. When FMCSA researchers examined the subset of truck wrecks where the braking capacity of the truck was critical, they found that 45.5 percent of the trucks involved had brake safety violations that should have put the truck out of service.

The failure rate of almost one in seven for brake inspections during Brake Safety Day 2018 lines up with the expert consensus and means that far too many of the trucks and buses on the road still don’t even meet the minimum safety standards established by law for their industry. Put simply, the public and the lawmakers who represent them should expect much better, and these figures are unlikely to improve unless trucking companies are held accountable for their lack of dedication to safety. 

Contact Truck Wreck Justice If You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a large truck or bus, Truck Wreck Justice Attorney Morgan Adams is here to help. With years of experience and a sole focus on large vehicle cases, Mr. Adams is a powerful advocate for trucking accident victims and an experienced litigator who won’t hesitate to fight for your rights in court. 

Please contact Truck Wreck Justice at (432) 265-2020 or fill out our online contact form if you need help after a truck crash. We can listen to your story and give you an initial assessment of your case at no cost or financial risk to you, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you’ll only pay fees or case expenses if we help you obtain financial compensation through a successful settlement or lawsuit. 


Air brake failure analysis. (2016). CrashForensics.com. Retrieved from http://www.crashforensics.com/airbrakefailure.cfm

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. (2018, July 17). Nearly 1,600 commercial motor vehicles with critical brake violations were removed from roadways during CVSA’s unnanounced Brake Safety Day [press release]Retrieved from https://cvsa.org/news-entry/2018-unannounced-brake-safety-day-results/

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. (2017, November 17). CVSA releases results from Brake Safety Day [press release]. Retrieved from https://cvsa.org/news-entry/sept-2017-brake-safety-day-results/

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. (2016, July 26). CVSA releases results from unannounced Brake Check day [press release]. Retrieved from http://cvsa.org/news-entry/cvsa-releases-results-unannounced-brake-check-one-day-event/

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. (2015, July 22). CVSA releases results from Operation Airbrake unannounced Brake Check one-day event [press release]. Retrieved from http://cvsa.informz.net/informzdataservice/onlineversion/ind/bWFpbGluZ2luc3RhbmNlaWQ9NDkxODQyMiZzdWJzY3JpYmVyaWQ9MTA1ODI2OTY4Mw

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2006, January). Large truck crash causation study (LTCCS) analysis series: Using LTCCS data for statistical analysis of crash risk (Publication #FMCSA-RI-05-037). Washington, D.C.: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Analysis, Research, and Technology Division. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-ltccs-analysis-series-using-ltccs

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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