Trucking companies and drivers are responsible for their brakes. Regulations covering breaks and break maintenance are:
> As a general rule, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require that all motor carriers “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained,” all motor vehicles under its control, and all “parts and accessories must be in safe and proper condition at all times.” (CFR 396.3(a))
> CFR 396.3(b) also requires that for all vehicles which the motor carrier controls for 30 consecutive days or more, the carrier has to maintain detailed records for each vehicle” including “a record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance showing their date and type,” including review and repair of brake systems.
> The FMCSA also requires all drivers to complete a post-trip inspection report in writing at the end of each driving day. If any problems are found, the carrier has to certify in writing that any listed defect or deficiency has been repaired or that immediate repair is unnecessary. The motor carrier must maintain an original copy of the report for 3 months, (CFR 396.11)
> CFR 396.17 mandates that all commercial vehicles must undergo, at a minimum, a thorough inspection at least once a year. A copy of the report must be maintained for 14 mos.
> Specifically with respect to brakes, CFR 393.40 – 393.55 contains detailed technical regulations about specific brake parts and systems and how they’re to be maintained.
> CFR 393.40(a) – “Each commercial motor vehicle must have brakes adequate to stop & hold the vehicle or a combination of vehicles. Each commercial motor vehicle must meet the applicable service, parking, and emergency brake system requirement provide in this section.”
> There are different technical requirements and regulations for services brakes, air brake systems, electric brake systems, vacuum brake systems, surge break systems, parking brakes, emergency brakes, and so on.
> CFR 393.48 provides that “all brakes with which a motor vehicle is equipped must at all times be capable of operating.”
> CFR 393.53(b): Every commercial vehicle manufactured on or after October 20, 1994 and equipped with an air brake system must be equipped with Automatic Slack Adjusters.
> CFR 393.47(d) sets out specific minimum standards re: thickness of brake lining/pad:
- Steering axle brake lining/pad thickness
- Shoe center with continuous strip; shall not be less than 3/16
- Shoe center with two pads; shall not be less than 1/4
- Air disk brakes; shall not be less than 1/8
- Hydraulic disk & electric brakes; shall not be less than 1/16
- Non-steering axle brakes
- Shoe center for drum brakes; shall not be less than 1/4
- Air disk brakes, shall not be less than 1/8
- Hydraulic disk & electric brakes; shall not be less than 1/16
> There are also very specific requirements for who may inspect and repair brakes on a commercial vehicle. CFR 396.19 sets out the following requirements:
- Brake inspector qualification – The motor carrier is responsible for ensuring that all inspections, maintenance, repairs, and service to brakes of commercial motor vehicles comply with these regulations. The carrier must ensure that the employees responsible for brake inspection, maintenance, service, or repairs meet minimum brake inspector qualifications.
- Qualifying Brake Training or Experience – Qualifying brake training or experience includes successful completion of a State, Canadian province, Federal agency, or union training program, a State-approved training program, training that led to attainment of a State or Canadian Province qualifying certificate to perform assigned brake service or inspection tasks, including passage of CDL air brake test in the case of a brake inspection, or one year of brake-related training, experience, or combination of both.
- Maintaining Evidence of Brake Inspector Qualifications – Motor carriers must maintain evidence of brake inspector qualification at the principal place of business or the location where the inspector works. Evidence must be retained for the period during which the brake inspector is employed in that capacity.
The trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Created in 2000, the FMCSA has specific rules and regulations governing the trucking industry and trucking accidents. These rules cover an extremely wide range of issues, including requirements for drivers and how records should be preserved by trucking companies and drivers.
If you or a loved one has been in a serious accident caused by a commercial truck driver, it’s critical you have an attorney on your side that thoroughly understands FMCSA rules and knows how to apply that knowledge specifically toward your case.
For example, if a truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel and cause an accident, he might have violated the “hours-of-service rules” which spell out how long drivers can operate at one time. Trucking companies can be held accountable in such accidents. They sometimes put pressure on their drivers to work longer hours, which increases the risk of accidents.
Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has imposed other strict rules for trucking companies to follow to ensure drivers are qualified. With a few minor exceptions, a driver must be:
- At least 21 years old
- Able to read and speak the English language sufficiently, especially to read road signs
- Able to safely operate the commercial vehicle
- Able to meet certain physical requirements
- Able to provide a list of prior moving violations and accidents to the hiring company
- Able to successfully complete a road test
At Bell & Pollock, we are well-versed in the FMCSA rules and regulations. This knowledge enables us to build a solid case and hold truck drivers and trucking companies responsible for their actions.
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