Dog Bite Prevention: Educating Owners and the Public

Properly functioning brakes are absolutely vital for the safe operation of any vehicle, especially large vehicles like buses that can weigh over 25,000 pounds when filled with passengers. Unfortunately, failure to properly maintain bus brakes is a widespread issue that threatens public safety. Worn-out or faulty brakes greatly reduce a bus’s ability to stop and can lead to horrific crashes. This article will examine the dangers posed by poorly maintained bus brakes, what causes them to fail, and what can be done to improve brake safety.

bus accident

The Importance of Bus Brake Maintenance

Bus brakes are complex, integrated systems of discs, drums, pads, linings, hoses and other components that work together to safely decelerate and stop the vehicle. They must withstand tremendous heat and friction to operate properly. Like any mechanical system, bus brakes require regular inspections, adjustments, lubrication, part replacement and more to remain in working order. Brake maintenance is truly vital for vehicle safety.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), faulty and deficient bus brakes are a widespread problem being discovered during roadside inspections. For example, a 2022 NTSB investigation found that 20 percent of 1,956 interstate buses had out-of-service brake violations. Brake defects were the most common vehicle violation.

Many buses on US roads have severely compromised braking systems that pose real dangers to passengers, other motorists and pedestrians.

Common Bus Brake Defects

Defective or badly maintained bus brakes can manifest in different ways, commonly:

  • Excessively worn brake pads/linings: Friction material wears out over time. Pads/linings that are too thin no longer provide adequate braking power.
  • Air system leaks: Bus air brakes rely on air pressure. Any leaks in hoses or valves greatly impact braking ability.
  • Out of adjustment brakes: Brake components can be knocked out of proper adjustment, reducing effectiveness.
  • Grease/oil contamination: Brake parts becoming contaminated with lubricants seriously impacts friction and braking force.
  • Broken/damaged parts: Springs, hoses, valves or other components can break over time, causing complete brake failure.

These and other defects pose major risks but are preventable with proper brake inspection and servicing. 

Brake Failure Greatly Increases Crash Risks

When bus brakes are compromised, the chances of a crash rise exponentially. According to federal crash statistics:

  • Brake problems are the most common vehicle-related factor in fatal bus crashes.
  • At least 25 percent of buses in reported fatal crashes have brake defects, most commonly bad maintenance.
  • Buses with brake defects are overrepresented in rollover crashes by 280 percent.

Clearly, failed brakes can start a deadly chain reaction where a driver loses control, careens off the roadway, and rolls their bus. Tire blowouts can have similar consequences. Without properly functioning brakes, drivers lose their ability to safely steer out of dangerous situations.

It’s no exaggeration to say that defective bus brakes endanger everyone sharing the road. All recent fatal bus crashes involving brake failure could have been prevented by proper servicing and repairs.

Signs Your Bus Has Brake Problems

How can you identify brake problems before a breakdown on the road? Watch for these warning signs:

  • Excessive brake pedal travel or “mushy” pedal feel signaling air loss or fluid problems in hydraulic systems. Brakes should never feel “soft” or continue to the floor.
  • Pulling, grabbing or veering during braking indicates pads have become unevenly worn. Immediate adjustment is needed.
  • High-pitched screeching or squealing when braking due to worn-out pad/lining material.
  • Excessive heat, burning smells or smoking brakes signal pads/linings failing to release properly after braking due to lubrication or adjustment issues.

Any of these symptoms means brakes likely need immediate inspection by a certified mechanic. Delaying repairs exacerbates safety risks.

Solutions and Reform Needed

The current state of bus brake maintenance in the US is alarming and demands solutions, including:

  • Enhanced federal and state brake inspection programs and requirements to identify deficient buses before traveling on our highways. Standards and oversight must improve.
  • Better training for mechanics to prevent brake problems during installation, repairs and servicing. Human error is a known issue.
  • Improved brake part quality standards may be needed as inferior replacement parts have been identified as factors in some crashes.
  • Drivers should conduct thorough pre-trip brake checks before operating buses each day. Vehicles with problems must be taken out of service.

With long-overdue brake system reforms and proper servicing, brake failure bus crashes can be significantly reduced if not eliminated outright. Public safety demands that action.

Legal Recourse for Brake Failure Crashes

When brake defects do contribute to bus crashes and passenger injuries, those affected have legal rights to obtain compensation for their losses and damages. An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can help victims and their families pursue claims against:

  • Bus companies and their insurance providers – Carriers are ultimately responsible for routine brake maintenance and pre-trip inspections to confirm repairs were made properly without negligence. When preventable brake defects exist, victims can file liability claims demanding accountability and appropriate compensation. Settlements can pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more damages.
  • Government transportation agencies – In some cases, brake inspection programs fail to do their job effectively – allowing dangerously defective buses keep operating. Victims can pursue injury claims against state departments of transportation as well.
  • Bus or brake part manufacturers – If defective designs or faulty brake components directly contributed to crashes, product liability lawsuits are warranted to obtain compensation.

Victims should consult with qualified motor vehicle accident lawyers as soon as possible after crashes caused by defective bus brakes. Time limits apply for taking legal action in injury cases. An attorney can fully investigate causes, build strong cases demonstrating negligence and brake defects, and fight for maximum claim settlements and judgments.

Don’t assume brake failure crashes are unavoidable “accidents”. They are preventable with better maintenance, repairs and parts quality. Drivers and passengers deserve safety first. When that fails, legal options exist.

Failure to properly maintain bus brakes poses an unacceptable and deadly danger on our nation’s roadways, as evidenced by alarming crash statistics. Brake defects are the number one vehicle factor in bus accidents, leading to loss of control, rollovers and serious injuries at elevated rates. Everyone must make bus brake safety a top priority through improved inspections, preventative maintenance, quality control and repairs. When negligence occurs and brake defects trigger crashes, liability claims should be pursued to the fullest extent. Properly functioning brakes save lives – while brake system failures destroy them. This serious safety issue demands regulatory reforms, industry accountability and better injury claim options for innocent victims.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm in a bus accident caused by brake defects or failure, an experienced motor vehicle injury attorney from The Brown Firm can discuss your legal rights and options. Don’t wait to get help recovering damages for medical treatment, lost income, disabilities, grief and suffering. Find us at the following locations:

  • 7176 Hodgson Memorial Drive, Savannah, GA 31405 
  • 320 East Clayton Street, Athens, GA 30601 
  • 197 14th St. NW, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30318 
  • 110 Traders Cross #226, Okatie, SC 29909 

Or call now for a free consultation on (800) 529-1441.

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