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Operation Airbrake: Safety blitz targeting brake safety in trucks, buses

Written by Steve Gursten Posted November 20th, 2013

Results show that brake violations are decreasing — but still yield over 2,000 out of service orders

operation airbrake

Some of the most serious truck crashes and bus accidents occur when brakes fail. These crashes are horrible, like this bus accident involving Scapadas Magicas that killed 8 people. When the brakes fail on a large commercial vehicle, it becomes a game of Russian Roulette on our highways, with innocent people who are unlucky enough to be at the wrong place and wrong time paying the ultimate price in blood and lost life.

Well today I came across some very encouraging news.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) recently conducted a blitz targeting poorly maintained braking systems among transport trucks and commercial buses called Operation Airbrake. Operation Airbrake is a special program dedicated to improving brake safety throughout North America. It occurred on September 8-14 of this year. And the results were pleasantly surprising.

According to an analysis of the results from Operation Airbrake, the out of service rate for brake-related violations dropped to near record lows this year. Of the 20,067 vehicles inspected, 2,714 commercial vehicles were placed out of service. This translates into an out of service rate of about 13.5%.

This mark is down from last year’s blitz, which saw about 15.3% of all commercial vehicles inspected placed out of service due to poorly functioning brakes. The rate was 14.2% in 2011.

The 2013 out of service rate tied the 2010 mark for the safest inspection in the 15 years since the CVSA began collecting the data during the operation. As a truck accident lawyer,  I’m thrilled to see this improvement, even if the numbers are still staggering and represent a public safety crisis with thousands of dangerous and defective trucks on our roads and public highways. So while I am happy for the improvement, I know we can do better.

And that includes poorly maintained brakes on commercial trucks. Despite the improvement, the cold hard fact remains that 2,714 transport trucks and commercial buses were found to have inadequate brakes.

This is 2,714 major truck accidents or bus accidents waiting to happen.
Another sobering statistic is that while the number of brake violations resulting in out of service orders is down, the overall number of out of service orders continues to hover around 20%.

That’s right — approximately one of every five semi-trucks or commercial buses inspected by the FMCSA is out of service, or to put it another way, too dangerous to even drive away from a scene if they are inspected.  They have to be towed because it would be too dangerous to the public safety to even drive these large trucks and buses away after they’re inspected.

What’s even more alarming is the additional tens of thousands of what would be serious safety violations go undetected each year.

There’s still plenty of work to be done. It is encouraging to see that some progress has been made, but more must be done.

Related information:

Who to blame when a commercial truck malfunctions and causes an accident

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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