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Products Liability Newsletter

Commercial Motor Vehicles and Defective Brakes

Because Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) are generally larger and thus potentially more dangerous than other vehicles, CMV brake safety is imperative. In 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a new rule allowing for performance-based brake testing for CMVs, as opposed to the traditional method of visual inspection.

There are three types of vehicles that are considered CMVs: (1) A truck with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 lbs; (2) a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials carrying a required quantity; and (3) a bus designed to transport more than fifteen people.

FMCSA Rule Permits Performance Brake-Testing
In the United States, thousands of fatalities annually are caused by CMV accidents. A variety of reasons have caused such accidents, such as brake failure.

In an attempt to increase safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has created a pass/fail criteria for use with performance-based brake testers (PBBTs). PBBTs are a method of measuring the braking performance of CMVs in order to ensure compliance of braking capabilities with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

There are two methods by which PBBT measures the condition of brakes:

  1. Measuring brake forces at each wheel
  2. Measuring overall brake performance in controlled testing

The Goals for Performance Brake-Testing
Implementation of the performance based brake-testing rule is the pinnacle of research that began in the 1990s. PBBTs allow for more frequent and thorough testing of CMVs. The FMCSA hopes that the ability of the PBBT testing to systematically process more vehicles will prevent and lower the number of CMV-related accidents occurring each year. In 2008, the method was approved by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) for roadside enforcement, where trucks which fail testing may be immediately placed out-of-service until they are repaired.

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