Because commercial trucks weigh so much more than passenger vehicles, it takes more than a traditional brake system to stop them. Most modern trucks now use air brake systems, but these systems may malfunction in two distinct ways, potentially endangering you and anyone else in their paths.
According to Transport Topics, truck crashes that result from air brake failures often occur when commercial trucks are traveling down steep hills. A 2006 study of close to 1,000 commercial truck crashes revealed that air brake failure issues were a contributing factor in almost 30% of them. In about 87% of those cases, user error was also a contributing factor. In other instances, the truck wrecks occurred because of malfunctions within the air brake systems themselves.
A truck driver may have to rely on more than the air brake system to avoid crashing into you after traveling down a steep hill. Relying too much on the brakes, which is a common behavior among inexperienced truckers, may cause them to overheat and catch on fire. The more often a trucker overuses the brakes, the higher the chances of them malfunctioning and presenting a danger to the public in the future.
With proper training, truckers may know that they should use the brakes sporadically and, if necessary, use other tactics, such as employing jake brakes when possible, to slow their vehicles. Truckers who lack experience or adequate training, however, may be more prone to panicking when they see smoke. This may impact their judgment and make them more likely to crash.
Air brake systems may also malfunction on their own. To operate as designed, the brake needs to have a steady airstream that keeps it open. If anything occurs to stop the supply of compressed air, the brakes may lock up and apply themselves, which may cause control issues for the truck driver.