Common Causes of Bus Accidents: Defective Brakes

Last updated on: August 26, 2015


Brakes are a part that we tend not to think about until the telltale squealing or squeaking sound becomes too hard to ignore. Just as brakes are an important safety system on passenger cars, brakes are vital to the safety of bus passengers, too. Many motorcoaches are equipped with air-brake systems. While these braking systems are effective at stopping a large, heavy vehicle like a bus, they must be properly maintained and monitored in order for problems to be quickly detected and corrected.

Braking system failure on a commercial bus can send the bus careening out of control until it either strikes a stationary object or flips onto its side and skids to a halt. Not only are the bus passengers in danger, but other motorists and individuals on and near the roadway are also in jeopardy. A bus company that fails to properly maintain its fleet’s braking systems or a bus driver who ignores early warning signs of brake problems can be held responsible for any injuries sustained by passengers or other motorists in a bus accident.

The Basics of Air Brake Systems

Motorcoaches equipped with air-brake systems and built after 1975 must comply with U.S. safety standards. An air compressor works to keep constant pressure in the braking system. When the brakes are applied, air pressure is expended. The compressor works to build the air pressure back up once it is expended so that the brakes are able to be used again.

Most modern motorcoaches have air pressure gauges that inform the driver of the air pressure present on both the front and the rear axle of the bus. Careful monitoring of these gauges is critical in detecting problems early and taking corrective action:

  • A frequent dipping in the air pressure gauge that causes the compressor to come on and off frequently is indicative of a leak in the system;
  • Excessive air pressure loss during braking can indicate a problem;
  • Warning lights may illuminate on the gauges if the pressure in the system drops below a safe level.

What Should a Bus Driver Do if There Are Brake Problems?

A bus driver should take swift action if there appear to be problems with the bus’s braking system. Even if the problem turns out to be minor – or if there is no true problem at all – it is often easier and safer to inspect the braking system as opposed to risking a serious bus crash:

  • The bus driver should immediately stop the bus on the side of the road or in a safe area at the first sign of a problem. Often even when there is a leak there is enough air pressure to safely stop the bus if the driver acts quickly;
  • There are several tests that can be performed to detect if there is a leak and how serious the leak is. Federal authorities warn bus drivers against attempting to drive a bus if there is an air leak in the braking system;
  • Although most buses are equipped with parking brakes, these are not recommended for use as emergency braking systems, as they can cause the bus driver to lose control and the bus may flip as a result of the sudden braking.

A claim for compensation after a bus accident can be brought against the driver if he or she knew or should have known that there were brake problems but ignored them. The bus company may also be at fault if it did not perform regular maintenance on the system. Important evidence to support either of these two theories (and other possible theories) can be lost if the swift action by a bus accident attorney is not taken. If you or a loved one have been injured in a bus accident caused by defective brakes, contact our offices at (800) 863-5312 to schedule a free initial consultation and allow Zinda Law Group’s legal tem review your case.