More than 3 decades ago, air disc brakes were introduced in North America. Air disc brakes offer significant safety advantages over drum brakes. Namely, the use of disc brakes results in shorter stopping distances, increased brake life and decreased maintenance expenses. Furthermore, air disc brakes are inherently self-adjusting, so a trucking company’s concerns over braking performance and out-of-adjustment violations are largely abated. Given the safety benefits and long term cost savings of disc brakes, European trucking companies, as well as other overseas operators, have made the conversion from drums to discs.
Despite the overwhelming safety advantages of disc brakes, Heavy Duty Trucking magazine estimates that 90% of heavy truck buyers in the United States are still choosing the less safe drum brakes. Why are trucking companies choosing to equip their fleets with less safe brakes? The answer is simple: profits over people. Although disc brakes may be less expensive over the long term, they are estimated to be more expensive by $800 to $1,000 per axle in upfront costs. In addition, trucking companies argue that disc brake systems add approximately 100 pounds per axle, which decreases profits.
Kirk Altrichter, the Vice President of Maintenance for Crete Carrier Corp. was quoted as saying, “there’s not enough justification to make discs worth it.” However, Mr. Altrichter has failed to address the importance of preventing crashes and saving the lives of truck drivers and innocent motorists who share the roadways with 80,000 pound trucks. As a commercially-licensed driver, I would want the best braking system available on my truck. As an attorney who previously defended trucking companies and now represents the victims of truck crashes, I would welcome fewer tragedies on our roadways caused by underperforming or out-of-adjustment brakes. As a husband and father, I would want my family to be sharing the roadways with commercial vehicles that are outfitted the safest braking technology available.
There is no justification for putting profits over people and the time is now for trucking companies in the United States to embrace and install air disc brake systems and make our roadways safer.