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Knoxville — A new testing facility for examining the brakes of commercial trucks could improve highway safety.

The facility is part of the National Transportation Research Center, a joint effort between the University of Tennessee, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Knox County Development Corporation and the United States Department of Energy.

UT engineering professor Jeff Hodgson is part of the research group working on the project. He said the facility analyzes tractor-trailers in two ways.

“The truck would drive over this device and the driver would apply the brakes,” said Hodgson. “You would simultaneously weigh the truck and get information about the operation of each of its individual brakes.”

The results of the brake analysis would be sent to state trucking inspectors, who can force unsafe trucks off the road.

ORNL researchers said faulty brakes contribute to one third of truck-caused crashes.