There’s a lot riding on your brakes when you’re driving an 80,000-pound Class 8 commercial motor vehicle down the road. If there is one thing that trucking safety is all about, it’s the condition of your brakes.
What the Brake?
Yet, did you know that nearly 2,400 trucks found themselves on the wrong end of an out-of-service violation during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Brake (CVSA) Safety Week?
That’s right, between September 11 and 17 CVSA conducted over 18,000 inspections, looking for everything from brakes that are simply out-of-adjustment to other more serious (and potentially dangerous) violations.
All told, inspectors were looking at:
- Loose or missing parts
- Air or fluid leaks
- Lit or flashing indicator lights
- Worn or cracked linings, pads, drums and rotors
Out of all trucks inspected during Brake Safety Week, almost 1,500 were tagged for ABS violations. A full 15.8 percent of trailers also got stung with ABS violations.
By the final day, brake violations clearly led the way in the overall number of out-of-service orders. That’s a full 50 percent of total orders issued over the three days, an astonishing number to say the least.
So what’s a fleet to do?
The fact is this: Brakes must be properly maintained at all times. Routine checks must be kept up with like clockwork. Whether it be the fleet technician back at the shop or the truck driver him or herself, the brakes must be the most important part of a pre- and post-trip inspection.
The braking system is what slows down and stops the vehicle. They are made up of primarily three components.
Service brakes, which are responsible for slowing down and stopping the vehicle, are regulated by the truck driver. The two types of service brakes are drum and disc varieties.
Emergency and parking brakes fall under the service brake system, but remain independent from the foot and trolley valves that govern the operating brake system.
Air brakes are operated by a compressor, governor, air tanks valves, drain cocks, treadle valves, signals and so much more. See why it’s so important to make sure your brakes are always in tip top condition?
Completing the Inspection
When you are completing a pre- or post-trip inspection, the brakes must be looked at very carefully. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
- Tractor Brakes: Charge your air brake system. Apply your tractor’s parking brakes. Release the emergency brakes. Pull gently on the trailer to ensure the trailer emergency brakes are engaged.
- Service Brakes: Wait for normal air pressure then release the parking brake. Slowly move your vehicle forward and then firmly apply the brakes. If there is any pulling to one side, or a delay in the application, there may be a problem.
Beyond testing the brakes themselves, tracking your air leakage rate is crucial.
With a fully charged air system, turn off the engine and chock the vehicle. Then immediately time the air pressure drop after the initial drop. Your loss rate should always be less than two pounds per square inch.
Take your measurement then apply the brakes. After the initial pressure drop, if you find that the overall pressure is falling below more than three psi in a single minute, there may be a problem in the system.
As always, keep a close eye on your low pressure warning signals and tractor protection valves. The fact is, there are a lot of moving and non-moving components in a modern brake system. So much rides on such complex pieces of machinery.
Do you want to end up like one of the truck drivers who gets tagged for bad brakes during next year’s inspection? If not, whether you are a fleet technician or owner-operator, always keep a close eye on your braking system, for safety’s sake.