When it comes to safely operating a heavy-duty commercial vehicle, your brakes are one of the most important components. A big rig’s size and weight requires hefty brakes that can stand the wear and tear of both city, regional and long-haul driving.
Today, the path to safer semis starts with new technologies and advanced braking systems. But beyond simply using the right components, the braking system must be supported by comprehensive training and technical aptitude.
Keep Maintenance in Mind
The braking system is a complex system, and things like friction selection, air system and components upkeep all play a part in ensuring the safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
Does your vehicle – or fleet of vehicles – utilize drum or air disc brakes? Depending on the application, it’s crucial to know when and what types of friction are needed depending on how the vehicle is being used and in what conditions.
One of the most important things an enterprising fleet technician can do is to check regularly for cracks or missing pieces. Always ensure the drums are maintained at an adequate thickness. Double check for any signs that the brakes may be dragging or perhaps the linings are overheating.
An Eye on Air Braking Systems
It is important that clean air is maintained when working with a an air braking system. Ensure checks for moisture are completed monthly.
In some cases, the shop can use oil-coalescing air dryer cartridges to keep the system clean. The best way to prevent any problems in the system is to spot them ahead of time. Do this by focusing on air leaks and brake modulating valves.
Today’s modern air braking systems are composed of a complex number of components. Technical aptitude is essential when providing maintenance on these vital components.
Keep Adjustment in Mind
Far too many vehicles lie out of commission – making zero dollars for the fleet – because of wheel ends that are beyond the maximum allowable stroke. The fact is, if a truck driver’s wheel ends are are out-of-adjustment, that truck driver or fleet operation can be fined up to 25%.
The best way to prevent a fine – and keep your truck drivers safe – is to perform wheel measurements that check the distance starting from the chamber, then follow it all the way out to the large clevis pin. Of course, ensure the brakes are released. Once the alignment has been checked, don’t forget to re-charge the system.
If the system is using automatic slack adjusters, make sure you don’t adjust them over and over again. If you find repeat adjustments are necessary, there may be another problem at hand.
More Than the Machine
When considering the braking system of a heavy-duty commercial vehicle, it’s important to remember that learning and knowledge are just as important as components used.
There are specific responsibilities that the truck driver and the fleet manager must undertake. First and foremost, the operator must be familiar with the system controls, blinking light fault codes, damage control, and more, to ensure safe operation.
One example of where knowledge is key is in the operation of anti lock braking systems (ABS). These systems utilize warning lights to provide information regarding what is going on in other areas of the systems. Often, wheel speed sensors are built into the braking system. If the truck driver isn’t familiar with these systems, a serious safety concern could be presented.
Ensuring pre-trip checks and system leak tests are completed regularly should be included as regular duties in any professional truck driver’s daily routine.
The Final Inspection
When checking your brake system, be sure to check for loose hoses, complete a visual inspection of the wheel ends and make sure the air chambers, and slack adjusters are all in good working order.
Be sure to double check the steering axle and other air brake components. Double check your air pressure and loss – if any.
In the end, the final inspection can be the determining factor in how safe you are on the road. Always remember that it’s your brakes that provide ultimate control over your vehicle. Keep that in mind as you keep your brake system in good working order.