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Brake Safety Week starts Aug. 20; here's some last-minute advice

Aug. 18, 2023
CVSA's Brake Safety Week is on August 20-26. Here are some last-minute tips from Bendix and Lytx experts to help fleets avoid violations.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is holding its brake safety event next week from August 20-26. Specifically, inspectors will be focusing on the brake lining and pad during their typical inspections, removing those with brake-related out-of-service violations until they are corrected, and then publishing a release with their inspection findings in the fall.

During 2022’s Brake Safety Week, CVSA-certified inspectors checked 38,117 vehicles between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and placed 4,664 vehicles out of service in the U.S. alone. This year, inspectors will be paying special attention to brake pads that are contaminated, worn, or cracked, or vehicles that are missing linings or pads altogether.

Read more:  Quick tips to avoid being out of service during Brake Safety Week

To avoid violations and expensive downtime, there are several ways technicians and drivers can work together to keep vehicles on the road, from taking extra care during pre- and post-trip inspections to cultivating efficient driving practices.

How drivers can prepare for brake safety week

Jeff Martin, the VP of safety and sales at Lytx, a fleet management, safety, and telematics provider, outlined several best practices for drivers to preserve their brakes. Some of these tactics include knowing that a fully-loaded trailer will have less braking capacity than one with less-than-truckload freight and compensating appropriately. Additionally, Martin emphasized that drivers should always be aware of the terrain and weather they’ll be driving in, and be proactive in their braking so that less wear and tear is transferred to the components.

One problem to be especially wary of is brake heating, which is when brakes begin to heat up after repeated acceleration and deceleration in a short amount of time. Last-mile delivery vehicles are particularly susceptible to this as they move from house to house. But if drivers aren’t careful, brake heating can have a severe impact on their truck’s systems.

“That's one of the things that causes trucks and vehicles to experience brake fade, especially when they have heavy weights on their backs,” Martin cautioned. But “one of the things [drivers] can do is make sure that their acceleration and speed is within reason for their next breaking occurrence.”

And, of course, if a driver notices any signs of reduced brake capacity or effectiveness, they must report it to their fleet manager, potentially avoiding an OOS violation before they hit the road.

“It could be subtle or it could be a sudden issue, or it could be an issue that is continuing to get worse,” Martin said. “You need to make sure that you’re talking about it because if the issue is serious enough and you find it on your pre-trip or post-trip, it could result in having to take another vehicle.”

How technicians can prepare for Brake Safety Week

Conversely, technicians need to be sure that they are communicating well with drivers.

“A driver out on the road may be the first one to notice an issue with the truck,” said Fred Andersky, director of demos, sales, and service training, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. “It’s vital that the driver be able to tell the technician what happened, where it happened, and details such as weather conditions. And it’s just as vital for the technician to ask questions to gain a clearer understanding of the situation.”

For Brake Safety Week, it would behoove techs to pay special attention to the same items that inspectors will look for during their pre- and post-trip inspections, which will include:

  • Missing, nonfunctioning, loose, or cracked parts
  • Holes caused by rust and through rubbing or friction
  • Broken springs in the spring brake housing section of the parking brake
  • Air leaks around brake components and lines
  • Air pressure in the target range of 90-100 psi
  • Proper pushrod travel
  • Slack adjusters not at the same length
  • Mismatched air chamber sizes across axles
  • Warning device functionality (such as antilock braking system indicator lights)
  • Proper operation of the tractor protection system, including the bleed-back system on the trailer
  • The breakaway system being operable on the trailer

Even small items, such as a kink in an air hose or an active full-stability light on the dash could earn a vehicle extra attention from an inspector, explained Mark Holley, director of marketing and customer solutions, Wheel-End, at Bendix, a manufacturer of commercial vehicle brakes and safety systems.

“What you do in the shop and during pre-trip walkarounds – looking at every aspect of your vehicle – can make an important difference on the road and during a brake system inspection, simply by catching brake-related issues before they become problems,” Holley said. “Your regular inspections can go a long way toward catching some obvious violations, including loose hoses or damaged components like air chambers or pushrods.”

To make sure technicians are staying on top of their brake inspections, Bendix advises that technicians check for certain brake elements on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Every day:

  • Check for damaged or loose-hanging air chambers, pushrods, or slack adjusters.
  • Make sure slack adjusters on each axle are extended out to the same angle. Different angles can indicate an out-of-adjustment brake or a broken spring brake power spring.
  • Examine tubing and hose condition, positioning, and connections.

Every week:

  • Perform a 90- to 100-psi brake application with the wheels chocked and the parking brakes released and listen for leaks.
  • Check air disc brake rotors for cracks.
  • Inspect drum brake linings for wear and cracks.

Every month:

  • Check for moisture in the air system to prevent contamination that leads to component deterioration and system leaks

Bendix officials also advised technicians to grease the S-cam brake tubes and automatic slack adjusters any time a vehicle visits the shop, as this will help prevent rust and corrosion.

Technicians should also be wary when examining pushrod travel, as pushrod stroke that exceeds regulations gradually results in a decline in braking force. However, because of the difference between air disc brakes and drum brakes, measuring the brake stroke on each mechanism takes different processes.

“Measuring a drum brake’s chamber stroke is a matter of checking the distance from the air chamber to the clevis pin with the brakes released, and then again after a fully charged brake application,” Holley explained. “The difference between these measurements is the brake stroke, and its maximum length depends upon the brake chamber type and size.”

Bendix officials also advised that technicians take care when replacing critical equipment, whether at the wheel end or in the air supply.

“When it’s time to replace a component in your brake system, whether it’s at the wheel-end or in the air supply, be sure to select parts that won’t degrade the performance level or bring it below the original equipment manufacturer’s standards,” Holley said. “This selection is particularly true when it comes to brake friction, where the aftermarket is more crowded than ever, and the wrong choice can actually harm your system and your vehicle safety.”

When looking for signs of brake friction, Holley said that technicians should be sure to look for cracks, degradation of braking performance, or damage to wheel-end components.

The company also suggested that technicians use an oil-coalescing air dryer cartridge to protect the air supply against corrosive oil aerosols that could lead to leaks and potential violations. However, while oil-coalescing cartridges can be used to replace standard cartridges, Bendix officials warned to never downgrade from an oil-coalescing cartridge to a standard.

By paying attention to driver and technician best practices, fleets should be able to keep their vehicles on the road during 2023's Brake Safety Week.

About the Author

Alex Keenan

Alex Keenan is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She has written on a variety of topics for the past several years and recently joined the transportation industry, reviewing content covering technician challenges and breaking industry news. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

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