Brake-related problems make up the largest percentage of out-of-service violations issued for commercial motor vehicles. There are a number of reasons for this, all of which can be addressed as fleets prepare for Brake Safety Week, which takes place September 11-17.

Since 1998, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has promoted brake safety through its Operation Airbrake Program, which includes its annual Brake Safety Week. Still, brakes are one of the most overlooked areas during pre-trip inspections and one of the first places roadside officers look for potential violations all year long.

Last year, inspectors conducted 18,817 brake-system inspections during Brake Safety Week which put 2,321 trucks out of service. As Overdrive notes, this means 12.3 percent of trucks checked were in violation.

This year, with the growing use of safety-promoting ELDs and other regulation, fleets are hoping their efforts to improve on safety keep them out of that 12.3 percent. But rather than view Brake Safety Week as an inconvenience, drivers and carriers can use the occasion as an opportunity to ensure brake safety across their fleets, which means fewer roadside violations and more time on the road all year long.

What will be checked during brake safety week 2016?

Roadside inspections during Brake Safety week will mostly be full Level I inspections. With regard to brake safety, here’s how the CVSA describes this year’s comprehensive approach:

“Inspections conducted during Brake Safety Week include inspection of brake-system components to identify loose or missing parts, air or hydraulic fluid leaks, worn linings, pads, drums or rotors, and other faulty brake-system components. ABS malfunction indicator lamps are also checked. Inspectors will inspect brake components and measure pushrod stroke where applicable. Defective or out-of-adjustment brakes will result in the vehicle being placed out of service.”

7 elements the CVSA emphasizes during Brake Safety Week

Below is a general summary brake safety elements the CVSA emphasizes during Brake Safety Week, with additional resources to learn more about how to best prepare your fleet.

1. Out-of-adjustment self-adjusting brakes

The CVSA provides a thorough guide to diagnosing out-of-adjustment self-adjusting brakes. Check self-adjusting brake adjusters extremely carefully on a vehicle experiencing excessive pushrod stroke. Make sure mechanics check everything that could be causing the issue, rather than assume the first cause he or she finds is the only cause, or even the root cause.

2. Pushrod stroke

The CVSA, which will conduct the inspections in September, provides a detailed guide to measuring pushrod stroke efficiently and accurately. Read more tips from industry veterans here.

3. Anti-lock brake system

If the vehicle was manufactured with an anti-lock brake system, malfunction lamps must meet these specific standards.

4. Air hoses and tubing

Inspectors can determine air hoses and tubing are “likely to fail” based on the degree of wear and tear. Out-of-service conditions include damage extending through outer reinforcement ply, bulging or swelling when air pressure is applied, air leaks, heat damage, improper hose and tubing connections, and more.

5. Missing components

Look closely for missing or faulty brake chamber brackets, clevis pins, and hanging slack adjusters.

6. Brake pads and lining

Must meet certain measurements and be free of rust and excessive wear.

7. Air leaks

Smart Trucking shared this tip with Motive’ readers to identify air leaks: Use a piece of wood the length of the space between the brake and the steering wheel to hold down the pedal. “While the brake pedal is depressed by the block of wood, the driver can walk around the truck/trailer and check for air leaks.”

Performance-based brake testing

CMV inspectors will check for out-of-adjustment brakes and other various brake-system violations visually. But the CVSA states that 10 jurisdictions will use a performance-based brake test to determine brake health during brake safety week.

The Performance-Based Brake Tester is a tool used to determine a vehicle’s braking efficiency by measuring its brake-to-force ratio. Fleets and drivers with access to the tool (mechanics often use it for general maintenance work) can test prior to September 11 to ensure brakes meet the standard.

In any case, there are a number of reasons a truck might fail this test. Checking and addressing them prior to Brake Safety Week should ensure you won’t be surprised with inadequate brake efficiency measurements if stopped for a PBBT on the road.

How to prevent 4 common brake issues

Here are some issues that cause brakes to fail this particular test, and how to prevent them.

  • The vehicle or axle is overloaded. Prior to Brake Safety Week, drivers and fleet managers should determine the maximum weight a vehicle can pull while staying within the required brake-to-force ratio. Click here to learn more about how braking efficiency is calculated.
  • The pushrod has travelled. Check pushrods now to determine why the pushrod might be moving and if replacing it is the best option.
  • Components are broken or lost. Start preparing for Brake Safety Week early so faulty or missing pieces can be repaired or replaced in time.
  • Air system or lining failure. Because this would require large-scale repairs, these should be checked and maintained regularly.

The CVSA notes that “results of a PBBT test are generally consistent with a visual inspection of a brake system,” and because it actually measures brake performance while inspectors might make assumptions about brake safety based on how they appear, “the PBBT method is more objective and usually in favor of the vehicle during a roadside inspection.”

Parting advice

Brake Safety Week provides an opportunity for fleets to focus on mechanical issues that may cost them time and money all year long. It also provides an opportunities to improve your fleet risk management.

Our recommendation? Don’t prepare vehicles to pass brake inspections for a week in September. Prepare them for another full year of continuous, uninterrupted use for your busy fleet. Investing time and resources to ensure brakes are healthy pays off every day of the year.