If there’s one thing your fleet’s shop could do to help keep your company’s trucks on the road during CVSA’s blitz of roadside inspections as part of 2016 Brake Safety Week – Sept. 11-17, it’s checking for brake adjustment issues.

Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, conducts a week-long inspection campaign focused on brakes. And for good reason. During its annual Roadcheck event – a 72-hour marathon of safety inspections held in June across the United States and Canada, out-of-adjustment brakes and brake system violations account for nearly half of all out-of-service violations.

Roadside inspectors can declare the condition of a truck or truck-trailer combination to be out-of-service if 20 percent or more of the service brakes are not working properly. Other conditions that can get you into trouble: inoperative brake or missing brake on either wheel of the front steering axle, mismatched air chamber sizes or mismatched brake adjuster lengths on drum air brakes, or defective lining conditions.

Of course, programs that encourage drivers to conduct thorough pre-trip inspections and technicians to complete comprehensive brake jobs are a must. After all, steely-eyed drivers and technicians can usually spot potential issues that lead to out-of-service violations long before roadside inspectors notice them. But let’s face it, drivers and technicians can get busy. And things can get overlooked.

A check of your fleet’s trucks may help identify some issues that would otherwise get them sidelined. But if you’re like most fleet or shop managers, with so many trucks to check and limited time and resources, how do you get it done? Concentrate your shop’s attention on those trucks that need it most. Take a look at your company’s SMS profile and if the trucks with the most violations aren’t scheduled for service soon, consider how you can get them into the shop.

Or here’s another idea – start with the fleet’s oldest trucks and truck-trailer combination units, or with trucks driven by your least experienced drivers. Once you’ve determined which trucks your shop will examine, here are some tips on what to look for offered by Bendix and a number of trade media publications such as Fleet Equipment and Heavy Duty Trucking:

Tip No. 1 – Check to see if the automatic slack adjusters are properly lubricated with an NGLI grade 2 lubricant and do NOT manually adjust out-of-adjustment wheel-ends equipped with ASAs.

Tip No. 2 – Conduct a 90- to 100-psi brake application and listen for audible leaks. Check components on the air system – such as air seals, brake modulating valves, and brake chamber diaphragms. These parts are susceptible to premature damage when the air system becomes contaminated by moisture or oil. Deterioration of the seals can cause air system leaks.

Tip No. 3 – With the brakes released, check the distance from the chamber to the pin and then check again with full brake application. The difference between the two measurements is the chamber stroke. Consult with TMC’s RP609, CVSA’s 2016 Out of Service Handbook or your parts distributor or the brake’s manufacturer for the maximum allowed distance under CVSA guidelines.

Tip No. 4 – Check the condition of the friction lining. Examine the thickness measured at its thinnest area – if it’s less than ¼-inch or is worn to the wear indicator, the brakes should be replaced. Also, look for cracks that exceed 1/16-inch in width on the edge of the lining or 1 ½ inch in length, portions of the lining missing causing exposure to the fastening device, or oil or grease contamination. Brakes with those conditions should also be replaced.

Tip No. 5 – If you have air disc brakes, examine the brake pads. If the thickness is less than 1/16-inch, or the rotor has evidence of metal-to-metal contact on the friction surface or severe rusting, a roadside inspector may declare the disc brake defective. Also look for missing or broken calipers, brake adjusters, pad retaining components, pushrods, yokes, clevis pins, air chamber mounting bolts, parking brake power springs, or chamber return springs.

Tip No. 6 – Maintain good records and understand the operating conditions of your fleet’s trucks. Average length of haul, application terrain, driver patterns and tractor-trailer combinations can impact the intervals at which brake linings should be replaced. Wear and not the number of miles driven should determine replacement intervals.

Of course, pulling trucks from duty and examining them will be expensive. But think about the alternative of having it pulled by a roadside inspector, especially if it’s under load.

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