Prepare for Brake Safety Week

Modified on March 3, 2023

Brake Safety week is here – and takes place from September 15-21.

Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FMCSA, conducts a week-long inspection campaign focused on brakes. And for good reason. During its annual Roadcheck event (a 72-hour safety inspection blitz), 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% or more of the service brakes are not working properly. Other conditions that can lead to the dreaded “OOS” include 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.

Here are some tips on how to prepare:

Tip No. 1 – ALWAYS conduct your pre-trip inspections at the start of your driving shift, especially in the days and weeks leading up to Roadcheck. Make it a habit. Get any maintenance issues addressed quickly.

Tip No. 2 – Put your documents into one folder, including:

  • Your commercial driver’s license
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Bill of lading
  • Medical examination certification form
  • HOS log book – if it’s not in your electronic logging device (ELD)
  • Transportation worker identification credential or TWIC card (if you don’t have one, you really should get one to maximize your employment opportunities).

It’s also a good idea to take a good look at your driver SMS profile and the SMS profile of your company so there are no surprises.

Tip No. 3 – Determine how you can provide a paper copy of your HOS log upon request. Some drivers buy a small printer that can be connected wirelessly to the ELD or through a USB connection, since roadside inspectors can insist on getting a hard copy of their HOS logs. The inspectors may accept an electronic copy sent by email or allow you to copy your e-log onto a pre-printed paper log form. Remember if you operate a truck less than eight days within a month, a truck that was manufactured before model year 2000, or in a driveaway or towaway operation, you may be required to record your duty status manually even if your truck is equipped with an ELD that can track and record HOS.

Tip No. 4 – Take a good look at how you are tracking your HOS. Check to see you are properly noting where any change of duty status occurs. If it occurs at a location other than a city, town or village, show the highway number and nearest milepost, followed by the nearest city, town or village and state abbreviation. If you are at a travel plaza or rest area, note the name of the plaza or rest area and the nearest town, city or village plus state abbreviation.

Tip No. 5 – Assume the inspector will look into your truck cab and sleeper. So clean it as though your mother will be doing the inspection! Use baking soda or unscented or lightly scented deodorizer to remove any offensive odors like cigar or cigarette smoke. Remove papers from your dashboard and organize your bills of lading and other paperwork and business and personal mail into a portable file folder or cabinet. And always show the officer courtesy and respect. Cleaning and organizing your workspace, plus showing the commercial vehicle inspector respect sets the stage and speaks volumes.

Tip No. 6 – Check to see if the automatic slack adjusters are properly lubricated and do NOT manually adjust out-of-adjustment wheel-ends equipped with ASAs.

Tip No. 7 – 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 prone to premature damage when the air system becomes contaminated by moisture or oil. Deterioration of the seals can cause air system leaks.

Tip No. 8 – 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.

Tip No. 9 – Check the condition of the friction lining. Take a look at the thickness measured at its thinnest area – if it’s less than ¼-inch or is worn to the wear indicator, report the condition in your pre-trip inspection report. Also, be sure to flag it for your company’s fleet or shop manager. 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 reported and replaced.

Tip No. 10 – 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.

Of course, doing your pre-trip inspections religiously and insisting on maintenance issues getting quickly addressed may mean making less money since your truck is not on the road. But think about how much it could cost your company and you personally if a roadside inspector declares your truck out of service, especially if it’s under load.

We hope these tips will help you have a stress-free and safe Brake Inspection Week!

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