Truck drivers, have you asked yourself lately if your brakes are ready for the day? Some may answer no and there may be some uncertainty with that question, especially with some recent data released by the CVSA about the number of vehicles removed from the road for brake-related violations.

But don’t worry, with some specific brake tips and an inspection checklist, you’ll be ready to hit the road. Are your brakes ready for the day?

Tools You Need to Inspect Your Brakes:

  • Blocks/chocks to place behind tires
  • Chalk to mark push-rods
  • Small ruler to measure push-rod travel and brake linings
  • Brake application device (to apply brakes) or a “second” person to assist

Before You Inspect:

  • Park on a level road surface
  • Block/chock the tractor wheel(s) and trailer wheel(s), if hooked
  • Confirm air pressure at 90-100 psi
  • Shut off engine – Remove keys from ignition
  • Release spring (parking) brakes
  • Check each brake to confirm normal released position
  • Listen for air leaks

Inspect for:

  • Chaffing/rubbing air hoses against other hoses and/or other components
  • Hoses that are worn to second color or nylon braids are visible
  • Damaged, broken, or missing components; i.e. broken brake chamber bracket, missing clevis pin, hanging slack adjuster
  • Brake pads/linings; Air Drum brake pad, measured at the center, must be above ¼ inch. Air Disk brake, must be above 1/8 inch.
  • Cracked pads/linings or rust-jacked lining from shoe (upper & lower)
  • Excessive up/down & sideways movement on the camshaft (worn bushings)
  • Rusted drum due to inoperative brake
  • External cracks on the brake drum
  • Rusted (holes) brake chamber

Measure the Push-Rod Travel Stroke by:

  • Check air pressure gauges are holding 90-100 psi
  • Make certain spring (parking) brakes are fully released
  • Confirm you’ve made a chalk mark on each push-rod at the rear of the brake chamber
  • Via the brake pedal apply full (service) brake application (approx. 80 psi)
  • Measure distance from the chalk mark to rear of brake chamber
  • Confirm travel is within DOT Standards via brake chamber size & if short or long stroke:

May’s Brake Safety Inspection Data

In May, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) law enforcement members conducted 10,358 commercial motor vehicle inspections focused on identifying brake system violations. Of those inspections, 16.1% of vehicles had brake-related critical vehicle inspection items. Those 1,667 vehicles were placed out of service until the violations could be corrected.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), over half a million commercial motor vehicle violations in 2017 were related to brakes. CVSA aims to call attention to this serious issue through its targeted brake safety enforcement and awareness campaigns, such as the May 15 unannounced inspection blitz. This enforcement initiative highlights the work that’s done by inspectors every day to keep roadways safe. Checking brake systems and their components is always part of roadside vehicle inspections.

Inspectors also paid close attention to violations involving brake hoses/tubing, including the following from May’s unannounced blitz:

  • 996 units with chafed rubber hose violations.
  • 185 units had chafed thermoplastic hose violations.
  • 1,125 violations of 49 Code of Federal Regulations § 393.45 and Canadian equivalent violations that included chafed rubber hoses.
  • 124 violations of 49 Code of Federal Regulations § 393.45 and Canadian equivalent violations that included kinked thermoplastic hoses.