Bad brakes are one of the most common dangers of commercial vehicles. Due to their massive weight, stopping distance is long even under ideal conditions. If the truck’s brakes are worn or substandard, it can lead to catastrophic harm to the motoring public in an emergency braking situation.
In May, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) conducted a day of unannounced roadside inspections across the U.S. and Canada. Out of 9,500 inspections, nearly 2,000 trucks were placed out of service for trucking infractions, including 1,146 trucks with brake-related violations. Frightening, when you consider they pulled over just a fraction of all the big trucks cruising American roads and highways.
It is critical for truck brakes to be in working order
Tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, dump trucks and other commercial vehicles must be able to slow or stop in a reasonable distance. A fully loaded 18-wheeler weighs about 40 tons and requires more than 300 feet – the length of a football field – to come to a complete stop from 60 mph. That is about 40 percent greater stopping distance than a typical passenger car.
The CVSA says brake-related violations are the No. 1 out-of-service violation cited in roadside inspections. Out-of-service means the truck is taken off the road until the problem is fixed and the truck is compliant. In its surprise Brake Safety Day blitz, the CVSA targeted “critical brake violations” that would compromise the truck’s ability to stop in time. It also evaluated the effectiveness of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on trucks. About half of the trucks pulled over were required by law to have ABS; the inspection revealed that about 1 in 12 of those vehicles had ABS violations.
It’s all about preventing a tragedy
The CVSA also conducts announced brake inspections during the year. The next Brake Safety Day is Sept. 7. Hopefully, truckers and employers will attend to proper maintenance proactively and not wait until a safety inspection – or worse, a truck accident.