Commentary: It's All About the Brakes

Everybody talks about the importance of properly operating brakes, but, unfortunately, the talk doesn't always translate into action.

February 2015, - Editorial

by Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor - Also by this author

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Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor. 
Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor.

Everybody talks about the importance of properly operating brakes, but, unfortunately, the talk doesn’t always translate into action. Last fall’s Brake Safety Week inspections conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance resulted in 2,162, or 16.2%, of the 13,305 commercial vehicles examined in the U.S., being placed out of service.

During these roadside stops inspectors looked for and in many cases found:

● loose or missing parts


● air or hydraulic fluid leaks

● worn linings, pads, drums and rotors

● excessive pushrod stroke

● malfunctioning warning lights for antilock braking systems

As a result, brakes out of adjustment violations accounted for 10.4%, or 1,388 of those out-of-service citations. This was up 9.3% from the 7.1% in 2013 when out of service numbers hit a historic low. Canadian fleets did much better with only a 4.6% out-of-service rate for brake adjustment violations.

So where is the disconnect between fleets saying they are concerned about brakes and the reality that lots of trucks are operating with some type of braking issue?

Some of it could be that drivers aren’t being diligent in completing their pre- and post-trip inspections so fleet maintenance managers aren’t aware there are problems. But it also could be that technicians simply don’t have enough training in proper brake maintenance and repair.

Setting up your own brake training clinics is one way to ensure your techs are up to speed on the latest brake products and maintenance and repair procedures. But that can be costly and time-consuming. However, there is another option. If you are not already doing so, you should at least consider taking advantage of training offered by your local area truck dealers.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the six candidates for Truck Dealer of the Year award sponsored by American Truck Dealers, Heavy Duty Trucking and Procede Software. One of the subjects we covered was training. I was mostly interested in what they were doing to keep their own technicians trained to best serve fleets’ needs, and so was surprised to hear them talk about their obligation to help train fleet technicians as well.

“Training is continual and it never ends,” said Scott McCandless, president of Colorado-based McCandless Truck Center. “We do offer training to our customers because I think it is a little harder for fleets to have the same quality of training as dealers.”

Ben Bruckner, president of Texas-based Bruckner Truck Sales, says, “It is an area that will continue to grow as there are more and more systems and technologies on trucks that require a greater skill to diagnose and repair then they did in the past.”

To help with training, dealers like Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Minnesota-based Rihm Kenworth, rely on vendors to help educate customers on different components. By attending these types of trainings you’ll get the latest repair tips right from the component manufacturer. What could be better than that?

Brakes seem to be a big focus of dealer training. Many of the Dealer of the Year candidates talked about hosting brake nights for their customers where they are shown how to best install brakes, and the latest maintenance and repair procedures.

Dealers are spending the time and money to keep their own technicians trained and have expressed a willingness to train your techs as well. Why not take them up on it, so your trucks won’t be some of those 1,388 taken out of service for out-of-adjustment brakes?

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