After reading my February column, “It’s All About the Brakes,” in which I talked about Brake Safety Week and the number of brake-related violations found during inspections conducted by the members of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Andy Malion and Byron Duross contacted me.
Malion is vice president of sales for Spectra Products Inc. While he was complimentary about the article, he said I should have reported the findings differently. “What would have been even more impactful would be to say that of the 2,162 placed out of service for brake violations, 1,388 were for brake out of adjustment, which is 64.2%. That has a lot more impact than 10.4%.” Point taken.
Duross is a developer, producer and provider of heavy vehicle air brake teaching resources for community colleges, technical schools, fleet and transit property service instructors and driver trainers. He said, “We’ve long been aware of the inadequacies of air disc brake training, particularly in the United States.”
I should point out that both of these gentlemen are from Canada, where fleets performed much better during Brake Safety Week with fewer brake violations.
Of course both have a vested interest in the subject, because they make products that address the issue of out-of-adjustment brakes. Malion’s company makes a visual stroke indicator and Duross’ sells air brake study programs. But I don’t think that invalidates their concerns about whether drivers and technicians are properly trained to examine air disc brakes — or even drum brakes, which still are found on the majority of trucks on the road. The numbers from Brake Safety Week certainly show that there is much work to be done, at least in the U.S.
Some companies have recognized the need for additional training. Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems has been most visible with its efforts. At the recent Mid-America Trucking Show, the company held Tech Talk sessions on a variety of subjects, including maintenance and inspection techniques for air disc brakes. For those who could not attend the sessions in person, Bendix is making them available as part of its curriculum on www.brake-school.com, the company’s online training site.
Earlier this year, Bendix released a schedule of its in-person Bendix Brake Training School. The company offers a total of 19 sessions in 13 American states and Canada. In a press release, Chuck Miller, manager of field service and training, said, “We can’t emphasize enough the importance of equipping both new and experienced technicians with the most up-to-date operational and service knowledge available.”
Companies such as Haldex and Meritor and others offer Internet-based training as well as in-person training.
In my February column I pointed out that dealers say they stand ready to help fleets with their training needs. But if your local dealer doesn’t offer training when it’s convenient for you, don’t use it as an excuse. There are clearly other options available — some free, some for a fee. Either way, there really is no excuse for failing to invest in brake training.
If Canadian fleets can get down to a 4.6% out of service rate for brake adjustment violations, there is no reason fleets in the U.S. and your fleet in particular can’t do better.
Perhaps it’s time to phone a fleet domiciled north of the border and ask them what their secret is. I am guessing they will say a commitment to training is all it takes.