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Truck brake, tire maintenance tips to prepare for International Roadcheck

David Sickels is the Senior Editor of Fleet Equipment. He has a history of working in the media, marketing and automotive industries in both print and online.

Trake Brake maintenance roadcheck

According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), one-fifth of the more than 50,000 commercial vehicle inspections conducted during the 2020 International Roadcheck event resulted in a vehicle being taken out of service because of safety violations. And of all violations found during the inspection event, close to 40% were tied to the vehicle’s brake system and/or brake adjustment. Other top violation categories included issues related to tires, lights, and cargo securement.

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The 2021 International Roadcheck takes place May 4-6, resuming its normal spring scheduling. Last year’s event was postponed to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. During the three-day inspection and enforcement initiative, CVSA-certified inspectors in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. will conduct commercial motor vehicle and driver inspections at weigh or inspection stations, examining vehicle mechanical fitness as well as driver operating requirements. As was the case in 2020, in consideration of COVID-19, law enforcement personnel will follow their departments’ health and safety protocols during the event.

“A review of the findings from the 2020 International Roadcheck event shows that more than 7,200 vehicles and 2,300 drivers were removed from roadways due to a critical finding either related to the safety of the vehicle or of the driver,” said Fred Andersky, Bendix director – demos, sales and service training. “And of these infractions, problems related to the brake system or to brake adjustment topped the list of violations considered critical enough to put a vehicle out of service. Those violations accounted for 38% of all out-of-service violations found. All told, CVSA’s data shows about 21% of the vehicles inspected were put out of service, and the brakes or brake adjustment were a common reason why. Keep in mind that brakes are one of the foundations for driver safety and for optimal operation of vehicle on-board technologies. That’s why keeping vehicle brakes in good shape is critical in helping to maintain overall safety on the road, and why CVSA’s Roadcheck – along with a regular schedule of preventive maintenance – is so important.”

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Andersky continued, “However, many of the critical issues flagged during these inspections are maintenance-related, and many are issues that could have easily been prevented with regular, thorough maintenance procedures. Inspections may find that brakes need to be adjusted or that tires are improperly inflated, for example. Or they may highlight a driver or technical issue that could have been prevented through training.”

With vehicle braking systems, wheel-ends, and tires under scrutiny, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) offers the following recommendations on inspecting and maintaining these crucial components.

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Brake System Maintenance and Checkups

Brake systems and brake adjustment can contribute to a range of issues that are easily averted through regular pre-trip inspections and preventive maintenance. First, drivers should always conduct standard walk-arounds – pre- and post-trip inspections – before and after hitting the road. Look for visible brake system problems such as loose hoses or damaged brake components – air chambers or pushrods, for example. And earlier, in the shop, air brake system inspections should include the following points – all of which relate to items typically inspected during Roadcheck:

  • Conducting a 90- to 100-PSI brake application and listening for leaks
  • Measuring chamber stroke at each wheel-end to ensure proper brake adjustment
  • Examining friction for good condition and minimum thickness
  • Measuring/inspecting each rotor and drum for wear and heat cracking and/or leopard spotting

Brake friction is another essential component that should be checked for compliance, whether during maintenance or pre-trip. This means inspecting for issues including lining cracks, missing portions of the lining, oil or grease contamination of the lining, and compliant friction lining thickness.

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“Keep in mind that not all friction that is marketed as ‘acceptable’ under today’s reduced stopping distance (RSD) regulations will actually perform to that standard,” said Mark Holley, Bendix director of marketing and customer solutions, Wheel-End. “This means that when you replace air disc brake pads or drum brake shoes, you’ll want to select components that will ensure the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) requirements are met, so that your vehicle remains compliant with the standards required of RSD braking systems. For this reason, Bendix recommends replacing like-for-like OEM friction, as it is the best way to maintain your vehicle’s braking performance in stopping distance and wear when replacing linings on vehicles equipped with RSD brakes.”

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In addition, Bendix recommends the use of remanufactured drum brake shoes that have been coined back to their OEM-engineered shape, as opposed to those that have simply been relined with new friction. Relining a shoe that’s been exposed to the extreme force and temperature changes of normal use without having been coined can lead to reduced stopping power and premature wear.

“You certainly don’t want to undercut the stopping power of a high-performance brake, but this is what’s at risk when using inferior friction or a twisted shoe,” Holley said. “Using OEM-quality parts ensures you will achieve the best and safest performance from your braking system. Another critical point to keep in mind: The performance of your braking system also affects the performance of connected safety systems. So if the vehicle is equipped with a full-stability or collision mitigation system, it too can be negatively affected if brakes aren’t performing at their peak.”

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Another tip to consider relates to drum brake performance. Fleets spec’ing drum brakes and that incur repeated violations due to out-of-adjustment brakes might consider using air disc brakes instead, Holley noted.

Holley continued, “Beyond inspections, however, with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) growing in popularity, the demand for air disc brakes is strongly growing as well. Fleets understand that it makes sense to support their ADAS systems with air disc brakes on both the tractor and trailer because of their reliability, ease of maintenance and stopping power. They know that each system is great individually, but better together.”

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Pay Attention to Tire Inflation

CVSA’s annual International Roadcheck tire inspections emphasize the importance of maintaining proper tire pressure: Industry research shows about 90% of tire failures can be attributed to underinflation, and nearly half of all emergency service road calls are tire-related.

“Driving on underinflated tires generates higher internal running temperatures, and that will lead to tire blowouts,” said Jon Intagliata, Bendix product group director, Trailer Controls. “What’s more, underinflation also puts unnecessary stress, wear, and tear on the tires. This excess wear and tear has been documented and it can shorten the life of the tires: The American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council estimates that 20% underinflation can shorten tire life by 30%.”

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Bendix says you can help reduce this risk by using a system such as the SmarTire Tire Pressure Monitoring System by Bendix CVS (TPMS) – or the SmarTire Trailer-Link TPMS by Bendix CVS. The system provides real-time pressure alerts to the driver, thereby helping to alleviate the problem of underinflated tires.

As with friction, tires and tire performance also can impact the performance of advanced safety components and technologies, including RSD-compliant brakes, air disc brakes, full stability, and advanced driver assistance systems.

The Training Advantage

Keeping vehicles on the road and operating safely also depends on both drivers and technicians staying informed on regulations and remaining knowledgeable about ever-advancing commercial vehicle safety components and technologies.

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The Bendix On-Line Brake School offers more than 90 free courses, including a curriculum covering the full spectrum of braking and active vehicle safety product topics, developed by the team at Bendix. This online resource currently counts more than 110,000 registered users.

“Maintaining commercial vehicles and keeping drivers and technicians up-to-date is a year-round job, but the International Roadcheck event helps by reinforcing the importance of getting prepared by way of proper maintenance,” Andersky said. “As always, Bendix is here to help and support the industry with maintenance know-how, reminders, and resources. It’s another way we’re working to help keep our roadways safe.”

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