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CFMS Report

Performance based brake testing -- friend or foe?

Performance based brake testing — friend or foe?

There should be a standard level for brake testing, according to Jamie Collishaw, with the traffic support unit of the Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) and a member of the CFMS panel on performance brake testing.

Collishaw said he uses PBBT, a physical measurement of the braking force produced by a vehicle when it brakes, for accident and collision investigations with Class A vehicles.

“PBBT is fast and non-intrusive, it quantifies the brake operation and timing and it is a dynamic test of a dynamic system. It would provide a more thorough means of looking at the supply system than conventional methods like checking for chaffing of hoses,” he said.

Panelist Miles Fuller, president of Vehicle Inspection Systems, a consulting company for service shops, said service shops are adopting PBBT technology quickly, because there is a direct profit motive and fleets have indicated some interest as well. But cost savings are not yet well understood.

The insurance industry is beginning to offer incentives for fleets which have employed the PBBT technology because there are huge safety benefits to using the testing procedure, he added.

PBBT is also a good idea for fleets because it distinguishes whether or not other problems can be attributed to the brake system, said Dale Holman, president of Truck Watch Services.

“We tested 5,000 vehicles and over 90% of those vehicles had some form of brake defect, but yet many of them didn’t think their problem had to do with the brake system,” said Holman.

With PBBT, panelist Jamie Shaw of ECL Carriers found his drivers learned more about their rig and the way it works and ultimately they felt more confident.

“It’s more important to be able to stop quicker than to go quicker,” said Shaw. “We’ve tested our engines for years to see why we aren’t the first to the top of the hill, so why aren’t we testing our brakes to see why we are the first to the bottom?”

Retreading concerns arise about use of wide base tires

The debate over the use of wide-base tires continued at the CFMS session entitled “Wide Base Wheels – Knowing the Facts.”

“Today’s dual tires are more fuel efficient and safer and give better traction than years ago, however, we still have to continue to progress and a wide-base single tire is the way to do that,” said panelist Ralph Beaveridge, marketing director for Michelin North America.

A wide-base tire improves braking ability, is more stable and decreases the amount of weight per axle, said Beaveridge, adding drivers say they provide better handling.

But wide-base tires do raise questions about retreading and maintenance. Al Eagleson, district sales manager for Bandag was on hand to discuss the capabilities of retreading the wider tires.

“The retreading process considers buffing capabilities, expanding the hub and a proper curing envelope,” said Eagleson. “Not many shops in Canada are equipped for proper buffing. A new piece of equipment is likely necessary for hub expansion and some companies would have to get a similar enveloping system to Bandag’s.”

The wide-base tire question is a challenge for the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) primarily because of pavement rutting and the effects the tires may have on the infrastructure.

“There needs to be a balance between highway safety, environmental issues, interjurisdictional harmonization, industry productivity and infrastructure damage,” said Ron Madill, project manager – vehicle weight and dimension reforms for the MTO.

Is stability control worth the investment?

Installing tractor and trailer stability control options is an effective way to reduce rollover accidents in fleets, CFMS delegates learned, at the seminar entitled “Roll Stability.”

While education about load positioning and keeping truck speeds down are the most immediate and least costly ways of dealing with rollovers, panelist Mark Mellatat, with fleet sales and training at ArvinMeritor, said the problem drivers face is that rollover potential changes with the load they’re hauling.

“The higher the centre of gravity, the greater the potential for a rollover,” he said. “…By the time you recognize (you’re in a rollover situation) it’s too late.”

And rollovers are costly. Wayne Scott, maintenance director for Challenger Motor Freight, one of the nation’s largest carriers, said the bill for a rollover could run over half a million dollars when the cost to replace the truck and trailer, pay for the clean-up, damage to the load and WSIB costs in the event of a fatality are included. Never mind higher insurance premiums and lost CVOR points.

Challenger is looking at dealing with the issue through the installation of a tractor stability control system. It has been testing the system on 15 of its rigs for the past eight months, said Scott. The system costs about $800 per truck.

“The system does work,” Scott said. “It’s hard to put an ROI on it because you won’t know how many accidents it has prevented but I don’t understand how it can not be a standard spec in your fleets. Rollovers represent about 5% of accidents. If I save one accident I could put it in 65 of our units.”

A look at the future of automated transmissions

The three-pedal ballet may be a trucking industry fixture but it’s no longer the most efficient way to manage shifting of heavy rigs, a panel on automated transmissions told delegates at the seminar entitled “Automated Transmissions — then and now.”

Liz Woodhull of ArvinMeritor said her company’s Freedom Line of automated transmissions can deliver 3% to 5% fuel savings on average over manual transmissions. She acknowledged, however, that when compared against the best drivers, automated transmissions might deliver only about a 1% difference in fuel savings.

“You are going to see your biggest gains in your beginning drivers,” Woodhull said.

The shifting efficiency of drivers on manual transmissions is also compromised by the growing list of tasks they are expected to handle while driving – receiving and sending satellite messages, speaking on mobile phones and dealing with increasing traffic gridlock, she added.

There is also a generation gap that needs to be addressed.

“The drivers today may have never seen what a manual transmission looks like. To attract drivers from other than the usual pool, you are going to have to change your technology,” she said.

Panelist Mark Osinski, program manager with Eaton’s heavy duty transmissions, said a manual clutch can take 50-60 pounds of force to press to the floor, making it difficult for women and smaller-bodied people to handle.

Woodhull said future advancements in automated transmission technology will focus on increased electronic integration, making shifts even faster. There will also be benefits on the maintenance side, with electronics providing greater accuracy in fault detection.

Osinski, however, pointed out that space on the J-1939 data link is getting busy.

“We are starting to see some limits,” he said.

Feel the power: combat truck battery sulfation

A rig’s power has to be maintained and cared for just like any other part of the truck, according to Blair McLaughlin of Exide Batteries, who addressed CFMS delegates at session about basic power unit electrics.

“Over 80% of batteries fail because of sulfation,” said McLaughlin.

Sulfation occurs when soft lead crystals form on the surfaces of the positive and negative plates of the battery, so in order to help combat this, batteries should be fully charged and cleaned as part of a regular maintenance program, he said.

The best way to charge a battery is at low amps, said McLaughlin, but often mechanics want to get the vehicle in and out of the shop quickly so that doesn’t always happen.

The average shelf life of a battery is six months, he added, depending on storage temperature.

“Batteries have a self discharge rate of 10% per month and the warmer the storage area, the faster the self discharge rate is, so cooler temperatures are better,” McLaughlin said.

Building up a battery bank is a good way to cut costs and make a mechanic’s job easier, said panelist Fraser Cox of Quinte Alternator & Starter Ltd.

“Determine the date of each battery, charge the good ones and label and store properly,” said Cox. “For long haul trucks, batteries generally last two years but locally run truck batteries usually last three years or sometimes even more.”

Multiplexing is becoming more prevalent in heavy-duty trucks, added panelist Len Copeland, product support manager for Freightliner.

“Multiplexing is doing more with less,” said Copeland. “A multiplexed vehicle has 40% fewer wires so there are definite advantages when it comes to vehicle weight and design flexibility.”

Starters and alternators are also important components of a truck’s electrical system and low system voltage causes failure and ultimately causes cost increases, said Randy Andis, fleet operations director for Delco Remy International.

“The closer the starter and alternator are to the battery, the better electrical system you’ll have in your truck,” said Andis.

For battery testing procedures, visit

Trailer liability: you can’t escape it

The “Hooking on to Responsibility and Liability” seminar drove home the point that carriers are, more often than not, responsible for trailer malfunctions, once the trailers are hooked to their power units, whether or not they own them.

Presenter Dale Holman, of Truck Watch Services, based in Georgetown, Ont. took the podium first, to emphasize the importance of completing a pre-trip report verifying that trailer lights work, that there are no flat tires, and that trailer brakes appear to be in adjustment.

He then described potential hazards, for example poor compatibility between tractor and trailer brake characteristics, faulty or worn connections, dust covers which make checking the condition of brakes difficult, the potential that dust covers have to fly off and cause accidents or damages, and brake wear and adjustment flaws, as well as faulty valve assembly.

Holman pointed to on-road service as a potential source of faulty brake repairs and valve replacements, and the importance of checking repairs when tractors and trailers arrive at the terminal.

For more information on safe maintenance practices, visit

Next came Gordon Russell, safety and compliance manager for Canada Cartage System, who described the responsibilities of management, dispatchers and drivers when it comes to pre- and post-trip inspections (drivers at Canada Cartage are paid for the time they spend doing inspections, he pointed out), and the importance of adopting preventative strategies to reduce carrier liability.

Education of carrier sales staff when it comes to developing new accounts is foremost, said Russell. Sales staff must not agree to haul for a new customer until that customers’ trailers are thoroughly inspected by the carrier’s own mechanics.

Sales staff must also cost services according to the type and condition of trailers. And policies and procedures for trailer repair must be established with the client up front.

Like Holman, Russell said trailers and tractors must be properly matched.

For more on Canada Cartage Systems, visit

Ray Camball, fleet sales manager for Trailmobile, came last, with tips on how to spec trailers.

Choose a design that will avoid problems that take the trailer off the road, Camball advised. Ontario and the East coast present the greatest challenge for trailer longevity because of corrosion, and the fact that payloads in these areas tend to be 20% heavier than elsewhere.

Cold weather and salt causing corrosion, cracks and bends, light and wiring wear, contamination in air lines, faulty brake design and repair mistakes, damage to interiors and exteriors as well as ice and debris damage are what commonly put trailers off the road, Camball said.

Trailer specifiers in high corrosion areas should also avoid stainless steel doorframes for aluminum frames, added Camball. Galvanized door frames protect the panels and threshold.

To prevent corrosion of aluminum rails, avoid the use of aids and brighteners, he said.

Rusted wheels cry out to inspectors, he added, and are more difficult to repair on the road.

As for connector maintenance, some trailer owners spray the outside of the connector annually with a liquid corrosion inhibitor, Camball said.

Filters can be used on gladhands to prevent airline contamination. They can also be used on supply lines.

And alcohol should not be used to thaw out frozen valves. Air drain cables should be routed or supported somehow to avoid ice problems.

As for finding out before it’s too late that your air tank is low, a pressure switch connected to a warning light could easily be attached to the front wall.

When it comes to trailer brake spec’ing, pick your priority system – spring or service reservoir. Brakes should also be balanced, match your linings, axle loads and AL factor (chamber area versus slack adjuster length.)

And spec according to your loads, advised Camball.

For further info on trailer spec’ing visit

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