Picking up the blitz

by John Curran

TORONTO, Ont. – It’s that time of year again, when the thoughts of truckers turn to the 72-hour inspection blitz… That’s right, it’s RoadCheck season again.

Despite recent research from south of the border that suggests truck inspections do absolutely nothing to improve overall highway safety, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) says it’s business as usual as far as RoadCheck is concerned.

If that’s truly the case we know going in bad brakes will once again dominate as the top reason vehicles are taken out-of-service. In 2000, roughly 23 per cent of the 40,000 vehicles inspected were yanked off the road; 58 per cent of them had brake problems of one sort or another.

Rolf VanderZwaag, maintenance and technical advisor to the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), points out that, based on Operation Airbrake results and Ontario’s impound statistics, almost 66 per cent of all brake defects are related to brakes out of adjustment.

“Carriers and drivers need to pay more attention to their brakes, it’s that simple,” says VanderZwaag. There is an information gap and until it gets filled, the OTA’s brake guru says problems will persist.

Several misconceptions plague the industry as far as brake compliance is concerned.

“Carriers believe if they inspect or adjust their brakes once in awhile they’ll be okay … but, they aren’t measuring the performance of their own vehicles,” he explains. “Then when the enforcement people check them they say, ‘you missed something here and we’re going after you with a charge for brakes out of adjustment.'”

He also blames the relatively low odds of being inspected for this lack of attention.

“They can only inspect so many vehicles, so the odds are still pretty good that the vehicle is not going to be inspected,” says VanderZwaag. “A lot of carriers that operate irresponsibly, work on those odds and say, ‘I’ll take the chance so let’s not worry about it too much.'”

He adds people spec’ing trucks often make the window for compliance smaller than it needs to be. Long-stroke brake chambers, shorter slack adjusters, shorter camshafts, different brake drums and linings are all specs that will grow the size of that window, he explains.

Another key misconception concerns automatic slack adjusters: They should never go out of adjustment. If they do it’s an indication of a bigger problem.

“In most fleets, the practice is that the guys doing the preventive maintenance will automatically re-adjust the brakes and work on the principle that, ‘I know it’s right when it leaves the shop,'” he complains. “We have to add a step … if it goes out of adjustment automatically, it’s going to go out of adjustment automatically again.” n

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data