Bad Brakes in Semi Trucks: How Many Trucks Will Be Placed Out of Service During Brake Safety Week?

Bad Brakes in Semi Trucks: How Many Trucks Will Be Placed Out of Service During Brake Safety Week?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal semi truck accidents are often caused by bad brakes in the semi truck (big rig, 18 wheeler, tractor trailer truck). Research has shown that these big commercial trucks, moving fast and burdened with heavy loads of cargo, will need a lot more time to come to a full stop than any sedan or minivan traveling the roads with them.

The commercial truck will need between 20% and 40% more time to halt, from the time that its driver puts his or her foot on the brake pedal until the semi truck is no longer moving.

Those percentages — the time a big rig needs to brake and come to a full stop — just gets longer on iced roads or snowy roads. And those times are for trucks with good and efficient braking systems.

Big rigs, semi trucks, and other big commercial vehicles will need even more time if their brakes are not operating properly or have been neglected insofar as routine maintenance.

Bad brakes in big rigs (and other large commercial trucks and buses) are a big problem in this country, and the cause of many fatal traffic accidents where not only the truck driver but those in the vehicles sharing the roads with that commercial truck are at risk of serious injuries and death in a truck crash.

Brake Safety Week 2016: Nationwide Inspections of Big Rig Truck Brakes by Law Enforcement

Next month, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)  in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be promoting its  “Brake Safety Week” during the week of September 11 through September 17, 2016. As part of the CVSA’s campaign, police departments all over the country will be pulling over motorcoaches and buses as well as commercial trucks (semi trucks, 18 wheelers, big rigs, tractor trailer trucks, etc.) for official brake inspections.

From the CVSA:

Properly functioning brake systems are crucial to safe commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operation. CMV brakes are designed to hold up under tough conditions, but they must be routinely inspected and maintained carefully and consistently so they operate and perform properly throughout the vehicle’s life. Improperly installed or poorly maintained brake systems can reduce braking efficiency and increase the stopping distance of trucks and buses, posing serious risks to driver and public safety. 

Indiana and Illinois Big Rigs and Semi Trucks Will Be Inspected For Brake System Safety By Law Enforcement Next Month

According to the CVSA and FMCSA research, by far the biggest problem in commercial truck and motorcoach inspections involve the commercial vehicle’s braking systems, with over 43% of out-of-service violations involving brakes.

Next month, during Brake Safety Week, law enforcement in Indiana and Illinois will be pulling over these huge vehicles to check those braking systems. The officers will be looking for brakes that are in violation of state and federal standards, as well as brakes or brake systems that are not properly adjusted or otherwise flawed and in need of repair.

Specifically, most inspectors will be pulling over big rigs and semi trucks for the standard“Level I Inspections.” A North American Level I Inspection involves:

  • examination of the commercial truck driver’s license;
  • Confirmation of medical examiner’s certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate (if applicable);
  • Checking for any use of alcohol and drugs by the driver;
  • Reviewing the truck driver’s record of duty status as required;
  • Reviewing the trucker’s hours of service (HOS);
  • Examination of the truck’s seat belts to make sure they are present and working properly;
  • Examination of the commercial vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable);
  • Checking the truck’s brake systems;
  • Checking the semi truck’s coupling devices; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); securement of cargo; steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; emergency exits and/or electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments (buses), and HM/DG requirements as applicable.

During Brake Safety Week, a special focus will be given to the braking systems of these big rigs, semi trucks, and tractor trailer trucks. Law enforcement will be targeting each part of the braking system of those commercial vehicles pulled over for inspection. They will be looking carefully at things specific to the truck’s braking system including:

  1. loose parts
  2. missing parts
  3. air leaks
  4. hydraulic fluid leaks
  5. worn linings
  6. worn pads
  7. worn drums
  8. worn rotors
  9. other faulty brake-system components
  10. ABS malfunction indicator lamps
  11. flaws in other brake components
  12. pushrod stroke measurement (where applicable).

If a big rig or semi truck is found to have a problem with its braking system, either because a part of the system is defective or because the brakes are out-of-adjustment, then law enforcement will pull that big rig or semi truck off the road, grounding it and blocking the trucker from continuing on his or her way. This is called “placing the truck out of service.”

This year, the CVSA held a surprise Brake Check Day in May 2016, where its inspectors pulled over commercial trucks in 31 different states (as well as in Canada) to check the truck’s braking system. In that one day of surprise inspections, the CVSA found that 12.4% of the trucks pulled over had serious brake system problems and were placed out of service. Another 13.9% were placed out of service that day for discoveries involving problems other than the big rig’s brakes.

That’s the results of a single day’s surprise inspections!  Even with the advanced warning that commercial trucks are subject to being pulled over for inspection during next month’s Brake Safety Week, it’s a concern to think how many trucks on the road that week will be found to be dangerous and “placed out of service.”

More on these dangers for those of us in Indiana and Illinois in our next post. Let’s be careful out there!

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