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Specific Brake Inspection Critical to Truck Safety is Often Overlooked

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance Safety and Accountability program has garnered both criticism and acclaim recently. They program is vital in ensuring safe trucking operations and in keeping trucking accidents on the interstates to a bare minimum. 

The inspection of brakes is one of the most critical components of the program. Data accumulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that approximately 30% of truck accidents can be attributed to brake adjustment defects. Further data shows that one out of every ten commercial trucks has at least one violation relating to brake inspections each year. 

Brake safety is a large part of the overall truck safety record. While break inspections are thorough, one aspect is all too often overlooked. Air brake systems that employ automatic slack adjusters must be inspected every single day they are in use. 

Truck owners and other critics say this is an unnecessary faction of brake inspection and merely an added expense. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has other ideas. They say the adjustment of the breaks affects the entire braking system.

The pushrods in a brake chamber have a physically limited stroke. They can only effectively navigate in a very constricted range of movement. A fraction of an inch of excess stroke can mean the difference between safe braking and unsafe braking. 

These specific brake inspections are not in place merely to bilk money from honest truck owners but to help maintain the safety of the roads. Data collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration showed the average cost of a break related injury accident to a fleet owner is $245,000. Fleet owners pay an average of $3.2 million per break related fatality.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the automatic slack adjuster inspection isn’t because they fail, are faulty or don’t work, it’s because they have not previously been properly inspected and maintained. While it is true automatic slack adjusters do eradicate the routine manual adjustments, the must still be inspected daily, a fact many forget.

The inspection is simple and involves a visual brake stroke indicator.  Most often this is tape or paint or some other brightly colored indicator. There are two problems here. The first being the inspection is usually done by a driver who is usually in a hurry and on a deadline. The second is the indicators wear off, peel away or get covered in road grime. All too often the inspection is guesswork rather than an actual visual confirmation.

Having the inspection done as part of the federal trucking mandate will eliminate much of the problem. The whole basis is simple. Safety is always first.