A lot can happen out on the road from bad weather to bad drivers. You’ve got to be on your toes in order to stay safe and avoid an accident. Sometimes the safety hazard isn’t from what’s outside the truck, but what’s going on inside. In this edition of our Safety Meeting Series, we’ll discuss brake safety – how to avoid brake failure and what to do if it happens.
There are two types of brake failure: static and dynamic. Static failure happens when your truck is already at a stop but the brakes fail. This can be as simple as forgetting to set the parking brake and your truck rolling away as a result. Dynamic failure happens when you’re driving and lose control of the vehicle.
Taking precautions and knowing how to react can save your life and the lives of other drivers on the road.
Avoiding Brake Failure
Preventative maintenance is always best for avoiding brake failure. Test your brakes regularly, and make sure the brake chamber springs and brake stroke are checked during maintenance. Don’t just replace the linings during service but all worn parts. You also want to check the brake stroke again when you switch out trailers or if your route will take you into the mountains.
There are other things to keep in mind to keep your brakes functioning properly when you need them most:
- Make sure your load is within the amount allowed by the manufacturer’s specifications. Don’t haul a load that’s too heavy for your truck.
- Always remember to set the parking brake.
- Bank your wheels when parked on a grade.
- Slow down in bad weather.
- Drive in the correct (and often lower) gear for the grade you’re on.
- When you’re on a long grade, apply 10 to 30 psi to slow your vehicle and release in a constant cycle. If you maintain steady pressure, your truck could become a runaway.
What to Do When Your Brakes Fail
Even with the best maintenance and preventative measures, your brakes could still fail. Make sure you know what to do if that happens.
If you lose hydraulic pressure:
- Downshift into a lower gear. This will help you slow down.
- Pump your brakes to generate some hydraulic pressure so you can stop.
- Use your parking brake to stop the truck. Make sure to press or lift the release at the exact same time so your wheels don’t lock up on you.
If your brakes fail on the downgrade, look for an escape ramp. If that’s not an option, go for an open field or a side road, hopefully one with an uphill climb which will slow you down. Don’t wait too long to do what you need to do to slow or stop yourself. The longer you go down the road without brakes, the more speed you’ll pick up and the worse things will be when you try to stop.
Keeping your truck in good shape and yourself educated will help you stay safe and arrive in one piece. Take care of your brakes. If not, the results can be disastrous.