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Brake Safety Measures and Avoiding Violations for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

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Introduction

Based on the findings from CVSA’s 2024 Brake Safety Day inspections, it’s clear that brake safety remains a critical issue for commercial motor vehicles across North America. 

Out of 4,898 inspections conducted in a single day, 570 vehicles were immediately restricted from further travel due to critical brake-related violations.

The most common violation involved 20% or more of the vehicle’s service brakes being defective, accounting for nearly 58% of all brake-related out-of-service violations. 

Brake safety violations in heavy-duty commercial vehicles pose significant risks to road safety and can result in severe consequences for fleet operators.

Understanding these violations, their causes, and prevention strategies is crucial for maintaining compliance and ensuring the safety of drivers and other road users.

Table of Contents

Understanding Brake Safety Violations

A fleet manager/operator accessing his fleet management software on his phone
In 2024, 570 vehicles were immediately restricted from further travel due to critical brake-related violations.

Brake safety violations occur when a commercial vehicle’s braking system fails to meet the required safety standards set by regulatory bodies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). 

These violations can range from minor issues to severe defects that render a vehicle out of service.

Common Types of Brake Safety Violations

  1. Out-of-Adjustment Brakes: Brakes that are not properly adjusted, reducing their effectiveness.
  2. Worn Brake Pads or Shoes: Excessive wear on brake components that compromises stopping power.
  3. Air Leaks: Leaks in the air brake system that affect brake performance.
  4. Cracked Brake Rotors or Drums: Structural damage to brake components.
  5. Contaminated Brake Linings: Oil, grease, or other contaminants on brake surfaces.
  6. Inoperative Brake Lamps: Non-functioning brake lights.

Impact on Fleet Operations

Brake safety violations can have significant consequences for fleet operators:

  • Out-of-Service Orders: Vehicles with severe brake violations may be placed out of service until repairs are made.
  • CSA Score Impact: Violations negatively affect a carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score.
  • Financial Penalties: Fines and penalties for non-compliance can be substantial.
  • Increased Liability: Accidents resulting from brake failures can lead to costly lawsuits.

Compliance and Inspection Programs

a mechanic doing maintenance on a commercial truck for brake safety
The next Brake Safety Week is Aug. 25-31, 2024

CVSA Brake Safety Week

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts an annual Brake Safety Week, intensifying inspections and enforcement of brake regulations. 

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Brake Safety Week is an annual event conducted across North America, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

During this announced week, typically scheduled in late August, CVSA-certified inspectors intensify their focus on brake systems of commercial vehicles at various locations such as roadside inspection sites and weigh stations.

These comprehensive inspections examine brake components, measure pad thickness, test air pressure, and check for leaks and warning devices. In addition to the scheduled week, CVSA also conducts surprise one-day brake safety initiatives throughout the year. 

This dual approach of announced and unannounced inspections ensures that commercial drivers and companies maintain high brake safety standards year-round.

Vehicles found with brake-related violations are removed from service until issues are corrected, emphasizing the critical nature of this safety initiative in the commercial transportation industry.

FMCSA Regulations

The FMCSA mandates specific requirements for brake systems in commercial vehicles, including:

  • Minimum brake performance standards
  • Regular inspection and maintenance requirements
  • Documentation of brake system repairs and inspections

Prevention Strategies

A fleet manager reviewing preventive maintenance checklists
Young worker checks trucks documentation

To avoid brake safety violations, fleet operators should implement the following strategies:

  1. Regular Inspections: Conduct thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
  2. Preventive Maintenance: Implement a detailed preventive maintenance program focused on brake systems.
  3. Driver Training: Educate drivers on identifying brake issues and proper reporting procedures.
  4. Quality Parts: Use high-quality brake components and ensure proper installation.
  5. Documentation: Maintain detailed records of all brake inspections, maintenance, and repairs.

Implementing these strategies can be made easier with fleet maintenance software. EMDECS, for example, offers customizability, real-time update capabilities, and digital documentation, allowing for customizable and easily accessible reports. 

Additionally, EMDECS Mobile enables seamless tracking of inspections and preventive maintenance, instant reporting of brake issues by drivers, and digital logging of all maintenance activities.

 By using fleet maintenance software like EMDECS, fleet operators can enhance productivity, ensure compliance, and reduce the risk of brake safety violations.

Technology and Innovation

Advancements in brake technology are helping to improve safety and reduce violations:

  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC): Helps prevent rollovers and loss of control.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB): Assists in preventing rear-end collisions.
  • Brake Monitoring Systems: Provide real-time data on brake performance and wear.

Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Staying informed about current and upcoming regulations is crucial for compliance:

  • Federal Regulations: Keep abreast of FMCSA updates to brake safety standards.
  • State-Specific Rules: Be aware of any additional state-level brake safety requirements.
  • International Considerations: For fleets operating across borders, understand variations in brake safety regulations.

Conclusion

Brake safety violations in heavy-duty commercial vehicles are a serious concern that requires ongoing attention from fleet operators.

By implementing detailed inspection and maintenance programs, leveraging technology, and staying informed about regulatory requirements, fleets can significantly reduce the risk of violations and enhance overall road safety.

For fleet managers and operators, prioritizing brake safety is more than avoiding violations—it’s about ensuring the safety of drivers, cargo, and all road users.

As regulations continue to evolve and technology advances, maintaining a proactive approach to brake safety will be key to operational success and regulatory compliance in the commercial vehicle industry.

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