Preventing a “Perfect Storm”

BY IN Brake Stroke On July 5, 2016

By definition, a “Perfect Storm” is when a combination of conditions creates a critical situation.

My name is Daniel Judson, president of Brake Sentry. I have more than 30 years of industry experience as a certified ASE master truck technician, fleet maintenance manager and technical school instructor specializing in preventive maintenance and airbrake systems. I’ve conducted a number of brake safety and maintenance trainings for both commercial and government fleets and have several published articles on airbrake safety.

When 1 out of every 10 vehicles inspected in the US is placed out-of-service for exceeding the allowable 20% safety threshold for brake adjustment, you have the conditions for a “perfect storm”.

(statistically, vehicles with major non-compliant components are 5 times more likely to be involved in a crash than those in compliance.)

The largest study ever conducted on large truck crashes; “The 2006 Large Truck Crash Causation Study”, indicated that brakes were a factor in nearly 30% of all the crashes investigated.

When brake adjustment defects go uncorrected and drivers are unaware of existing safety defects on the vehicles they are operating, you have the conditions for a “perfect storm”.

To prevent a “Perfect Storm” and reduce exposure to the chronic risks and liabilities associated with trucking’s costliest and most frequently cited safety defect, it’s important that fleet managers (a) understand what the major contributors are (b), assess their own level of exposure and (c), make the necessary changes to effectively improve brake safety, maintenance and compliance.

(a) The major contributors: The following quote comes from the “Final Report” of The North American Brake Safety Conference, the most comprehensive study focusing on brake adjustment compliance.

“The level of knowledge regarding brake system performance and operation, particularly as it relates to proficiency of technicians and inspection of brake adjustment by drivers are considered to be the major contributors to the current low level of compliance.”

Proficiency of technicians: Adjusting vs. Correcting. When brakes equipped with Automatic Brake Adjusters (ABAs) are out-of-adjustment and the majority of maintenance technicians, instead of correcting the underlying causes are only adjusting them, they are unwittingly creating the conditions for a “perfect storm”.

To illustrate the difference between adjusting and correcting: suppose a driver brings his truck into the shop with an overheated engine that has lost all its coolant and the technician merely adjusts the coolant level by refilling the radiator and sends him on his way. Now play that same scenario again and again and it’s only a matter of time before that engine is fried. By not correcting the cause, he becomes a major contributor to the cost of engine replacement.
And while replacing an engine can be expensive, it hardly compares to the cost of a truck crash. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the average cost to a fleet of an injury accident is $245,000 and the average cost of a fatality is $3.4 million.

When a brake equipped with an Automatic Brake Adjuster (ABA) is out of adjustment, there is a cause; and manually readjusting the brake will not correct the cause. The problem will remain and the brake will go out of adjustment again!

By giving the appearance of correction, this dangerous practice actually conceals existing defects, returns defective units to service, defeats the purpose of PM inspections, and puts drivers and the public at risk!

(See more details in this .pdf article provided at link)

Inspection of brake adjustment by drivers: Here’s the most overlooked fact: Drivers performing pre-trip inspections can visually inspect every item except brake stroke!

Unless drivers are crawling under their vehicles to physically measure critical pushrod stroke at each wheel position as part of their daily safety inspections, they are not inspecting brake adjustment at all; they are instead relying on brake “feel”, aka assumptions and guesswork.

This easily explains why roadside inspections find drivers commonly unaware of existing brake out-of- adjustment defects on the vehicles they are driving.

When brake adjustment defects go undetected by drivers and uncorrected by technicians, you have the combination of conditions that creates a “perfect storm”.

And what happens when the inevitable does take place? The initial sense of urgency lasts for a few weeks; and then it’s back to business-as-usual. All the while the underlying conditions that created the “perfect storm” remain unchanged.

(c) The simple and necessary changes to effectively improve brake safety compliance and reduce maintenance costs.

1.  Eliminate all the guesswork and assumptions. Equipping brakes with visual brake stroke indicators provides drivers with a significant advantage: a quick and effective means to visually inspect brake adjustment without having to crawl under vehicles to mark and measure pushrod stroke at each airbrake chamber.

The North American Brake Safety Conference recommends the use of effective visual brake stroke indicators as, “the single most meaningful change that can be made to improve brake compliance.”

2. Eliminate the costly, ineffective and DANGEROUS practice of performing manual adjustments to Automatic Brake Adjusters. (See details in a .pdf article, including an NTSB finding)

The BrakeSentry™ kit is a simple and innovative brake stroke monitoring device that improves vehicle safety and significantly reduces maintenance costs by providing drivers and technicians with a quick and effective means to visually inspect and identify any brake out-of-adjustment conditions for prompt correction.


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