Brake failure accounts for many semi-truck accidents. Because of the size of the truck and trailer, these accidents can lead to large amounts of property damage and tragic fatalities. Whether you have a single truck or a fleet, you need to understand these common reasons for semi-truck brake failure and what you can do to prevent it.
1. Using the Trolley Valve Exclusively or Depowering Your Brakes
The practice of depowering the front brakes isn’t something you should consider. Some brake failures occur simply because the driver didn’t use the brakes at all. Some drivers unhook their tractor brakes and rely on the trolley valve and the trailer’s brakes instead.
This practice can reduce the wear and tear on your tractor’s brakes and help them last longer. However, you can also put too much wear on the trailer’s brakes, which may lead to you working your tractor’s brakes even harder to compensate. In addition, using only the trailer’s brakes will reduce your stopping distance and increase the possibility of jackknifing.
2. Skipping the Inspection of Your Brakes
Routinely inspect your truck’s brakes. If you have a fleet, then your drivers need to also check on their brakes, ideally every day or before any trip. Also, keep logs of these inspections to increase accountability. A few things to check for include:
- The belt on the air compressor
- Slack adjusters
- Brake linings
- Warning lights
- Working brake mechanisms
- Air leaks
Check for anything that looks off or feels too loose. Don’t drive if you’re not sure about the condition of your brakes. Outside of any dire consequences, you may receive a ticket at a DOT stop because of the conditions of your brakes.
3. Neglecting the Maintenance and Repairs of Your Brakes
Brake maintenance is a vital defense against potential brake failure. Fleet owners should have a routine brake maintenance schedule for all their vehicles. If you have a single truck, then you should consider brake upkeep a top priority. Semi-truck brake maintenance can involve:
- Routine part replacements
- Greasing slack adjusters and adjusting them if necessary
- Greasing the S cams
- Checking the pressure gauge
- Checking lines for cracks or deterioration
Having a professional service make semi-truck brake repairs or brake component replacements will help ensure your brakes are ready for the road. Set up a maintenance schedule, and document each time maintenance occurs.
You shouldn’t skip or skimp on repairs when they’re needed. Brake failure can easily occur because someone chose to wait too long on repairs or they only maintain certain parts instead of the whole brake system.
4. Using the Cheap, Non-Standard, Potentially Faulty Brakes
Through your daily inspections and maintenance schedule, you will have a high likelihood of spotting poorly made brakes. If you do find you have faulty brakes, replace them immediately. You can also end up with faulty brakes by purchasing them from services that don’t produce brakes to industry and federal standards.
Not all brake manufacturers build great brakes, so make sure you look for quality and reputation. Some manufacturers recall their faulty brake components or systems, so make sure you’re on their mailing lists so you can know immediately about potential problems with your brakes.
5. Ignoring the Other Things That Affect Your Brakes
Your semi’s brakes do a lot of work, and you can put additional strain on them without realizing it. For example, improperly mounted tires can create a brake imbalance as some brakes do more work than others.
An unbalanced trailer load can strain your brakes, causing them to overheat and fail. Poor driving skills, especially with downhill braking, can lead to premature brake failure.
The brakes of a semi-truck require attention and care at all times. If you have a brake problem or think you have a brake problem with a semi-truck, contact the professionals at Godfrey Brake Service immediately.