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Breaking it Down: Brake Safety Week Q&A with the CVSA

Semi trucks pulling into TA Truck Service shop bays.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) continues its safety efforts with their annual Brake Safety Week initiative, which will take place this Sept. 15 through 21. You may wonder what this means for your deliveries and how you can prepare—in addition to getting a FREE mid-trip inspection at participating TA Truck Service locations, Will Schaefer, Director of Safety Programs for the CVSA, explains.

TA: What is Brake Safety Week and why is it important? 
Schaefer: Brake Safety Week is a weeklong campaign of enforcement and spreading awareness about the importance of brake system maintenance. 

TA: Why and when was Brake Safety Week first implemented?
Schaefer: Brake Safety Week was established in 1998 in Canada, since brake violations dominated the out-of-service violations found during roadside inspections in the 1990s. They remain around half of all out-of-service violations. 

TA: Why is Brake Safety Week beneficial for professional drivers?
Schaefer: Brake Safety week is an opportunity both to enforce regulations and to provide outreach to highlight the importance of a properly functioning commercial vehicle braking system, which is made possible by the motor carrier or owner operator through proper vehicle maintenance, the driver pre-trip inspection, the periodic or annual preventive maintenance and general attention paid to monitoring brake system condition. Each player plays a part, and drivers are on the front lines of inspection; they suffer the consequences when brakes fail to perform. 

TA: What is this year’s focus/emphasis and why?
Schaefer: This year we are focusing on brake hoses and tubing. One common violation is chafed hoses—chafed enough to be worn through the reinforcement fabric of the hoses (or into the white color of the thermoplastic hoses). These are not the most common violations, but they’re a concern. 

TA: How can drivers prepare for Brake Safety Week?
Schaefer: Make sure your company, or you as an owner-operator, have checked all brakes for proper adjustment, and get them serviced if they are out-of-adjustment. Self-adjusting brakes should not be manually adjusted—this indicates something else is wrong and they should be carefully diagnosed. Conduct your pre-trip inspections thoroughly and look and listen for chafed hoses and air leaks. 

TA: What can a driver expect to happen during a stop?
Schaefer: The CVSA certified inspector will check the drivers’ and motor carrier’s credentials, explain to the driver the inspection process, and then conduct the inspection, including crawling under the truck to measure pushrod stroke on drum brakes. They will be looking at brakes, but potentially also tires, lights and all other required equipment. The inspector will provide instruction throughout, as well as a copy of an inspection report when complete. In many cases, if no critical item violations are found, they will apply a CVSA inspection decal to indicate the vehicle was recently inspected. 

TA: How long does an average inspection take?
Schaefer: While this depends on many factors, a full Level I inspection may take in the order of 45 minutes. They can take longer or less time, depending on the number of axles and specific circumstances. In some cases, inspectors are conducting only brake checks, meaning a Level IV inspection that is focused on brake measurements, but not necessarily on all other vehicle aspects. They may take less time per vehicle. 

TA: What can drivers do to make this process easier for themselves or to expedite the process?
Schaefer: Have your ELD or AOBRD current, know how to use it and know how to provide the inspector with your record of duty status and supporting documents. And, as mentioned before, correct any issues you see with your vehicle when they occur and before you’re inspected. 

TA: What kinds of certificates, paperwork, etc. should drivers be prepared to hand over?
Schaefer: Depending on relevant factors, drivers typically need to provide: 

  • Valid driver’s license (CDL or otherwise) for the class of vehicle they are operating (complying with endorsements and restrictions).
  • Record of duty status (via electronic logging device or ELD or Automatic On-Board Recording Device--valid until Dec. 16, 2019; any blank logs; ELD/AOBRD instruction card) if applicable and supporting documents.
  • Insurance, DOT number, operating license, if applicable.
  • Shipping papers/manifest (if applicable), vehicle registration, annual inspection certificate(s), and trip inspection report, if applicable.
  • Any relevant hazardous materials/dangerous goods documentation or any permit paperwork (overweight/oversize) and state specific paperwork, where needed.

Will Schaefer
Will joined CVSA in 2010 and currently supports CVSA’s vehicle, size/weight and advanced technology-related policy development, along with other committees and programs as a staff liaison. He has worked in commercial motor vehicle safety and environmental regulatory policy at the international, federal, state and provincial levels since 1999. Prior to joining CVSA, Will worked as a federal regulatory research engineer (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), a technical policy representative of industry (first at the American Trucking Associations and later with the Truck Manufacturers Association) and as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy in research, development and deployment of truck and bus fuel efficiency technologies. Will earned his Class B CDL and drove Class 7 transit buses while studying to earn his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland.

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