The emergency and supply lines that stretch between a tractor and trailer offer a colorful reminder that compressed air is the lifeblood of your brake system. The hoses are a respective red and blue, like arteries and veins in an anatomical drawing. That would make the compressor your air system’s heart; obstructions in the air lines like plaque that forms on an artery wall.
Maybe there should be little surprise that truck drivers often overlook brake hoses and tubing. People still die of preventable heart attacks.
The components will be under some added scrutiny in August as enforcement officials recognize Brake Safety Awareness Month. Brake Safety Week, hosted from Aug. 23-29, includes its own special focus on the all-important pathways for the air.
“Failure of any component of a brake system could be catastrophic,” says Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) president John Samis, a sergeant with Delaware State Police. “Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles.”
Even the smallest leaks in the air supply can add up to big problems.
“We’ve had incidents where it’s gotten so bad the system won’t replenish fast enough, and the air loss is so significant you’ll actually partially apply the spring brakes and cause brake drag,” says Randy Petresh, vice-president – technical services at Haldex. “The compressor can only run so long and so fast.”
There are plenty of tools to warn truck drivers about outright failures, of course. The gauge on the dash measures the pressure at hand. Warning lights and buzzers are triggered when pressures drop toward the dangerous territory of 55 psi.
But there are also early warning signs of trouble to come. A frequently cycling compressor, an unusual amount of oil draining from the air tanks, and a worn hose covering are all causes for concern.
Luckily, there are also strategies to help prevent future air system shortcomings, and they’re as effective as low-fat diets and exercise when it comes to ensuring a healthy heart.