What to Expect and How to Prepare for Brake Safety Week

Emerge Editorial

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has planned August 21 to 27 for the 2022 Brake Safety Week. As all trucking companies should know, the week-long event is an annual commercial vehicle brake safety inspection, enforcement, and education initiative conducted by officers in jurisdictions in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

It’s an important, although disruptive, time of year for carriers. Even though the industry knows exactly when to expect it, trucking companies still face delays and the potential for costly fines. This makes it essential for carriers to be prepared to avoid the additional issues and costs the week-long event can create.

Who Gets Selected for the Inspection?

The common question is, how are vehicles selected for inspection? 

While it’s often thought that roadside inspections are random, most are not. And a report from J.J. Keller offers advice on what officers typically look for when flagging trucks for inspection, including:

  • Vehicles with a violation or an indication of a problem
  • Drivers committing driving violations or not following instructions
  • Carriers with high Inspection Selection System scores and recommendations of either Inspect or Optional.

Also noteworthy is that officers will randomly select a driver and vehicle for inspection. Still, if a driver or vehicle meets any of the criteria above, that driver or vehicle will get priority over a randomly selected truck. The point is that carriers with a poor record should expect to face more inspections during this time, making preparedness all the more critical.

What’s Involved in the Inspection?

It’s important to note that although brakes are the theme for this upcoming inspection, officers are looking for other violations, too. The range of inspections performed during the Brake Inspection Week are outlined on the CVSA.org website, including both Level 1 and Level 5, and can encompass the driver and vehicles (not just the brakes.) 

A driver inspection begins with the officer observing the driver as they approach the vehicle. Then, interview questions are asked about the driver’s origin, where they’re going, their employer, general questions about the driver’s well-being, and others. During this interaction, the officer evaluates the driver, looking for signs of fatigue, potential intoxication, or signs of trying to hide something or specific information. 

Last year, the top five driver violations written during roadside inspections were the following. This list is important because driver violations often get the attention of inspectors and result in vehicles being selected for a brake inspection.

1. Speeding 

2. Failing to obey a traffic control device 

3. False log 

4. Failing to use a seatbelt 

5. Operating a CDL-required vehicle without a CDL 

And, of course, since the emphasis during this week is on brakes, it’s a good idea to remind drivers to take the time to inspect these components during their pre-trips. 

When it comes to the brake inspection, here is some advice from the CSVA.org website:

BRAKES Check for missing, non-functioning, loose, contaminated or cracked parts on the brake system. Check for S-camflipover. Be alert for air leaks around brake components and lines. Check that slack adjusters are the same length (from center of S-cam to center of clevis pin) and the air chambers on each axle are the same size. Ensure the air system maintains air pressure between 90-100 psi (620-690 kPa). Inspect for non-manufactured holes (e.g., rust holes, holes created by rubbing orfriction, etc.) and broken springs in the spring brake housing section of the parking brake. Measure pushrod travel. Inspect required brake system warning devices, such as ABS malfunction lamp(s) and low air pressure warning devices. Inspect tractor protection system, including the bleedback system on the trailer. Ensure the breakaway system is operable on the trailer.

Of course, carriers should always keep equipment in safe working order. But as a starting point for putting some extra attention on safety during Brake Inspection Week, CVSA.org offers this checklist to help: ‘In the Inspector’s Seat.’

As we mentioned earlier, it’s not just the brakes getting inspected. When it comes to overall vehicle violations, the top five most written violations last year were: 

1. Inoperative required lamp 

2. Operating a vehicle without a valid annual inspection 

3. Brake out of adjustment 

4. No, discharged, or unsecured fire extinguisher 

5. Inoperative turn signal

It’s worth noting that three of the top 10 violations involve lights, which are easily identifiable and fixable violations.

Tips for Avoiding Roadside Inspections and Violations

The good news for carriers is that all top driver and vehicle violations are basic and easily avoidable with some planning. The bad news is failed inspections lead to more inspections, so drivers and carriers need to figure out ways to break that cycle. Here are some tips to help you do that.

  1. Brakes are the focus during this specific week, but that changes. Carriers need to pay attention year-round to what inspectors are on the lookout for. Roadcheck for example, which typically happens in the spring, is another initiative with a pre-announced focus. The good news is carriers have n the inspection ‘test’ answers before it happens. In 2022 the RoadCheck focus was wheel ends. As this is a maintenance-related topic, ensure your maintenance personnel or provider also knows this. So, every year, leading into Brake Inspection Week or Roadcheck, make sure to pay special attention to these components during maintenance.
  1. Do the simple things right. Since many drivers are selected for a roadside inspection due to an obvious vehicle or traffic violation problem, the best way to avoid an inspection is by doing the simple things. Making sure vehicles are in good and safe working order (thanks to thorough pre-trip and on-the-road inspections), taking the time to fix problems, and making an effort to operate the vehicle in a safe and compliant manner make inspection avoidance straightforward.
  1. Keep company credentials current. This means ensuring your MCS-150 has been updated, your UCR fees are paid, and all your vehicles have a current registration (and fuel permitting if required).
  1. Verify vehicle maintenance. This includes all maintenance and annual inspections. If you have an effective brake maintenance program, you should catch most issues before an inspector does on the road. The key is staying ahead of maintenance issues before they appear. 
  1. Ensure your drivers are up to date. Like equipment, carriers should verify all drivers are fully credentialed. This includes ensuring their licenses are current and valid, medical exams are up to date, and the proof is on file. It goes without saying, any driver that is not current can’t drive until they are. 
  1. Do a refresh. Drivers can forget or fall into bad habits, so it’s a good practice leading up to Brake Inspection Week to retrain drivers on the basics requirements of their jobs beyond driving (e.g., how to perform brake inspections, HOS limits, recordkeeping, and roadside inspections.

Some Final Advice

There should be no surprises for carriers during any Brake Inspection Week. But, even well-prepared trucking companies may face problems impacting delivery service. We suggest planning extra time for deliveries to ensure you’re maintaining good service performance and not letting any delay affect customers. And of course, being extra communicative with them on what’s happening with shippers and consignees is extra important. Proactively thinking down the road about how your next load will be impacted is also helpful during this time.

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