Most heavy trucks on the road today are equipped with drum brakes. Though an old technology, a number of innovations over the years have helped maintain its position as the first choice for heavy truck buyers.
But this may be changing.
Thanks in part to new federal fuel economy standards and stricter stopping-distance rules, fleet owners are taking a harder look at air disc brakes. These tend to perform better than drum brakes in a number of metrics – such as stopping power and ease of inspection – but have generally been more expensive. However, some might argue that the costs are worth it.
"Fleet owners are taking a harder look at air disc brakes."
"Bumping into one [passenger] car, regardless of whose fault it is, is going to cost me a minimum of $20,000," Ralph Lo Priore, director of fleet assets and processes for Seattle-based Stoneway Concrete, told the Commercial Carrier Journal. "If I can stop quicker and stop safer, who cares about how often you have to replace a brake rotor? It's a $200 rotor. So what? If disc brakes prevent only one accident per truck, they've paid for themselves ever how many times over."
In fact, the news source noted that WABCO has seen adoption rates of its air disc brakes increase from 5 percent to 20 percent during the past five years. Though manufacturers are working to get costs down, they also realize that these brakes will likely remain more expensive for some time. Convincing fleet owners and drivers of their value will be the key to further improving adoption rates.
Regardless of which brakes you choose, it's important to ensure that they are functional. Vehicle testing services can catch critical defects that can lead to brake failures and accidents.