New CVSA Brake Symposium highlights the need for education

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance held a Brake Symposium May 15-16 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. The event marked the CVSA's first official Brake Symposium in 12 years, according to Transport Topics. Given the advancing pace of technology, many attendees felt that this symposium was long overdue for a return.

CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney spoke to this fact, saying "So we're well-overdue for this event, especially as brake-safety technologies continue to advance at an extremely fast rate. Plain and simple, brakes save lives, but only when they are properly maintained and proper training has been employed."

Mooney's remarks echo the main theme of the event: education. The CVSA views brake safety and maintenance as paramount issues. The symposium aimed to enlighten commercial vehicle inspectors and technicians, as well as motor carriers, on recent braking improvements and upgrades. Many sessions also stressed the challenges still facing braking safety as a whole.

"Brakes have been found to be a factor in nearly 30 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents."

How brakes factor into accidents
Driver fatalities fell by roughly 1 percent in 2017, according to a report from the National Safety Council. While that may not seem to be cause for concern, the 2017 assessment is 6 percent higher than the number of deaths in 2015. Part of the cause for the increased mortality rate is the economy, which is fueling more miles driven than anticipated. Another obstacle is speeding. Even quality brakes cannot stop a vehicle quickly if it is going too fast.

In another study, one focused on larger trucks, brakes were found to be a factor in nearly 30 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents. Regardless of vehicle size or specification, drivers count on brakes to react to unforeseen developments while driving. Brakes that have been improperly serviced or recalled due to a manufacturing error pose a serious risk in roadway injuries and fatalities.

Not all technicians have the facts
While it may sound obvious to say that brakes matter in accident prevention, many technicians and mechanics are missing basic education to properly maintain and service brakes. Last year, the CVSA ran an airbrake enforcement campaign, which placed roughly 14 percent of all commercial motor vehicles out of service due to problems with their braking systems. A similar event, also sponsored by the CVSA, failed an additional 41 percent of vehicles due to brake violations.

During this year's Brake Symposium, Will Schaefer, CVSA director of safety programs, said "Reliably, we find every year brake violations are the leading out-of-service violation category. We also know there are a number of regularly seen issues with brakes that could be solved with education and awareness that we share at this event."

Schaefer went on to highlight additional challenges plaguing brake technician knowledge, stating that "Many technicians who work on brakes don't even understand what the regulations say." One of the large problems highlighted at this year's Brake Symposium was technicians failing to use a proper source for brake education. Certain mechanics do not read the official regulations or manufacturer policies, opting instead to utilize general knowledge or colleague hearsay.

The results are brakes that are improperly serviced, placing the vehicle at risk and endangering its driver. These are only the immediate consequences, as any faulty repair or maintenance can be traced back to the technician, who may be threatened with legal action and a loss of license.

Common brake violations include leaving a brake out of adjustment, an air leak, poor maintenance of the automatic slack adjuster and failing to properly attach a hose or tube.

Without periodic brake regulation education, technicians may not repair and service brakes properly. Without periodic brake regulation education, technicians may not repair and service brakes properly.

As brake technology continues to improve at a rapid pace, do not be surprised if the CVSA makes brake symposiums a more common event. Federal regulations also shift to keep pace with innovation and many technicians can be left behind, performing substandard repairs that limit brake effectiveness. Drivers and manufacturers need to be able to trust that those servicing their vehicles understand the current braking systems and know how to fix them properly.

Without this expertise, potential equipment failures may go unnoticed or unreported.

When manufacturers begin designing a new braking system, testing is an essential step in getting it ready for production. To navigate the complex world of safe component manufacturing, companies can request a complimentary brake testing consultation from Greening