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Visual Brake-Stroke Indicators Meet New Safety Requirements

Inexpensive, easy-to-install indicators reduce brake inspection time to 2 minutes per vehicle, with visual confirmation that brakes are within safety and compliance limits

Date: 12/07/2011

The following release was created by Power PR, a business to business marketing public relations firm based in Torrance, California.

In search of a reliable, easy solution to meet air brake inspection requirements, fleet managers are turning to visual brake-stroke indicators to improve brake safety, maintenance and compliance by providing drivers with a convenient and effective means to inspect critical brake adjustment conditions without having to crawl under vehicles to mark and measure pushrod stroke at each airbrake chamber.

Simple in design and easily installed, visual brake-stroke indicators have already been adopted by several major private and public truck fleets to lower risk and bring peace of mind to safety-compliance managers and operators looking to adhere to safe brake inspection practices.

Compliance, Safety and Accountability
With brake adjustment defects accounting for nearly 30% of all truck crashes and a national out-of-service violation rate of one in every ten vehicles, exposure to costs, risks and liabilities are considerable. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the average cost to a fleet of an injury accident is $245,000; and the average cost of a fatality is $3.4 million.

This is why, based on crash-related risk, the CSA BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) safety scoring system, brake-out-of-adjustment violations carries a “4” severity rating, making it one of the top equipment violations affecting a fleet’s safety score.

To meet the brake safety compliance requirements under CSA it is helpful to understand why despite nearly two decades since the mandated use of Automatic Brake Adjusters, air-brake adjustment defects persist as the most frequently cited safety defect and out-of-service violation.

The reason is the problem is not Automatic Brake Adjusters, but rather the proper inspection and maintenance of these mechanisms.

The three most basic and overlooked facts:

  1. Although Automatic Brake Adjusters eliminate the need to perform routine manual adjustments, they do not eliminate the need to perform daily inspections.
  1. Unlike manual slack adjusters, Automatic Brake Adjusters cannot compensate for other deficiencies in the braking system. There are many factors that can hinder proper ABA function and prevent them from maintaining brake adjustment.
  1. When a brake equipped with an Automatic Brake Adjuster is out of adjustment, there is a cause and manually readjusting the brake does not address the cause. The problem will remain and the brake will go out of adjustment again.

Since the brake chamber’s pushrod stroke is physically limited and can only operate effectively within a very narrow range of movement, a mere fraction of an inch of excess stroke can mean the difference between safe and unsafe braking.

It’s worth noting that drivers performing daily pre/post-trip inspections can visually check every itemexcept brake stroke. 

This means that without effective visual brake stroke indicators the only way a driver can properly check the condition of brake adjustment is to chock the wheels, build up air pressure, release the brakes, go to each wheel position, mark each push rod, have the brakes applied at 100 psi system pressure, crawl back under the vehicle and, using a ruler, measure the applied stroke at each brake chamber to see if they fall within the legal limits. The problem is, this procedure is seldom, if ever, done.

Instead, drivers mostly rely on the faulty assumption that brake adjustment can somehow be determined by “feel” or other forms of guesswork.

This is the main reason drivers are commonly found unaware of existing brake adjustment defects. In fact, inspection of brake adjustment by drivers is considered to be one of the major contributing factors to non-compliance.

This is why the North American Brake Safety Conference recommends the use of effective visual brake stroke indicators as “…the single most meaningful change that can be made to improve brake compliance.” 

By eliminating all the guesswork and assumptions, visual brake stroke indicators deliver peace of mind to fleet managers, maintenance personnel, safety-compliance managers and drivers by providing an inexpensive, quick and effective means to visually confirm brake stroke.

Visual brake-stroke indicators are not just a smart idea; they are actually mandated by law.  The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (49 CFR FMVSS 571.121, S5.18) have always required visual brake adjustment indicators for any brakes equipped with automatic adjusters.

The problem is these are almost exclusively some form of colored tape or paint applied to the pushrod, and their use failed to meet the intentions of the FMVSS requirements—tape wears off, road grime obscures paint color, etc.

Hence the need for more effective visual brake stroke indicators. And while any brake stroke indicator is better than none, some designs are more effective than others.

For example, any indicators that depend solely on color identification will suffer from visibility problems. Road grime, sand, snow, and slush will obscure the color and require the driver to get under the vehicle to clean these surfaces in order to find whether the color indicates safe or unsafe brake adjustment. In short, these indicators do not measure actual stroke and are not practical for vocational off-road applications.

Similarly, any indicator design that requires a driver to crawl under the vehicle to measure pushrod stroke defeats the purpose. This is why practical consideration regarding visibility, durability, operating environment, etc. should be carefully weighed when choosing visual brake stroke indicators.

These criteria make the BrakeSentry kit the simplest and most effective visual brake stroke indicator available. Constructed of a flexible, unbreakable material composition, BrakeSentry is uniquely suited for any on/off-road vocational-duty applications and can be used confidently in operating environments that would otherwise damage or render useless other designs.

Versatile and ‘universal’, this design fits on any vehicle equipped with airbrake chambers that have an exposed 5/8” diameter pushrod, takes about three minutes per wheel to install, does not require any special tools or disassembly of components, is not subject to breakage from road vibration or impacts, has no parts to wear out, and requires no maintenance.

With the BrakeSentry, drivers can perform a visual inspection of the entire vehicle in as little as two minutes and provide immediate, clear confirmation that the air brakes are within stroke. 

For more information, contact Brake Sentry at (828) 285-0708 or (828) 242-5464; or visit www.  Write to 66 Beechwood Rd; Asheville NC 28805.


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