Big Rig Braking: Some Helpful Reminders
A lot of skill goes into driving a truck. That includes bringing that truck to a stop in the event of an emergency or using the brakes to navigate dangerous conditions. Speed, road conditions, weather conditions, and load balance and weight are all factors that play a major role in stopping distance for trucks. One thing is for certain, those big beauties don’t stop on a dime!
Slow down when conditions like snow, ice or rain greatly decrease your ability to stop your truck. Most stopping distance statistics are based on 55-60 mph highway speeds. Under good driving conditions at 60 mph, a fully loaded truck can take the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop. Throw in weather conditions that affect your tires’ ability to get traction on the road and that stopping distance increases. By reducing speed, you will reduce the distance it takes to stop your truck.
Something as simple as making sure your load is properly balanced can directly affect how your brakes perform. An improperly balanced load can put stress on your brakes, especially the ones in the front. That extra work can cause your brakes to overheat and possibly malfunction. Having your load balanced right will not only reduce the risk of an accident, it will also save some money by preventing wear and tear on your brakes and reducing the frequency of replacing the brake pads and shoes.
Speaking of replacing brake pads and shoes, when you do choose a brand make sure it’s one you can trust. Go with a good brand. While all brake systems and parts are made to meet federal standards, there are still going to be failures. Try to select a brand that has a good history of safety and performance. The better brands may be a little more expensive, but the extra cost is worth it – your life, your rig, your load are counting on those brakes to be reliable.
Daily inspection of your braking system can keep you from running into trouble once you’re cruising along at highway speeds. Before you take to the road, always take some time to check out your brakes. Here’s a few things to check:
- The thickness of the brake disc lining (too thin means it’s time to replace them)
- The air hose (listen for hissing that would indicate an air leak)
- The brake drums (look for cracks)
- Look for any loose brake components
The technology to stop a 40-ton truck “on a dime” was developed by Volvo in 2015. Their emergency braking system is impressive. (If you would like to see a test, you can find it here.) The system utilizes a camera, sensors, radar, and software to stop the truck in the event of an emergency situation.
Hopefully, the technology will one day be the standard for all trucks. However, one thing will never change: no matter the technological advances, the skills and smarts of a good driver are the most vital part of any braking system.