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Surprise CVSA Inspections Find 1,600 Brake Violations

Aug. 28, 2019
Focus on truck brake safety continues in September.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) recently reported that its May continent-wide unannounced roadside inspection event scrutinized 10,358 commercial motor vehicles—primarily trucks—finding that 1,667 (16.1%) had brake-related critical violations that caused them to be put out of service until they could be corrected.

When considering these numbers, it is important to keep in mind that the CVSA inspectors, primarily state police experienced at truck enforcement, don’t pick out the vehicles purely at random. Instead, they will run a line of trucks past them at a weigh station, for example, and pick out the ones that already “look bad and sound bad” for closer scrutiny.

Entirely separate from this brake safety event is the pre-announced three-day event held each year by CVSA called International Roadcheck, where CVSA-certified inspectors conducted a 37-step inspection including examination of driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness. Roadcheck took place June 4-6, and the primary focus was steering and suspension systems.

Fifty-five jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada participated in this focused one-day brake safety inspection and enforcement initiative on May 15. Participation by law enforcement jurisdictions is voluntary and depends upon availability of staff and resources. Each participating jurisdiction captured and reported its data to CVSA.

Truck brakes historically have been the main cause of out-of-service violations. As a result, checking brake systems and their components is always part of roadside vehicle inspections. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that more than half a million commercial motor vehicle violations in 2017 were related to brakes.

According to FMCSA’s Analysis and Information Online 2019 calendar year data snapshot, as of June 28, 2019, out of 1.8 million inspections the top five brake-related violations were:

● Clamp or roto type brake out of adjustment totaled 86,296.

● Vehicles manufactured after Oct. 19, 1994, have an automatic brake adjustment system that fails to compensate for wear (45,594).

● Brake hose or tubing chafing and/or kinking (37,737).

● No or defective ABS malfunction indicator lamp for trailers manufactured after March 1, 1998 (37,343).

● Inoperative/defective brakes totaled 32,125.

Where the Focus Is

The 2019 inspectors also paid close attention to violations involving brake hoses/tubing, finding 996 units with chafed rubber hose violations and 185 had chafed thermoplastic hose violations. In addition, 1,125 were cited for violations of federal and Canadian-equivalent regulations included chafed rubber hoses and kinked thermoplastic hoses.

“We all know how important a properly functioning brake system is to vehicle operation,” says Jay Thompson, CVSA president and a chief with the Arkansas Highway Police. “All components of the brake system must always be in proper operating condition. Brake systems and their parts and components must be routinely checked and carefully and consistently maintained to ensure the health and safety of the overall vehicle.”

He stresses that brake hoses and tubing must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and appropriately flexible. Because they are such an important part of the braking system, the failure of hoses or tubing can cause problems for the entire braking system.”

CVSA conducts brake-focused enforcement events, such as Brake Safety Day, to identify and remove commercial motor vehicles with dangerous brake issues from our roadways to reduce the number of crashes caused by or made more severe by deficient braking system performance.

The organization also announced that it is holding another brake safety enforcement event this year called Brake Safety Week, scheduled for Sept. 15-21, at participating jurisdictions throughout North America. The week is an annual outreach and enforcement campaign designed to improve commercial motor vehicle brake safety.

Vehicles with critical brake violations, or other critical vehicle inspection item violations, will be restricted from traveling until those violations are corrected. Vehicles without critical vehicle inspection item violations are eligible to receive a CVSA decal indicating that the vehicle passed inspection.

In the 14 jurisdictions using performance-based brake testers (PBBT), vehicle braking efficiency will be measured using that tool. PBBTs determine overall vehicle braking efficiency or the total brake force over the effective total gross weight. The minimum required braking efficiency for trucks or combinations with gross vehicle weight rating above 10,000 pounds is 43.5% under U.S. federal motor carrier safety regulations and serves as the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.

Brake Safety Day and Brake Safety Week are inspection, enforcement, education and awareness initiatives that are part of the Operation Airbrake Program sponsored by CVSA in partnership with FMCSA and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

CVSA offers assistance to motor carriers in the form of what it calls an inspection “cheat sheet” to help them prepare in advance for these events.

About the Author

David Sparkman

David Sparkman is founding editor of ACWI Advance (, the newsletter of the American Chain of Warehouses Inc. He also heads David Sparkman Consulting, a Washington D.C. area public relations and communications firm. Prior to these he was director of industry relations for the International Warehouse Logistics Association. Sparkman has also been a freelance writer, specializing in logistics and freight transportation. He has served as vice president of communications for the American Moving and Storage Association, director of communications for the National Private Truck Council, and for two decades with American Trucking Associations on its weekly newspaper, Transport Topics.

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