As a truck driver, chances are you will face a vehicle breakdown, and nothing can be more frustrating and hazardous than being stuck on the side of the road.
In an emergency, you may have no choice but to stop in a dangerous place, which is why every truck driver needs to know what to do when dealing with a vehicle breakdown.
We will quickly cover the three most common causes of a vehicle breakdown, how to prevent them, and what steps a driver should take when dealing with a vehicle breakdown.
Thorough daily inspections will reduce the chance of having a breakdown
The most important factor to reduce vehicle maintenance issues is conducting thorough pre-trip, post-trip, and on-route vehicle inspections on your truck and trailer.
Vehicle breakdowns can range from complications with tires, batteries, air leaks, running out of fuel, brakes, filters and additives, hoses, starters, alternators, lights, belts, sensors, and more.
The three of the most common issues are caused by tires, batteries, and brakes.
In the summer, you can expect most tire failures during the hottest time of day. If a tire is worn or compromised, hot roads will accelerate its wear and lead to failure.
A leading cause for tire blowouts is road hazards and underinflated tires are more prone to penetration. Unfortunately, a tire blowout can cause secondary damage that may increase repair costs and downtime.
In high heat, checking your tire pressure and wear during pre-trip inspections is critical. Remember, tires are designed to be porous and will lose about three pounds of air pressure each month.
During your daily inspections, be sure to check tire pressure, tread depth, and look for any worn sidewalls or objects in the tires.
Truck batteries face different problems during the summer and winter months. In the summer, the heat can kill batteries 33% faster than in colder temperatures. In the winter, jumpstarts increase by almost 50%.
To minimize the need of jumpstarts, make sure that everything in the truck in turned off. Leaving your lights on or refrigerator plugged in can lead to unnecessary problems.
If a high draw on the battery happened recently, be sure to let the truck run for several minutes to let the alternator charge the batteries.
If the truck has been sitting for a few days, part way through the layoff be sure to start the truck and let it run for a while to keep the batteries charged.
Brake violations and often the most frequent violation in roadside inspections. To prevent a vehicle breakdown due to brakes, regularly check the brake adjustment with the slack adjuster.
During your daily inspections, check to make sure brake chamber air lines are secure, able to flex, not leaking, free of mechanical damage and the seals on the glad hands and trailer side are in good condition.
What to do when a breakdown occurs
Eventually, all truck drivers will face a breakdown and must pull over on the side of the road. Below are 10 steps on what to do when a vehicle breakdown occurs.
- When pulling off the road, go for the widest part of the road you can find or pull over on an offramp versus the shoulder of a highway.
- When pulling over, turn on the flashers, and watch your mirrors to monitor the traffic behind you.
- Ease off the road slowly versus a hard turn to the side of the road.
- Once parked as far off the road as possible, exit the side of the cab away from road traffic, set up your flares and/or orange triangles behind the truck at 50 feet, 100 feet, and 150 feet, and put on a high-visibility vest if you have one.
- If pulled over on a hill, be sure to chock the wheels.
- Open the hood of your truck to indicate that you are broken down and will not be moving anytime soon.
- Determine what caused the problem and whether you need roadside assistance or you can limp to the nearest repair facility.
- If you have a dispatcher, call them to explain your situation so they can inform the customer that your load may be delayed, and see if there is a mechanic in the shop that can advise you on what to do next.
- Contact your truck insurance carrier for roadside assistance, if covered.
- No matter what, stay alert when pulled over on the shoulder of a road and remain in the vehicle as much as possible if waiting for roadside assistance.
DOT Training and Safety Meetings
Our DOT trainers offer a variety of in-person, or online training courses for the specific needs or weaknesses of your company, including daily pre and post-trip inspections.
Fleet management and driver training education is a very valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet and compliant safety practices.
Our trainers can tailor training to your specific operation.
FMCSA announced in July that a final rule was published removing an information collection burden for commercial buses and other passenger-carrying motor coaches.
This rule will overturn the requirement that commercial bus drivers submit, as well as their motor carriers retain, driver-vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) on no-defect DVIRs.
The rule is expected to go into effect in late August, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. The official publication date has not yet been announced.
A no-defect DVIR is when the driver has neither found nor been made aware of any vehicle defects or deficiencies.
FMCSA says passenger vehicle carriers spend approximately 2.4 million hours each year completing no-defect DVIRs, and that this rule would result in a cost savings of $74 million per year to the industry.
Drivers will still be required to perform pre-trip and post-trip inspections and the rule change will not affect road safety.
Reduce Fleet Costs with Proper Pre and Post Trip Inspections
It is no secret that vehicle maintenance is near the top of any fleet expenses, with companies reporting average repair and maintenance costs of 16.7 cents per mile, according to the ATRI in 2019.
Every year it is reported that approximately 25-30% of the maintenance-related CSA violations are due to inoperative or defective lighting.
This is likely due to drivers not being given enough time to run a thorough pre-trip or post-trip inspection, or drivers are not being trained to understand the importance of the daily inspections.
A thorough pre-trip inspection should take between 30 and 45 minutes to perform.
A minor problem caught during a pre-trip or post-trip inspection will likely cost less money to fix and should get you back on the road quicker instead of waiting around for a major issue to be fixed.
All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:
- driver training that is ongoing and consistent
- driver education, and
- driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws
All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.
Study to reduce trucking accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate by-product of driving and fatal crashes among large trucks have risen steadily in the past decade.
The FMCSA seeks to reverse this trend by conducting a study aimed at identifying and reducing factors that contribute to these fatal truck accidents.
Previous crash study findings
In a 2001-2003 Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study (LTCCFS), the FMCSA gained vital information on crash factors. The study found that, when fault was assigned to the large truck, the cause of a vast majority of crashes were driver related. In these cases, it was determined that either driver action or inaction resulted in the crash.
Following this 2001-2003 study, fatal crashes decreased, hitting a low in 2009. However, since 2009, fatal crashes began to increase at a steady rate. By 2018, large truck crashes with at least one fatality or evident injury had increased by 52.6% compared to the 2009 figures.
This continued increase in fatal large truck crashes has the FMCSA seeking answers and calling for a new study to be conducted in an effort to reduce crash factors.
Industry changes may impact crash statistics
It’s been fifteen years since the original crash study. Technology has changed. Driver behavior has shifted. Roadways have been redesigned. And vehicle safety guidelines have been revised. Any one or all these changes could affect driver performance.
Because there are so many potential factors, a new study is needed to determine which factors are indeed contributing to fatal and injurious crashes. The new in-depth study is intended to evaluate crash factors, identify trends and develop safety improvement policies.
Potential new crash factors that need to be assessed in this proposed study include:
- cell phone and texting distractions
- driver restraint use
- in-cab navigation systems
- fleet management systems
- automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems
Data collection through driver assistance systems
The previous study was conducted via data collection by a two-person team through interviews and investigations of up to 1,000 elements of a crash. One goal of this new study is that the current driver assistance systems installed in many fleets will provide additional useful data.
FMCSA calls for proposals to conduct new study
The FMCSA seeks industry input in designing their new study and are currently accepting submission of comments and related materials so they can plan how to design and conduct this new large truck crash factor study.
Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions to submit any suggestions.
Per the FMCSA request for information, submissions should answer these questions:
- Should FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
- What type of study are you recommending (e.g., nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
- How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original LTCCS?
- What other sources of data can enrich the new study? How can they be identified and included?
Submissions are open until March 16, 2020.
Use Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) Docket ID FMCSA-2019-0277 when submitting proposals, comments, and materials.
Submit via the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking portal: Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the on-line instructions for submissions
- Mail: Docket Management Facility; US Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001
- Hand delivery or courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays
- Fax: 1-202-493-2251
Hopefully, with enhanced data collection, and the support of submissions from the industry, the sobering upward trend of fatal large truck crashes can be reversed and reduced to create a safer roadway for everyone.
Safety is our priority
Safety is the most important thing when it comes to truck driving. We offer a long list of DOT related training for all levels of experience, including full new driver training, defensive driving, accident procedures, full CDL driver training and so much more.
In any of our DOT training programs, safety is our priority.
On June 4-6, 2019—as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck—67,072 truck inspections were conducted, removing 12,019 vehicles and 2,784 drivers from roads across the US and Canada.
The International Roadcheck is conducted annually and is meant to remove unsafe commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and drivers from roads. During this 72-hour inspection, 17.9% of vehicles and 4.2% of drivers were placed out of service.
The basis for violations comes from the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.
There are eight different levels of inspection that the CVSA follows, however the truck inspections in this roadcheck were only subjected to the North American Standard (NAS) Level I, II, and III Inspections.
- NAS Level I Inspection –includes a 37-step procedure examining the driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness.
- NAS Level II Inspection—includes anything that can be inspected without getting under the CMV.
- NAS Level III Inspection—includes a review of driver requirements, such as the license, cargo and vehicle documentation, record of duty status, seat belt usage, etc.
There were 60,058 Level I, II, and III Inspections conducted in the US and 7,014 in Canada. Respectively, the vehicle and driver out-of-service rate for the US was 17.7% and 4.4% and 19.9% and 2% for Canada.
Inspections focused on violations related to steering and suspension systems, which resulted in identifying:
- 408 steering violations or 2.5% of all out-of-service violations
- 703 suspension violations or 4.3% of all out-of-service violations
Truck inspection results
The results for inspections are summarized below and include out-of-service vehicle, CMV driver, seatbelt, hazardous materials/dangerous goods and motorcoach violations.
There were 16,347 vehicles placed out-of-service with the top violation being for braking systems. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded vehicle violations.
Out-of-service vehicle violations:
|Vehicle violation category||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
|Tires and wheels||3156||19.3%|
There were 3,173 drivers placed out-of-service with the top violation being for hours of service. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded driver violations.
Driver out-of-service violations:
|Driver violation category||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
|Hours of Service||1,179||37.2%|
|Wrong Class License||714||22.5%|
|Violating License Restriction||37||1.2%|
There were 748 seat belt violations and out of 3,851 CMVs inspected, 527 violations for commercial motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials/dangerous goods with the most common violation being for loading. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded violations for hazardous materials/dangerous goods.
|Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
During the International Roadcheck, 823 motorcoaches were inspected with 47 vehicles and 21 drivers being placed out of service. Inspections included a review of emergency exits, electrical cable sand systems in engine and battery compartments and seating.
Stay DOT compliant
Knowing what your CSA score is and how it affects your company and all of the requirements to pass inspections, whether it be for brake safety or suspension and steering, will allow you to stay compliant and plan your operations more efficiently.
If you have any questions, call (888) 260-9448 or email at email@example.com.
On May 15, 2019—in the unannounced brake safety DOT inspection—the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) law enforcement conducted commercial motor vehicle inspections focused on identifying brake safety violations.
The USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that in 2017 over half a million commercial motor vehicle violations were related to brakes.
During this one-day DOT inspection, 55 jurisdictions participated (45 US states and 10 Canadian provinces), totaling 10,358 inspections. There were 1,667 vehicles—or 16.1% of all inspections—with critical brake-related violations that were placed out of service until the violations could be corrected. The remaining 84% of commercial motor vehicles inspected did not have any critical brake-related violations.
What was the inspection focus?
Inspectors focused on violations involving brake hoses and brake tubing, which resulted in identifying:
- 996 units – Chafed rubber hose violations
- 185 units – Chafed thermoplastic hose violations
- 1,125 violations – Chafed rubber hoses
- 124 violations – Kinked thermoplastic hoses
What are the most common brake-related violations?
According to the FMCSA, as of June 28, 2019, out of 1.8 million DOT inspections, the top five brake-related violations were:
- Clamp or roto type brake out of adjustment—86,296
- Commercial Motor 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 trailer manufactured after March 1, 1998—37,343
- Inoperative/defective brakes—32,125
The CVSA brake safety enforcement and awareness campaigns are meant to remove unsafe drivers from roads and remind drivers that braking systems need to be checked regularly.
Regular checks help to preserve the safety of both the drivers and others on the road. Although this campaign had a specific focus on brake violations, inspecting the brakes is a normal part of procedure during roadside inspections.
Any issues with the brake hoses and/or tubing can affect the whole brake system. In order to pass, brake hoses and tubing must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and have an appropriate amount of flexibility.
The CVSA will be holding a scheduled brake safety enforcement event this year, Brake Safety Week, which is scheduled for Sept. 15-21, at participating jurisdictions throughout North America.
Brake Safety Week is part of CVSA’s Operation Airbrake Program in partnership with FMCSA and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has announced that their annual Brake Safety Week is scheduled for September 15-21, 2019. There was also an unannounced DOT inspection in May focusing on brake safety as well.
In that time enforcement officials will conduct roadside safety truck inspections on commercial motor vehicles and will focus on brake hoses and tubing.
During last year’s three-day International Roadcheck enforcement campaign, 45 percent of all out-of-service vehicle violations were related to out-of-adjustment brakes and brake-system violations. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA), brake violations accounted for 6 of the top 20 most frequently cited vehicle violations in 2017.
What is covered in a roadside brake safety truck inspection?
Roadside truck inspections cover all areas of the air brake system; however, the CVSA will focus on brake hoses and tubing, ensuring that all are attached and secure, flexible, and free of leaks, corrosion, and any other type of damage.
Brake inspections consist of a visual check as well as an air brake test using a performance-based brake tester (PBBT) in the 14 jurisdictions where it is available. The performance-based air brake test measures the slow speed brake force and weight at each wheel and uses those measurements to determine the efficiency of the braking system.
According to the US federal regulations and the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria, if your brake system efficiency falls below the minimum of 43.5 percent, your vehicle will be put out-of-service.
How can I prepare for a truck inspection of my air brakes?
You should inspect your air brake system and all brake components regularly to keep your vehicle in safe operating condition. The list below covers some items you can visually check on a regular basis to ensure they are securely attached, leak-free, and free of damage, such as corrosion and holes.
- Air brake chamber
- Brake hoses and tubing
- Cotter pins
- Clevis pins
- Slack adjuster
- Air lines
The CVSA has answered some frequently asked questions about your air brake system and inspection and have also provided an air brake inspection checklist, which is a great way to be sure you are prepared for your roadside safety inspection.
What should I know about my air brake system?
If you know your brake system you are more likely to know if there is an issue. You should know what size and type of air brake chamber you have and learn how to properly identify it. Most air brake chambers will have a marking on them, letting you know what type and size it is. If you know the type of chamber you have, you will also be able to determine the maximum allowable push rod travel for that brake chamber and whether it is in or out of adjustment.
What are some types of air brake chambers?
Common air brake chambers for the front are clamp type 20 or clamp type 24 and clamp type 30 is the most common for the rest of the tractor trailer and can be a long or regular stroke.
Brake Safety Week is part of CVSA’s Operation Airbrake Program in partnership with FMCSA and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.
Read about the 2018 Brake Safety Week results.
If you have any additional questions, call one of Compliance Navigation Specialist’s DOT Consultants .
Stay DOT compliant
Our DOT Compliance Programs will help you with vehicle maintenance, driver training, safety audits and the many other categories that can put you out of service.
Safety management and proper vehicle maintenance are very important for the truck drivers’ safety as well as others on the road. It will also allow you to stay compliant and plan your operations more efficiently.
If you have any questions, call (888) 260-9448 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discussion on Vehicle Maintenance
Our CNS Spotlight for the month of June is on Rohrer’s Quarry Inc. and their vehicle maintenance practices. With the CVSA Roadcheck Blitz on June 4th – 6th focusing on steering and suspension, we decided to ask Ryan Zimmerman, VP of Rohrer’s Service Center, a division of Rohrer’s Quarry his thoughts on how he maintains his fleet. Rohrer’s Quarry has a fleet of 51 power units and does a great job in maintaining their fleet. Below is the Q&A and some great insight from a company that does it the right way.
Rohrer’s Quarry Inc. has been a staple of Lancaster County, and the Lititz community for many generations now. Rohrer’s came from humble beginnings in the 1800’s to the thriving business it is today and has been family owned and operated since 1937. Ryan, who has been with Rohrer’s since 1997 handling their fleet maintenance, knows the importance of keeping his vehicles in great shape and in good working order.
Q1. With the upcoming Road check focused on steering and suspension systems what should a driver look for to make sure they are compliant?
A thorough pre-trip can catch most issues before the DOT inspector can. Pay close attention to the easy things an officer can pick out. Check for broken springs or loose hardware and U-bolts in the suspension, look for rust trails or shined-up components, an indication of shifting front and back. With the engine off, check the steering shaft from column to steering gear box; there should be no play in shaft or u-joints. Start the engine and rotate steering shaft back and forth and observe the drag link and tie rod ends you can see from the left side, looking for loose components. Look for power steering system leaks and rubbed or frayed hoses.
Q2. What do you see as the most common defects in steering and suspension systems?
The most over looked component is the steering gear input shaft. Any play in this component is non-compliant with the DOT. Another common defect if you are operating a vocational truck in rough jobsites, the suspension springs will get weak and break over time.
Q3. How often do you recommend drivers check for defects in steering and suspension systems?
I feel it is a good practice to check steering and suspension systems at the start of every shift with your pre-trip. Not only will it give you peace of mind in the event of a DOT inspection, this check also allows you to get to your destination and back home safely and without a roadside service call.
Q4. How often should a truck come in for preventive maintenance?
How often your truck requires maintenance depends mostly on how it is being used. Is your truck in a vocational, city, or over-the-road application? All truck manufactures have specific service guidelines based on fuel consumption and idle/PTO time that will give a description of normal, heavy or severe duty. It can be calculated by engine hours or mileage; this is generally 500 – 1300 hours or 5,000 – 45,000 miles. If you are unsure of how often to seek preventative maintenance ask your local independent service provider or dealership, they will partner with you to fit your application and needs. Know your truck and take care of it, it will provide reliable service to you.
Q5. What are the key items that should be checked for during a preventive maintenance check in?
A lot of roadside/breakdown issues and DOT issues can be addressed during PMs. This is an area where it can be costly to cut corners. These are some of the key items you or your service provider should be checking:
- Brakes; lining adjustment, automatic brake slack operation, wheel seals, cracks and hardware issues
- Steering/Suspension; Springs/air bags, Kingpins, wheel bearings/seals, steering links
- Oil level checks and lube necessary brake, steering and suspension components, and check for fluid leaks, filters and fluids that need replaced
- Belts and hoses, tire condition, exhaust leaks, and general operation of truck.
We want to thank Ryan and Rohrer’s for their time and insight on this topic. All in all, it pays to be Proactive and get ahead of any issues that are in question. Any questions about your Vehicle Maintenance, feel free to reach out to CNS at email@example.com