Stop Right There: Quick & Dirty Brake Maintenance Tips for a Fleet Manager
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…Brake Safety Week 2016!
OK, so you probably haven’t been counting down the days or decorating your office to celebrate this most joyous time of year, but Brake Safety Week is still pretty important.
While the event itself has more of an impact on drivers of large trucks and buses – after, all, this week is when law enforcement agencies across North America will conduct inspections on these vehicles to identify out-of-alignment brakes and any other brake system violations – it’s still an important reminder for managers of any fleet business that good brakes are paramount to helping ensure the safety of not just your own drivers, but also the safety of other drivers on the road.
If you haven’t checked the brakes on your fleet recently, there’s no better time than now. Here are a few things to look for/listen for when you take a gander:
- If you have disc brakes and they are making screeching or squealing noises, apply brake lube to the pads. If that doesn’t work and you still hear noise, the brake pads likely need to be replaced. Lubricating the calipers may also eliminate noise – if not, these could need replacing, or at the very least, any worn slides, pins or bushings within the calipers do. If there is a grinding noise when you apply pressure, the rotors likely are shot as well.
- Drum brakes are self-adjusting, but they can sometimes over-adjust, which will wear out the brake lining and make noise, or cause the rear wheels to lock up. You can also usually tell if they need replacing if the pedal goes down farther than normal.
- If the pedal goes all the way to the floor, do not let the vehicle be driven until a mechanic has inspected it.
- Don’t forget the parking brake, which is also called the “emergency brake,” for good reason. The truck should not be capable of movement after the e-brake is pulled.
- Your drivers are an important resource, as they are the ones actually operating the vehicles every day. Remind them to keep an eye out for unusual noises, smells or feelings when they brake, and report anything strange to a supervisor immediately.
If all of your vehicles’ brakes are in tip-top shape, congratulations! How do you plan on keeping them that way?
FOR FLEET MANAGERS
Don’t extend brake life beyond what’s reasonable.
Don’t try to save a few bucks by pushing a brake fix into next month’s budget. It’s a serious safety concern if brakes are malfunctioning, and trying to be frugal about this kind of repair could end up costing big in other ways.
Do check the brake fluid regularly.
There should be no leaks, and fluid should be a clear golden color. If the fluid is thick and dark brown in color, replace it. Be careful when checking it to make sure no dirt falls into the reservoir – even a tiny bit can cause the internal seals of the master brake cylinder to fail.
FOR YOUR DRIVERS
Don’t drive like you’re in NASCAR.
Drive conservatively, not aggressively, to prevent sudden stops, and obey the speed limit. Stops from higher speeds do far more damage to brakes than stops from lower speeds. Even a stop from 65 mph versus 55 mph forces the brake to use one-third more energy – and the brakes reflect that over time.
Do be aware.
Keep an eye on the road in front of you, but also what’s up ahead, to better prepare for stopped traffic, red lights, etc., which will help eliminate the need to stop short. Of course, you can tell your drivers to keep an eye on their brakes and drive like a normal person until the cows come home … but are they listening to you?
Don’t forget about technology.
Fleet management software can track driver behavior like speeding and aggressive driving, helping you to catch it before it affects the vehicle health (or safety of your drivers and other people on the road). It also can keep track of maintenance schedules for each truck, sending reminders for preventive maintenance like brake pad replacement and brake fluid top-offs based on past services or mileage. It can even track engine diagnostics and alert you when a code pops up for anything.
However you plan on celebrating Brake Safety Week 2016 (party hats optional), remember that brake safety is critical all year long – and these quick tips can help you get the most out of a vehicle’s brakes and keep your drivers safe and chugging along.
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