Chances are, if you’re in the specialized transport or crane and rigging industry, you’ve heard of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and its Operation Airbrake program. Known by many as a “brake inspection spree,” the program aims to promote safety and reduce accidents by putting a huge emphasis on brake safety.

In this month’s risk management column, I’m going to explain exactly who CVSA is, what the Operation Airbrake program consists of, and why it matters to you. (Hint: All commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), including mobile cranes, can be inspected. The idea should be to incorporate brake safety into your overall safety program.)

According to its website, CVSA, a nonprofit association comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives, aims to achieve “uniformity, compatibility and reciprocity of commercial motor vehicle inspections and enforcement by certified inspectors dedicated to driver and vehicle safety.”

The organization’s mission is to “improve commercial motor vehicle safety and uniformity throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico by providing guidance and education to enforcement, industry and policy makers.”

It may go without saying, but CVSA’s mission is a valuable one, and Operation Airbrake, CVSA’s comprehensive program dedicated to improving commercial motor vehicle brake safety throughout North America, is working to reduce the number of highway crashes caused by faulty braking systems on commercial motor vehicles by conducting roadside inspections and educating drivers, mechanics, owner-operators and others on the importance of proper brake inspection, maintenance and operation. According to CVSA, out-of-adjustment brakes and brake-system violations combine to represent half of all out-of-service violations issued for commercial motor vehicles on the road.

But to understand just how many brake violations are being recorded, it helps to consider this list of the top 10 most frequently cited violations as reported by CVSA.

  1. Clamp/Roto-Chamber Type Brake(s) Out of Adjustment: 136,677
  2. Automatic Brake Adjuster CMV Manufactured On or After 10/20/1994, Air Brake: 65,088
  3. Brake Hose/Tubing Chaffing and/or Kinking: 62,060
  4. Inoperative/Defective Brakes: 42,294
  5. Brakes (General): 40,442
  6. Brake Hose or Tubing Chafing and/or Kinking Under Vehicle: 28,077
  7. Brake Tubing and Hose Adequacy: 26,858
  8. Brake Connections with Leaks/Constrictions: 23,558
  9. Inadequate Brakes for Safe Stopping: 17,993
  10. Brake Connections with Leaks Under Vehicle: 12,841

I’ll save you the math, but that’s a total of 455, 888 brake-related violations in 2016 alone. In fact, brake-related violations comprise the largest percentage of all out-of-service violations cited during roadside inspections.

This probably won’t come as a shock, but as the exclusively endorsed property and casualty insurance provider for the Specialized Carrier and Rigging Association, NBIS is keenly interested in these types of statistics. They help bolster our decision to promotes routine in-house safety checks of your CMVs as a regular part of your active safety plan—to prevent you from adding to these violations numbers and, most importantly, to reduce crashes. It’s also worth noting that we reviewed similar results back in April during the SC&RA Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, and will continue to update readers on CMV related statistics and trends.

Brake Safety Week

The Operation Airbrake Program has two major campaigns each year: the annual Brake Safety Week, and the Unannounced Brake Check Day.

Brake Safety Week is an annual week-long brake safety campaign where commercial motor vehicle(CMV) inspectors conduct brake system inspections (primarily Level IV Inspections) on large trucks and buses throughout North America in an effort to identify out-of-adjustment brakes and brake-system violations. The week is primarily an outreach and enforcement campaign designed to improve commercial vehicle brake safety throughout North America. Since the program’s inception in 1998, more than 3.4 million brakes have been inspected.

This year’s Brake Safety Week occurs during the week of September 11-17. Law enforcement agencies across North America will conduct inspections to identify out-of-adjustment brakes, and brake-system and anti-lock braking system (ABS) violations. This year, CVSA intends to include more CMV and passenger vehicles in the inspection process. Level IV inspections are an 11 step process. To help you prepare for the upcoming event, here are the 11 steps involved in the inspection process.

  • Step 1: Choose the inspection site
  • Step 2: Safety considerations
  • Step 3: Check air brake mechanical components
  • Step 4: Check steering axle air brake mechanical components
  • Step 5: Check brake adjustment
  • Step 6: Build the air pressure to 90 – 100 psi
  • Step 7: Check the air brake abs system (if applicable)
  • Step 8: Test air loss rate
  • Step 9: Test low air pressure warning device
  • Step 10: Check the tractor protection system
  • Step 11: Finalize paperwork, and provide the results to the driver (i.e. out-of-service, etc.)

Unannounced brake check day

Every year, CVSA also holds an unannounced brake check day where CVSA-certified inspectors participating in the United States, Mexico and Canada check the brakes on commercial motor vehicles throughout North America. The annual unannounced brake check one-day event gives enforcement participants an opportunity to conduct brake-focused inspections and emphasize the importance of proper brake system maintenance through education and outreach. Brake-related violations comprise the largest percentage (representing 46.2 percent) of all out-of-service violations cited during Operation Airbrake’s companion International Roadcheck enforcement and educational campaign, which focuses on both vehicles and drivers.

This year, CVSA held its unannounced brake check day on May 4, 2016. CVSA-certified inspectors in 31 participating U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories checked brakes on 6,128 commercial motor vehicles.

  • 12.4 percent of vehicles were placed out of service with brake violations.
  • 13.9 percent of vehicles were placed out of service for violations other than brake violations.

Other findings included:

  • 91.5 percent (4,751) of 5,191 air-braked trucks (including tractors) inspected and 87.2 percent (650) of 745 hydraulic-braked trucks inspected required ABS based on their date of manufacture.
  • 85.5 percent (2,847) of 3,329 air-braked trailers inspected required ABS based on their date of manufacture.

Efforts to positively impact brake safety are ongoing, and according to an August 2, 2016 press release issued by the CVSA, law enforcement agencies throughout North America will engage in heightened traffic safety enforcement and education aimed at combating unsafe driving behaviors by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers and passenger-vehicle (car) drivers as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Operation Safe Driver Week to be held from October 16-22. During Operation Safe Driver Week, there will be increased CMV and passenger vehicle traffic enforcement.

CVSA reminds us that unsafe driver behaviors by CMV drivers and passenger-vehicle drivers continue to be the leading cause of crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) "Large Truck Crash Causation Study" cites driver behavior as the critical reason for more than 88 percent of large truck crashes and 93 percent of passenger-vehicle crashes. CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver program was created to help to reduce the number of crashes, deaths and injuries involving large trucks, buses and cars due to unsafe driving behaviors.

Ensuring that your CMVs have properly functioning airbrakes needs to be part of your overall safety program. To learn more about Operation Airbrake and how NBIS’s risk management tools can help you become safer, contact us today at 877-860-RMSS (7677).


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