10 Important Facts About Truck Air Brakes

Before you slam on your truck air brakes, you might want to read this first! I have said it many times before and will continue to do so. Being a truck driver; choosing the endless roads as a lifestyle and being part of the trucking industry is a great experience.

There are so many aspects related to this career field that you simply can’t find anywhere else! Oh sure it isn’t always peaches and cream, but what is? So what are some of the good things about being an OTR Driver?

  • Independence, traveling the open road and setting your own basic schedule
  • Interaction, you get to interact with people from all over the country
  • Freedom, not being stuck dealing with lots of people or office politics

Not everyone is cutout for this lifestyle. Neither all those things are bad. There are many people who really enjoy working around all the different personalities. Some thrive and excel in that environment, and that too is great.

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
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What is the downside to the trucking? -Well besides ever changing laws and regulations, operating in all types of weather, other drivers and to be honest there are other things, but, that is true for every industry.

Of course each industry has its own individual concerns. One such concern specific to the trucking industry is the driver CDL requirements and necessary endorsements (depending on the freight to be hauled).

You, or your drivers, will be required to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In addition to this, recording to Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA, your company and the drivers who operate your trucks will be required to pass additional truck operator training and get the appropriate endorsements.

Be prepared you may need to actually pass test to receive these additional endorsements. State level testing requirements will vary, but here is a list of federal endorsement codes that might be required according to DMV.ORG:

  • H Endorsement: for vehicles transporting any hazardous materials.
  • N Endorsement: for vehicles hauling or drivers operating tank vehicles.
  • P Endorsement: for vehicles with passengers (requirements depend on your state)
  • S Endorsement: for the operation of school bus (other requirements may apply).
  • T Endorsement: for towing a double or triple trailer (other endorsements may apply).
  • X Endorsement: for operating both HAZMAT and tank vehicles.

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
Source: www.personal.psu.edu

Besides these endorsements there are restrictions. These will keep you from being able to operate some vehicles or transport certain loads based on the restriction. We will discuss these another time. However, there is one endorsement that will be required for sure, the CDL brake test.

Like most things associated with this industry, this is geared towards safety (and you want a good safety rating). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) require testing to ensure both driver and company is in compliance with safety related rules and regulations.

Ok, so ease up on your truck air brakes, as we go over some key points.

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
Source: www.hcvc.com.au

1. Why is Truck Air Brakes Testing Important?

As stated this is required by the FMCSA. It shows that the operator/driver has passed the required trucks air brakes testing.

It will also be on your/their driver’s license. When as by law enforcement every commercial truck driver must show proof and present this information.

Remember this is not just about some government rule designed to fleece more revenue from the industry. There is very real issue to be concerned with.

Drivers must know how to properly and safety apply their truck air brakes. Imagine trying to stop a several ton vehicle (just think how long it takes a fast moving train to stop). Now imagine a driver, who wasn’t properly trained, trying to stop on an icy road!

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
Source: www.truckandtrailersupply.net

2. What is Truck Air Brake Testing?

Well, in general this is much like any other test. Your knowledge, driver skills, and proficiency will be measured to see if you understand and can properly engage the truck air brakes.

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As a commercial truck driver you must be able to know when and how to correctly use them. They will test this both in written form and a practical use.

In order to pass the CDL test you will need to demonstrate the following:

  1. Properly engage and disengage the truck’s parking brake
  2. Properly engage and disengage the truck’s hydraulic brakes
  3. Check the truck air brake for air leakage
  4. Check the air warning alarm
  5. Check the spring brakes activation
  6. Check the buildup rate for the air compressor
  7. Check the shut-off system for the Air Compressor
  8. Ensure the spring break will automatically disengage
  9. Properly engage and disengage the truck’s service brakes

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
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Additionally your knowledge will be tested on:

  • How well you know the truck air brakes various components
  • You’re knowledge of the truck air brake connections
  • Your overall knowledge and performance engaging/disengaging them
  • How to properly perform a pre-trip truck air brakes inspection

One other thought, you must receive a score of 80% or you will fail the test.

3. Something to be aware of when it comes to Truck Air Brakes

This might seem like a common knowledge thing, and perhaps it is. But there is a big difference between operating vehicles with hydraulic braking systems and air braking systems.

Air, or more correctly, air pressure is what allows your truck air brakes to operate properly. If the pressure is weak the brakes won’t engage properly.


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Imagine being on that icy road without truck and trailer brakes! That can be a scary thought, especially if you’re heading downhill in some of the most dangerous roads for drivers, like: the Ozarks or the Rocky Mountains.

Often air will bleed out of your brakes and it might take a little time to build it back up. That is fine; don’t risk trying to drive off without proper pressure.

10 Key Points regarding Truck Air Brakes
Source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

4. How do you Test your Truck Air Brakes?

This is very important and is something that should have been taught prior to getting your truck air brakes endorsement.



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