Operation Airbrake is a selective traffic enforcement program conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). As the name of the program suggests, Operation Airbrake promotes truck safety by focusing on brake safety in the nation’s commercial semi-truck fleet. Out-of-adjustment brakes and brake system violations routinely account for one-half of all out-of-service (OOS) violations issued to the big rigs on the road. Faulty brakes, worn tires and other defective truck components can be just as dangerous to the passenger vehicles on the road as a reckless or fatigued truck driver who fails to react in time to prevent a serious collision with an automobile on the road.
Roadside Inspections to Prevent Car-Truck Accidents
In addition to trucker and truck mechanic education on inspection, maintenance and safe operation of brakes, the CVSA also conducts annual roadside inspections – announced and unannounced – of commercial truck brake systems. The most recent round of large-scale announced inspections occurred during Brake Safety Week last September, when upwards of 30,000 semi-trucks were inspected. While the results of these inspections have not yet been released, the CVSA has revealed the results of a one-day surprise roadside inspection event it conducted last May.
The Spring Brake Check covered brake inspections of 8,731 trucks and 64,049 individual wheel ends in 23 U.S. states and ten Canadian provinces, as well as Puerto Rico, coordinated across North America last May 7th. Of the thousands of trucks inspected, 9.5% were placed out of service for excessive brake stroke violations – showing them to be out of adjustment – and 8.5% were pulled from service for brake component violations, such as missing or cracked components, air leaks, damaged tubing or brake hoses, and damaged drums, rotors and other brake components. Some trucks were pulled for both kinds of violations, so that overall 15.2% of trucks inspected were declared OOS. This percentage equates to about one in six to seven semis driving on the road with faulty or defective brakes.
While these inspections perform a valuable service in removing dangerous vehicles from the road, unless other measures are taken by the trucking companies to regularly inspect and maintain their trucks in safe operating condition, we may continue to see catastrophic yet preventable truck accidents when truckers find they cannot stop in time due to malfunctioning or poor-performing brake systems. Occupants of passenger vehicles are at great risk of serious personal injury or wrongful death when their smaller, lighter automobile is struck by a tractor-trailer traveling at highway speeds.