Know your truck: air brakes
Air brakes are used in heavy trucks and buses because they’re more reliable than standard hydraulic brakes. As a trucker, being familiar with air brakes and how they work is crucial to ensuring everyone’s safety on the road. Here’s what you should know about them.
How do air brakes work?
The simplest way to understand how air brakes work is to compare them to hydraulic brakes. On regular cars, brakes are disengaged by default. Pressing the brake pedal forces fluid into the brake lines, engaging the brake. Air brakes, by contrast, are always engaged. Brake lines are filled with air, which is pressurized when the truck is turned on. When you engage the brake, air pressure is reduced which activates the braking mechanism.
Why do heavy vehicles use air brakes?
Heavy trailers need to be equipped with their own brakes to allow drivers to stop promptly and safely. Air brake systems make it possible to hook up a trailer’s brakes to the control system housed in the cab. This would be highly impractical with a hydraulic system.
What are the advantages of air brakes?
Air brakes are a lot easier to connect than hydraulic brakes and using air instead of hydraulic fluid prevents many potential malfunctions. For example, minor leaks in the brake lines won’t cause a complete failure of the system, and air brakes can even function despite major leaks. Plus, since air supply is unlimited, the system isn’t at risk of running out of the active braking substance.
Do I need special training to operate air brakes?
Safely operating air brakes requires professional training. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which issues air brake endorsements, states that drivers operating commercial vehicles equipped with air brakes need to be trained to use them, as the cost of mistakes is much higher when driving heavy vehicles.
Do I need to be endorsed?
If you’re thinking of pursuing a career as a truck driver, getting an endorsement is non-negotiable. In British Columbia, being endorsed is required to drive commercial vehicles equipped with air brakes. The best way to ensure you get the endorsement is to sign up for an air brake course.
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