Examining Fuel Management & Your Fleet Bottom Line

Managing fuel costs isn’t just watching pump prices. It’s as much steering drivers to preferred fuel suppliers and considering off route distances and fuel grades as it is using the latest tech and finding eco-friendly solutions.

Fleet owners and drivers have to keep an eye on costs and fuel consumption. Not doing so threatens the bottom line. Here are factors that can benefit fleet fuel management.

Fuel Types & Their Differences

Finding the best fuel type remains a priority.

Propane Autogas

Less than 3% of propane autogas is manufactured internationally. This solution's local production promises better price per gallon stability. Its production is also an eco-friendly solution.

Renewable Diesel

Though renewable diesel has a heftier per gallon price, it improves vehicle performance. There are fewer maintenance and repair costs. This is because the oil’s production leaves almost no impurities that harm an engine.

Keeping Sound Recording of Fuel Costs

If fueling on-site, you have to stay on point with consumption. It’s highly recommended fleets utilize inventory control systems. You want to compare fueling records with retail fuel purchase to manage overlaps.

Depending on consumption, this can be a big job. The latest technology alleviates the process. Management can see real-time data and receive alerts for irregularities.

Auto or Manual Transmission

Advancements in technology flips the idea manual trannys are better at fuel economy. Automatic solutions are extremely sophisticated. With their algorithms, you get an optimized mesh of performance and fuel economy.

With auto options, there is a learning curve for getting peak performance for a fleet. Settings may need customizing for specific engines. It's worth the effort as adjustments can save on mpg and maximize torque.

Gamification Apps

A gamification app tracks productivity. It prompts agenda plans and goals. You can use one to track fuel costs vs. budgeting. It highlights savings and makes reaching financial goals more attainable.

With a gamification app, you’ll have daily fuel management scorecards for drivers. They’ll see how hard braking and speeding impacts fuel economy. Drivers will know how to self-correct driving behaviors.

Tracking Fleet Cards

Tracking purchases via company cards gets complicated. Fleets may contain different types of vehicles and use various cards. Work with a company that accommodates single card use but also manages light, medium and heavy trucks. This lets you track fuel use without managing multiple data sources.

Not all fleets need this design. Each company requires specific needs and not necessarily blanket coverage. The manager of your fuel supply needs a firm understanding of your needs, the market and how to address issues concerning your business.

CO2 Emission Tracking

Reducing your footprint helps the bottom line. Managing guidelines for controlling greenhouse gas emissions may earn tax benefits. Adjustments can lead to better fuel efficiency. And comparing vehicle performance shows which trucks can perform better.

Your due diligence is critical to fleet fuel management. Driver behavior, upgrading tech and equipment and more are great opportunities to design streamlined fuel consumption. These all play a role in fuel use, costs and profit margins.



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Robots and AI in Trucking

Businesses depend on the trucks for the movement of their goods. America has more than 3.5 million trucks on the road. From medical supply, groceries, sanitizing supplies, and many others, they all need this automobile industry's services. The changing times have posed a significant challenge to fleet owners, managers, mechanics, and sector employees.

This sector recorded a great profit before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out this year.
However, government fleets were not massively affected compared to heavy-duty private trucks. The epidemic retarded the growth rate of the sector, and many jobs were lost.

Read on to find out current technological trends affecting the trucking industry.

Robotic Automation

The use of robots has ensured that the repetitive processes that were initially done manually are automated. Loading and offloading used to be done manually, and many people earn their daily earning through it. Automation increases the output, and business productivity is enhanced.

Recording clerks during the loading and offload process can be re-assigned to other duties. Conversely, many truck companies have not yet adopted the strategy. If it is utilized, it will boost the business. Regrettably, many will lose their jobs.

Use of Artificial Intelligence

The trucking sector is adopting A.I. There are essential data that will require detailed analysis that human is likely to err. This will ensure that most decisions are made faster, and employees can shift their focus on providing the process works.

Efficient and effective delivery is the core business of the trucking sector. The exact date and information should accompany the freight on transit. On the other hand, the truck managers should ensure this data is transmitted to the container destination via artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence will ensure that all the data on the trucks and loads are reliable. It will also replace the tedious paperwork. However, it will come with operating costs that will affect the net profit.

Autonomous trucks

Trucking companies have started adopting autonomous trucks technologies. It works by alerting the receiver of the departure and arrival times of his consignment.

It is trending news in the USA that driverless trucks are in the offing. However, electric trucks are already on the road. This has affected the price of diesel-powered engines. Companies are looking forward to adapting to new technology, which has caused severe industry challenges.

Autonomous trucks will affect both manual fleet owners and mechanics. Therefore, they will have to upgrade their skills.

Electronic Logging devices

The coming into effect of the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) is slowing the movement of goods. All trucks are required by law to be equipped with ELD. The idea is to bring effectiveness in the management of the trucking industry. However, ensuring that all the trucks are equipped with this technological device is expensive and time-consuming.

In conclusion, the trucking sector continues to experience many trends and news that affect its profitability. With the emergence of automation trucks and electric fleets, the diesel engine trucks and manual operated will become obsolete with time. The introduction of robotics and intelligence renders truck workers jobless.

New York Unveils Eco Friendly Garbage Truck

Mack LR Electric Garbage Truck In New York City


Mack Trucks finally unveiled their fully electric Mack LR truck. New York City’s sanitation department will begin utilizing the state-of-the-art vehicle on its routes and its results will be analyzed and review to see if the technology is beneficial to collection routes.

The Mac actually houses two motors that are 130-kW Together have a horsepower of 496. Though electrically powered the Mack Truck can give the same level of power and stability that trucks with traditional engines can.

The unveiling has been anticipated for quite some time as the city of New York has been planning to increase its environmental efforts and reduce fleet maintenance costs with similar rollouts of electric technology.

These advancements will benefit said routes will affect the city's bottom line and ensure its citizens get an even better refuse collection service.

The new electrically powered Mack truck is a brilliant innovation that allows for low noise emitted from the engine and introduces clean energy into the world of heavy trucking.

Dirty Energy Used By Most Cities

Typically, heavy trucks cause much environmental damage and until now there have been no viable solutions to solve the damage caused by the dirtier energy these industrial trucks produce.

These traditional types of large vehicles are used by cities all over the US at stunning rates and most still use environmentally damaging engines.

This new advancement, if tested and proven to be a viable option for cities, could change the environmental Landscape by a large margin. City-operated vehicles contribute to greenhouse gases significantly.

Largest Sanitation Department

New York actually has the biggest Sanitation department in the world. 12,000 tons of garbage is collected each day from the city's five boroughs. Most of the fleet for the sanitation department is made up of these mack trucks.

Reducing greenhouse gases has been a goal of New York City for a while and they aim to decrease these greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2035. This new electric Mack truck will be a major benefit to that goal.

New York is actually the first to test this new electric Mack truck and several different factors will come into play when analyzing the performance of the vehicle. This includes the capacity of the payload, the range in which it can operate, and the actual functionality of the vehicle.

Other Innovations Coming

Another company called Nikola is promising to bring to market a semi-truck that utilizes hydrogen fuel cells to power its engine. However, they have not made the vehicle available to public or private users as the Mack Truck company has.

Companies may use city and state departments to test their environmentally friendly Vehicles as many cities often have the infrastructure to accommodate real-world testing.

Demonstrations were held in Allentown, Pa. and included the mack truck being driven around a testing course. This testing course mimicked real-life situations such as stop and go traffic and extremely tight turns so as to give the testers the best understanding of what it would be like actually having to drive this vehicle.

The Present and Future of Automated Trucking

Driverless technology has extended to cars, pickup trucks, and now commercial trucks that take up most of the road. This means that there is no driver controlling the vehicle, or there may be a driver who is monitoring the system but not steering the wheel. Autonomous trucking is already here, but many people wonder if it will grow or decline in popularity.

The Present State of Driverless Trucks

Autonomous trucking has already appeared in a small percentage of trucking companies. Prototypes are being driven out on the public roads. Driverless trucks save companies tens of thousands of dollars a year. The companies that manufacture these vehicles make millions per year. However, the livelihoods of countless truck drivers are at risk.

The Importance of Road Tests

In the U.S. alone, truckers transport the majority of the country's goods for retail stores, office buildings, homes, restaurants and most other businesses. Trucking is a necessary part of life, but many people are concerned about 30,000 pounds of steel speeding down a crowded road with no driver. For this reason, many companies are going through test modes. And the tests are proving to be successful for the most part.

Growing Confidence in its Technology

During tests, it's recommended that a real-life trucker sits in the passenger seat as a backup driver. Truckers with decades of experience are confident in the technology's efficiency. Brand-name retail and shipping companies use autonomous trucks that cost nearly $250,000. This cost is not too expensive compared to paying the annual salaries of several truckers, which vary from $40,000 to $60,000. In addition, automated trucks can reach their destinations in fewer days with fewer breaks.

TuSimple is one type of company that has fleets working on the road. The computer system collects a large amount of data, including maps and driving routes. This collective data is used to improve its driving performance on the road and make it more superior than that of a human.

The workdays of commercial truck drivers are numbered as they are gradually being replaced by smart technology. Autonomous cars and trucks are real and being used for personal and commercial purposes. In the future, drivers should expect to see more of these high-tech vehicles on public roads and highways.

Top 5 trends affecting trucking in 2020 and 2021

The trucking industry has experienced a plethora of changes affecting operations, truck manufacturing, and the complex way in which the industry markets overall.

Especially with the 2020 pandemic, companies and retailers have had to come up with flexible ways to continue their transport efforts and even increase them with new and innovative ideas.

Though this year has been particularly difficult, the rapid growth of innovation and the increase in the production of the trucking industry have been numerous in number and overall variety.

Below are the top five trends that are currently affecting and drastically changing the trucking industry.

1. Change in Location of Production

Some of the biggest trucking companies in the nation have typically kept their production locations the same as this has allowed them to increase efficiency and stable structure over the years.

With the restructuring many companies have had to endure, increasing the agility of these production locations have become the primary focus of many trucking companies

Dry van production locations are shifting to various Midwest states such as Illinois and Ohio.

Reefers have been seen to change production location to California.

And flatbeds are beginning to increase their production locations in areas such as Pennsylvania and Texas.

2. New technology

The integration of technology has not been lost on the trucking industry. Software programs to increase the efficiency of trucking companies’ operations have been integral to the industry's continued growth and survival.

Trucks are increasingly being outfitted with more advanced technology to improve the vehicles themselves and improve the tracking of shipments and goods they carry from one location to another.

This also allows for better communication with customers as to where when and how their shipments are being managed.

3. E-commerce

The influence of this new way of shopping online has greatly affected the trucking industry. Trucking companies have had to become more agile in their distribution because of the growth of this fast-paced online market.

The ability of distributors to adapt to the new e-commerce environment is key for each company's longevity. The e-commerce industry is inevitably tied to the trucking industry, however, it will be the companies with the highest ability to serve the online market that will succeed.

4. Increasing Urbanization

The trucking industry is and will continue to be supported by increasing the urbanization of towns and cities. Increased connection between city centers and rural areas will only improve the ability of distributors to get their products to consumers.

5. Analytics

The operation of data analytics not only runs the agility of most companies today but is a very important technological advancement for trucking companies. Introducing these analytics to trucking companies’ workforce, vehicle usage and routes, and their end-user experiences can have major impacts on companies’ flexibility and positively affect their bottom line.

Using this data will also allow them to predict future workforce strategies and also customer needs which will allow them to get ahead of future market changes.

Annual DOT Inspection Tips For Fleet Managers

Semi Truck Inspection And Repair

Passing the annual DOT (Department Of Transportation) inspection is essential to the smooth operation of your trucking business. Failure to pass the inspection can lead to a loss in profits for your business due to a dented reputation, increased insurance premiums, or even blacklisting.

Fortunately, though, you can increase the likelihood of passing the DOT inspection by simply preparing accordingly.

Read on below to find out more about how you can pass your upcoming annual DOT inspection.

Who And What Is Subject To A DOT Inspection?

According to FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) regulations, different types of vehicle fleets are subject to the annual DOT inspection. In fact, you don’t have to be in the transportation business for your fleet to be subjected to an inspection. Regardless of whether you own or manage a small or large fleet, you should always be ready for a DOT inspection (scheduled or unscheduled).

In most cases, the annual DOT inspection is done on CMVs (Commercial Motor Vehicles) that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. With that in mind, any vehicle fleet, including public utility vehicles, delivery vehicles, rental car fleets and trucking fleets (tractor and trailer), satisfying this condition can be subjected to a DOT inspection.

What Is Included In An Annual DOT Inspection?

A DOT inspection is made up of six different categories. The person conducting the inspection will go through all of these categories rating each one as unsatisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the categories:

1. General Category: Here, the inspector will check the company’s general documents including accident register, vehicle markings, liability cover, training records for drivers and MCS 90 or MCS 82 form that is countersigned by the insurer.

2. Driver Category: Involves a review of the driver’s qualifications and other pertinent information in their employee file.

3. Operational Category: This stage focuses on the review of driver logs, which may be in soft or hard copy format, to ensure that the recommended CMV limitations are not exceeded.

4. Vehicle Category: In this stage, the inspector looks to see whether you, the carrier, have a well-maintained fleet of vehicles. This involves the inspection of all records that document the inspection and maintenance or repair of each of the vehicles in the fleet.

5. Hazardous Materials Category: This stage involves checking whether carriers that are involved in the transportation of hazardous materials strictly adhere to the necessary federal guidelines. These guidelines are normally updated on a regular basis.

6. Accident Category: Here, the inspector goes through the company’s accident record. The records cover any incident that results in vehicle damage, bodily injury or death.

Vehicle Documentation Requirements

You will need to put together a list of documents in preparation for your upcoming DOT inspection. These include:

• A collection of employee files on all drivers and their training records

• Detailed vehicle registration information

• List of drivers your company has used over the past calendar year, their date of birth, state and license number of their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) as well as the date they were hired, and fired where applicable.

• Payroll records for all drivers

• Records on all accidents over the last year

• List of the company’s equipment and their GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), license number, company number, state, make and year

• The gross revenue of the company for the past year

• DVIRs (Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports) covering the last three months

• Lease contracts, if any, and associated maintenance records for the vehicles

• Information on insurance claims for the past year

• Total mileage covered by the fleet for the last 12 months

• The past year’s roadside inspection reports

• Driver logs, expense records, and trip reports for the last 6 months

• The company’s Controlled Substance and Alcohol Policy as well as a testing record for employees

While it might be challenging to collect all this paperwork, using fleet tracking software might make things much easier, and help you stay as organized as possible.

Maintenance And Repair History

The main purpose of a DOT inspection is to ensure that every part of your Commercial Motor Vehicle is safe, in the best condition, and working properly. As such, it is important that you put in place a regular schedule to ensure that the following parts of your vehicles are properly maintained:

• Wheels, hubs, rims, and tires

• Braking systems

• Emergency doors

• Fuel and exhaust systems

• Seat belts

• Electrical cables

• Steering and suspension systems

• Coupling systems

• Windshield wipers

• Lighting systems and lights


From the above, it is clear to see that passing an annual DOT inspection can be quite challenging for Commercial Motor Vehicle fleet owners and managers, regardless of whether they are new to the industry or not. However, you can easily pass the DOT inspection with better organization and proper preparation. To that end, having the right fleet management software can prove to be invaluable.

Survey Says! Top Trucking Industry Issues In 2020

Semi Truck And Trailer At AirportThe 2020 Top Industry Issues Survey Provides Data That Benefits The Trucking Industry

A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit the American Transportation Research Institute's focus is on making the transportation of freight by truck more efficient, safer, and more secure. For 66 years, the ATRI has collected and analyzed data on issues affecting truckers. The 2020 survey of truckers' concerns is currently open. The information collected will be used to research solutions to the topics respondents rate most important.

The Questionaire

Open to anyone who works in trucking the questionaire is completed online. The gathering of data for this year began on 8 September. The deadline for participation is 16 October. The questionnaire consists of three parts.

  • Information about the participant
  • The three most important industry concerns
  • Respondent concerns not otherwise listed

The results of the study become public on 27 October.

Why The Survey Matters

Stressing the brevity of the survey form Randy Guillot, the American Transportation Research Institute Chairman, described the importance of the information gathered as “immeasurable.” Completing the survey gives voice to those whose livelihood depends on the trucking industry.

ATRI Research

A lack of safe parking for drivers who have reached their maximum number of driving hours is a perennial issue. The efficient locating of available parking is just one of the matters for which the American Transportation Research Institute is seeking a solution.

The GPS Parking Supply Study

An increase in the number of trucks on the road, the utilization of former parking places for other purposes, and a lack of land to build new parking areas are to blame for the shortage of safe places for drivers to stop and rest. Recently, the ATRI conducted a two-part study addressing the locating of rest areas. Both parts involved using a truck's GPS to aid truckers in locating available parking.

Part 1

Part 1 of the study concentrated on four truck stop sites in Minnesota. GPS data was analyzed to determine the availability of truck parking. The break down of data collected included the time-of-day and day-of-the-week.

Part 2

During the second phase of the GPS study, the American Transportation Institute tested methods for relaying parking availability to truck drivers.

  • Electronic signs
  • A web portal
  • Direct messaging to the truck

The University of Minnesota worked in conjunction with ATRI in this study.


Both the use of GPS and the above-listed approaches proved viable in guiding commercial drivers to available resting places. As a secondary benefit of not having to search blindly for a parking place, driver efficiency improved.

More About The ATRI

The American Transportation Research Institute provides advisory services to 31 Departments of Transportation. The institute oversees the U.S. DOT's Freight Mobility Program. Intelligent Transportation Systems America and the Institute of Transportation Engineers have helped finance ARTI's efforts on behalf of the cartage industry. All information compiled by ARTI is available online free-of-charge at truckingresearch.org.


Air Brakes The Ultimate Guide

All of us are so used to hearing how the wheel’s invention changed human civilization once and for all. However, there isn’t much discussion about a crucial part of that entire wheel and axle system— the brakes.

I have noticed the same bent among drivers when they talk about vehicles. They will go at length to talk about the engine, transmission, and suspension. But they seldom talk about brakes.

All this brake-excluding talk about vehicles has pushed me to jot down this article. Here, I will only talk about air brake systems in great detail including preventive maintenance in your fleet

All those folks who rely on brakes instead of louder horns should hang around as I walk you through this primer on air brake systems.

The Invention and History of Air Brakes

Before getting into the mechanism of air brakes, I would like to provide a brief look at its invention and history. Like many other inventions, the air brakes found in road vehicles were originally designed for trains.

Railroad Trains Era of the Brakemen

The Era of Brakemen

During the first half of the 19th century, trains would feature handbrakes in every carriage. The driver would blow a whistle in a certain rhythm to notify “brakemen,” causing them to move between carriages and pull handbrakes. You can easily piece together that this method of stopping a multi-carriage vehicle was quite tedious. You can’t apply such brakes in emergencies and without a platoon of brakemen.

Gladhand-Based Braking — The First Form of Air Brakes

The brakemen era was followed by the gladhand-based braking system. We can consider it a proto-model for the contemporary air brake systems. This system consisted of a brake pipe running across the length of the train and depended on interlocking hoses that passed pressurized air called gladhands. This brake pipe would use gladhands as connectors between the carriages.


The brake pipe in gladhand braking would connect to an air cylinder on every carriage. The cylinder would use the pressurized air current to pull the handbrake chain. This braking system’s arrival ruled out the need for brakemen to run around on the train.

Despite this evolution, applying the brakes remained time-consuming. Besides this, one wobbly gladhand connection could cause the entire braking system to fail.

George Westinghouse Portrait

George Westinghouse— Our Hero

The story of how air brake systems came to be has a protagonist, and his name is George Westinghouse. After seeing the inefficiency and shortcomings of handbrake and gladhand-based systems, Westinghouse started working on a prototype that would later become the basis for the modern air brake systems.

After many trials and errors, he eventually succeeded in making a triple-valve air braking system. This system inverted the behavior of the direct air brake and showed better responsiveness and fail-safeness than its predecessors.

Westinghouse’s triple-valve system was better than the gladhand-based braking because the entire air volume present in it you didn’t have to be moved. The triple value got activated on pressing down the brake paddle. Westinghouse kept on introducing improvements to his propriety triple-valve air braking system in later years.

Air Brake Systems on Roads

Carl Benz invented the first road vehicle in 1885-86. For nearly the next 15 years, car drivers would use wooden block brakes to stop their vehicles. This braking system consisted of a lever connected to a heavy wooden chunk.

When people needed to stop their vehicles, they would pull the lever to lower the block on the wheels. The blocks would grind against the wheels and eventually put them to a halt. In 1902, French engineer Louis Renault (yes, THAT Renault) designed drum brakes to replace the wooden blocks.

The air brake systems were introduced to cars 37 years after the invention of the first road vehicle. The credit for this feat goes to a German company called Knorr-Bremse. The company used to make pneumatic brakes for railway vehicles and launched a version for road vehicles in 1922.

The company designed an air braking system that would apply brakes to all four wheels of the vehicle at the same time. This simultaneous braking significantly cut down the braking distances and improved road safety. In the next three decades, the air brake system would become standard among all heavy vehicles.

All the newly made heavy vehicles would come fitted with air brakes, from tractors to trailers and trucks to buses.

The Improvement in Air Braking System

As the air brake system became common in road vehicles, automotive companies all over the world kept on working to improve them. The anti-lock braking system came out of that great collective effort. This braking system consists of an overriding mechanism that would prevent the vehicle from locking up under harsh braking conditions. The anti-lock braking system became a standard in the late 70s.

As the automotive industry was rounding of the 20th century, Mercedes-Benz introduced the first electronic braking system. The system used compressed air for braking. However, an electronic control unit is in charge of compression instead of a mechanical or manual bar.

Air Brake Components and Parts

Air brake systems are intricate networks of various mechanical parts and components. It won’t be wrong to say that an air brake system is as good as any individual component. Here, we are going to have a rundown of all those components. This information will come handy in our discussion on the workings of air brake systems, their inspection, and preventive maintenance measures. The list will include the components of both drum and disc brakes.

·         Storage Tanks

Storage tanks are the reservoirs that collect the compressed air and keep it stored until the driver actuates the braking system.

·         Compressors

It is a small compressor powered by the vehicle’s engine that provides pressurized air to storage tanks/reservoirs.

·         Compressor Governor/Regulator

It regulates the air compressor’s cut-in and cut-out points to maintain a prescribed amount of pressurized air in the tanks.

·         Brake Pedal/Foot Value

When pushed, it releases the compressed air from the storage tanks.

·         Brake Chambers

These are small cylinders connected to all four wheels. They feature a slack adjuster that actuates the cam mechanism.

·         Pushrod

It is a piston-shaped steel rod that connects the brake chamber with the slake adjuster.

·         Slack Adjuster

Slack adjuster is an arm that connects the pushrod to the brake s-cam. The adjuster translates the pushrod force to the S-cam with minimal losses.

·         Cam

Cam is a heavy metal component consists of a camshaft and an S-shaped head (hence called S-cam). Its head pushes the brake shoe against the brake drum and moves it away as well.

·         Brake Shoe

It is a lined component of steel that generates friction when pushed against the brake drum.

·         Return Spring

It is a sturdy spring that moves the brake shoe to its open position when the S-cam is not pushing it.

·         Brake Pads

Brake pads are made of top-quality rubber with steel backing plates. They come in contact with a moving rotor to stop it through friction.

·         Caliper

Caliper is a housing that holds the pair of breaking pads together and pushes them against the rotor.

·         Guide Pins

Each brake caliper uses two metal pins to ensure the proper gliding angle for brake pads to meet the rotor.

Upsides and Downsides of Air Brake Systems

No manmade thing is just about all its benefits. We come to know about their unintended downsides and harms over some time. There is no doubt that air brake systems are the best when it comes to stopping down multi-feet vehicles with massive engines and momentous load.

It’s been around 100 years since the introduction of pneumatic brakes in road vehicles. Despite all the development and technology, we haven’t made any viable substitute for air braking systems. Notwithstanding this prolific track record, air brake systems also have some intrinsic flaws and issues.

To make sure I don’t sound like an air brake salesman, I will list down both its upsides and downsides.


Upsides of Air Brake Systems Downsides of Air Brake System
The hydraulic system of the same configuration and price points can’t match the stopping power that air brake systems provide. The extended compressibility of air means you need a huge amount of air to move to the brake chambers for slowing down the vehicle. This results in longer stopping distances. You also need to sit tight and attentive when brakes involve stretched out stopping distance.
The majority of hydraulic brake failures occur due to brake fluid leakage. Air brakes don’t fail suddenly even if there is a minor leak due to air’s compressible nature. You can execute less efficient air braking even in worst-case failures, which is unimaginable in any other braking system.


Air used in the braking system is susceptible to freezing in low temperatures. When air freezes or condensed, it can result in brake failure. For that reason, some air brake systems use alcohol evaporators. The traces of alcohol in the air prevent icing in the freezing temperatures.

Air doesn’t corrode the brake’s metal components, thus, extends the operating life of the entire setup.


Air brakes produce loud squeals and hisses. The air brake system would have offered the same utility without those sounds. This noise is surely not a functional drawback but looks like one when we see the completely silent hydraulic brakes.


How Do Air Brakes Work?

You are truck a driver cruising your loaded vehicle weighing 60,000 pounds at a highway. You notice traffic congestion a few hundred feet ahead. You put your foot on the brake pedal and gradually start pressing it down. As you push the pedal down, the truck starts slowing down and comes to a grinding halt right before the next vehicle in the lane.

As the truck tires end their final revolution, you hear a hissing sound coming from below the drivetrain. You have managed to stop tons of moving load just with the extension of your foot. Besides your steady foot on the pedal, the credit goes to your vehicle’s air braking system.

The mechanism of air brakes involves a lot of physics and thermodynamic principles. However, I will try to explain air braking while steering clear of all the scientific jargon.

The Basic Principle of Air Brake Systems

Like Westinghouse’s three-valve braking systems, modern air brake systems for heavy-duty vehicles also follow the same three-tier principle. This includes: charging, applying, and releasing.

  • Charge:The brake system must be “charged” with compressed air before you apply the brakes.
  • Apply:When you apply the brakes, the air pressure decreases in the system, and a valve lets the air back in the storage tanks.
  • Release:The application of brakes results in air release and pressure drop. On the one hand, this step ensures the stoppage of tires. On the other hand, it refills the storage/supply tank for the next round of braking.

From the above explanation, it seems like an air brake takes ages to get activated and put friction on tires. However, all of it takes a couple of seconds on the road.

Air Brakes with Drums and Discs

You can classify air brake systems in two categories based on the component they use to stop the moving tire: Drum brakes and disc brakes. The core principle in both drum and disc air brakes remain the same. Both feature engine-mounted compressors that fill the air storage tanks with compressed air and use the same application and release mechanisms mentioned above.

But to avoid any confusion, I will break down the working of both drum and disc air brakes separately.

Working of Drum Brakes

Let’s suppose you are driving a truck and applies its pneumatic brakes. You press the brake pedal and then release it after a couple of seconds. What happens in those few seconds beneath your vehicle’s platform? Let’s find out.

As you press the brake pedal, you activate the air braking system of your vehicle. This activation then sets off a cascade of actions and reactions that eventually make your vehicle come to a grinding halt.

  • The reservoirs pass through the compressed air to the brake valves.
  • The valves then transmit the air to the brake chambers.
  • The chambers press the pushrods to push them on the slack adjusters.
  • The adjusters act as force transmitters. They transfer the force coming from the pushrod to the cams’ rotational force.
  • The cam rotation causes the rollers to rise and push the shoes against the drum.
  • The shoe lining makes contact with the drum coupled with the moving wheel.
  • The shoe’s rubbing action that slows down drum rotation also stops the coupling wheel.

As you move away your foot from the brake pedal, all these actions take place.

  • The delivered air exhausts and actuates the shoe spring.
  • The spring pushes back the shoe pressed against the drum.
  • As the shoe comes to its original position, the cam also rotates back to its original position.
  • Consequently, slake adjusters are also released.

Now, all the components of your braking system have come back to their original position and are ready for the next round of braking.

Air Brakes System

Working of Disc Brakes

The first two steps of disc brakes are the same, i.e., compressed air going to brake valves and then to the brake chambers. From there, disc brakes work slightly differently than drum brakes.

  • The activated brake chambers set off the caliper.
  • The caliper transfers the force of compressed air to the inner brake pad.
  • Then, two things happen in quick succession: the caliper slides on the guide pins, and the inner brake pad come in contact with the brake rotor.
  • This pressing contact between the pad and rotor slows down the latter to decelerate the wheels.
  • As you release the brake pedal, the return spring pushes the caliper back to its original (non-activated) position.
  • This results in the separation of brake pads from the brake disc/rotor.


Air Brake Inspection and Preventive Maintenance

Air brakes can work with the same efficiency as day one for decades if you are proactive with their maintenance. As a 63-year old folk who have been fiddling with all sorts of road vehicles from the age of 12, trust me when I say inspection and preventive maintenance guarantee that you don’t have to replace your braking system for the lifetime of the vehicle.

After inspecting and maintaining air brakes for years and years, I have devised this inspection and preventive maintenance module for air brakes. You can appraise your braking system like an expert by using the method. All you need is a set of wheel chocks and a timer to carry out this inspection.

Check the Low-Air Warning

Your brake system must maintain pressure above 55psi. When the pressure drops down from there, the law-air warning indicator in the odometer or the dashboard starts blipping. A low-air warning indicates a huge leakage or failure of the compressor.

By the way, the ideal air pressure for any vehicle braking system is 90psi.

Check Air Pressure Build-up

You do this test to check the air compressor. Rev up the engine between 600-900rpm. Lower the air pressure to 85psi by pushing down the brake paddle. Now, set your eyes on the pressure gauge. The air pressure should get back to its original value within 100-120 seconds with an optimally working compressor.

Check Compressor Governor Cut-out and Cut-in

This test makes sure the compressor governor is regulating the compressed air with precise cut-ins and cut-outs. Rev up the engine and let the brake pressure build-up. Keep your eyes on the gauge and ears on the hissing sound. If your brakes hiss at any value between 100 and 145psi, your brake governor is cutting out the air pressure at the right value. The right cut-out is essential to prevent pressure build-up and subsequent damages in the brake chambers.

For the cut-in test, press down the paddle to lower down the pressure to 25psi. Then monitor the gauge needle. If it starts moving up and reaches 80psi, it means the compressor governor is pushing the compressed air to the tank and creating the required braking pressure.

If the governor is not cutting in and out of the compressed air for the right pressures, you need to go to the brake specialists instead of driving the vehicle as-is. A faulty governor doesn’t result in brakes’ complete failure, but it can significantly cut down its efficiency.

Check Air Valves

Inspect all air/brake valves of the system for leaks. You can use soap water with a spray bottle to identify them. If you stumble upon a leak creating large bubbles, you need to replace the given valve as soon as possible.

Check Brake Lining

Inspect the lining of brake shoes and pads for wear and tear and accumulation of oil, grease, and mud. If it has excessively worn out or the build-up has baked on its surface, you need to replace the lining.

Lubricate Slack Adjusters

Lubricate slack adjusters when you lubricate the vehicle chassis. You need to do it every three months or after completing 5,000 miles.


I guess it is enough for now on air brake systems. If you own and manage heavy vehicles, I hope that this article has helped you know more about one critical part found in those sturdy drivetrains. If you are maintaining a fleet of heavy-duty vehicles, hit us up if you are looking to streamline its maintenance. Follow this [link] to find out more about our fleet maintenance software.

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