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Brake Safety Week: A Focus on Safe Braking for Fleet Drivers

brake-safety-week-a-focus-on-safe-driving-for-fleet-drivers

Brake Safety Week runs from August 21st through August 27th. This initiative is put in place by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) with the goal of reducing braking-related accidents for commercial vehicle drivers. 

Every year, Brake Safety Week seeks to:

  • Identify and remove vehicles that don’t pass inspections 
  • Acknowledge motor vehicles that pass inspections with CVSA decals
  • Encourage proactive vehicle maintenance in advance of the week.
  • Give kudos to inspectors, drivers, and motor carriers for all their hard work
  • Raise awareness of the importance of brake maintenance and vehicle inspections.
  • Provide an opportunity for outreach and educational brake-safety efforts by inspectors.

However, brake safety should not only be for commercial motor vehicles. All fleets, regardless of vehicle type are at risk of accidents and injuries due to brake malfunctions or improper braking.

We’ll show you how to reduce the cost of loss, protect your people, and prevent brake-related accidents during this year’s Brake Safety Week.

Download: 8 Light Duty Training Courses You Can Use for Your Safety Meetings >>>

What Risk Does Your Fleet Face?

From vans, sedans, and SUVs all the way up to tractor-trailers, professional fleets face a high risk of accidents.

The average accident (minor and without injuries) will cost your company upwards of $16,000. An accident with an injury to an employee or someone in the public will cost $75,000 or more. An accident involving a fatality will cost you at least $500,000.

What’s worse is that accidents are common. Multi-national transportation companies can have fifty or more fatal accidents and over one-thousand injuries per year.

Even a small fleet is guaranteed to have several minor accidents throughout the year, with the threat of a half-million dollar accident looming.

This means that the small accidents are hampering your growth and the big accidents can put you out of business.

Luckily, we’re not at the mercy of fate here. Accidents are entirely preventable. No matter the size of your company, you can drastically reduce your accidents, injuries, and cost of loss. We’ve shared probably one hundred different ways to do so over the years with our blog, but for this one, we’ll focus on how to improve brake safety in your company.

Reduce a large percentage of your accidents by focusing on the following brake safety-related topics:

  • Vehicle inspections
  • Looking Ahead for risk
  • Maintaining a safe following distance

Vehicle Inspections

Brake safety starts with vehicle inspections. It’s crucial that your employees perform pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections to find safety issues with vehicles, especially related to brakes.

If you’re a commercial motor vehicle carrier, you’re required by law to do this. If you’re a light-duty and non-CDL fleet, you’re not required by law, but your risk is the same. You’re at risk of your vehicles’ brakes failing. This could cause a serious collision.

There’s an easy two-step process for testing brakes in a van, sedan, SUV, or pick-up truck:

  • Press down on the brake while the vehicle is off. The brakes should not feel spongy or slack.
  • Do a rolling brake test. Once the vehicle is on, your drivers should find a safe place to pull the vehicle forward at about 5 miles per hour. Once the vehicle is rolling, your drivers should firmly apply the brakes. The vehicle should come to a complete stop without pulling to one side.

With a brake test in place, you need to track the data. You can do this with spreadsheets if you’re a small enough company, but for larger companies, it’s wise to invest in mixed telematics applications to track issues with vehicles.

Make sure your drivers perform these tests before leaving for the day. They should never drive a vehicle with brake issues.

Looking Ahead for Risk

The first topic covered how to ensure brakes are in proper working order. The following two topics help ensure your employees know how to properly brake.

Safe braking starts with seeing reasons to stop well in advance. That’s why we teach that drivers need to Look Ahead 15 seconds for risk.

Drivers should Look Ahead for risks such as intersections, crossing traffic, pedestrians, debris on the road, animals, a traffic light changing, and more.

When drivers Look Ahead for risk, they will be able to:

  • Stop in time to prevent accidents
  • Reduce wear and tear on vehicles
  • Have a safer, smoother ride
  • Avoid panic stops

Teach your drivers to Look Ahead 15 seconds for risk to prevent accidents and brake well in advance.

Maintaining a Safe Following Distance

Your drivers need to Look Ahead in order to brake in time and prevent accidents. They also need to maintain a safe following distance.

A safe following distance gives your drivers enough time to stop when the unexpected happens. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent accidents.

Without a safe following distance, it doesn’t matter how vigilant your drivers are. They just won’t be able to stop in time when the car suddenly brakes in front of them, a pedestrian jumps out into the street, or the traffic light changes color.

An improper following distance puts your drivers at an extremely high risk of accidents.

Each vehicle type has a different minimum safe following distance. Use this chart below to set your company standard:

Vehicle Type

Minimum Following Distance

Van, sedan, SUV, or pick-up truck

3 seconds

Paratransit bus

4 seconds

Transit bus

5 seconds

Motorcoach

6 seconds

Tractor-trailer, flatbed, or tanker

7 seconds


We measure following distance in seconds because it’s easiest to calculate this way. All your drivers need to do is pick a fixed reference point and when the car ahead of them passes it, they count off the seconds of time until they pass it themselves. That’s their current following distance.

Of course, a minimum safe following distance isn’t always enough. Conditions such as rain, sleet, snow, ice, night driving, and fog make it harder to see risk and come to a safe stop.

In these conditions, your drivers need to slow down and leave more room in front of them.

How Do You Implement These Practices?

As the CVSA points out, issues with brakes account for almost 40% of all out-of-service vehicle violations.

These violations cost you money and potentially accidents if you’re a commercial motor vehicle carrier. If you own a fleet of light-duty vehicles, you might not even know you have an issue.

And regardless of your industry, your drivers could have unsafe habits that put them at increased risk.

We recommend every fleet investigates professionally-produced online training. A program like The Fleet Safety Course for light-duty vehicle drivers or A-Fleet for CDL drivers will reduce your accidents, injuries, and cost of loss.

If you implement a program such as this, you can help ensure your drivers know how to spot issues with their brakes and use them properly when the unexpected happens. 

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