Operation Airbrake : A Good Reminder to Drivers and Carriers

Every year, officials in North America join forces to run what is known as ‘Operation Airbrake’, an initiative designed to monitor commercial motor vehicles with brakes that don’t function up to required standards. In 2016, inspections were carried out in May. The good news is that only 760 trucks with potential brake problems were identified. The take-away for truck drivers and carriers from the inspection was – the importance of brake safety.

According to news sources, certified inspectors checked over 6,100 trucks and buses as part of the single day inspection. Among the trucks whose brakes were found to have problems, the split was even between hydraulic and air brake systems.

trucking

Truck Brakes Are Critical

Truck drivers and carriers know that their hydraulic brakes or air brakes are critical to stopping large commercial vehicles. But what we sometimes forget is how easily brakes can be compromised when components like truck air brake hose or couplings begin to wear. Because braking systems are under such intense pressure, it doesn’t take much to compromise a system.

We found it interesting that among most of the violations discovered this year, problems were related to ABS rather than the actual air brakes themselves. While ABS problems are not necessarily good problems to have, they are less serious than actual air brake failure. Air brakes are primarily mechanical systems that, if nothing else, will deploy and lock down if they fail completely. When an ABS fails, you are talking about an entirely different problem altogether.

Having said that, drivers and carriers need to remember that a fully-loaded tractor-trailer requires twice the stopping distance as a passenger vehicle at 55 mph. That is under ideal conditions. As conditions begin deteriorating, greater stopping distances may be required. This is why it is critical to make sure braking systems are in optimal shape.

Pre-Trip Inspections

All truck drivers in the U.S. are required to test their brakes as part of their pre-trip inspections. The required test does not necessarily mean getting under the vehicle and checking truck air brake hose connections and tanks. But it does mean completing a few simple procedures inside the cab to make sure everything is working properly.

Truck drivers are required to test:

  • Air brake safety devices
  • Air leakage rate
  • Brake system leakage
  • Low-pressure warning systems
  • Brake system response
  • System recharge rate
  • Properly working service brakes.

Following an established procedure ensures that proper testing is carried out before every trip. A failure to test brakes is not only a violation, but it could also endanger both, the driver and others on the road. As Operation Airbrake demonstrates, there are trucks out there with brakes that are not up to standards.

We Have What You Need

As a leading provider of equipment and supplies for truck drivers, Mytee Products has some of the supplies you will need to maintain your air brake systems. For example, we carry truck air brake hose coils, air brake tubing, airline hose with flexible assemblies, aluminum glad hands, and more.

While you are browsing our air brake supplies, don’t forget to check out our tarps and cargo control supplies. We have just about every kind of tarp you will need along with everything from corner protectors to ratchet straps to bungee straps. We strive to be your one-stop supplier for everything you need to keep your truck driving safely on the road.

Sources:

1. Safety + Health – http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/14466-hundreds-of-trucks-pulled-from-service-during-operation-airbrake


The 3 Most Important Parts of an Air Brake System

The air brake system on a tractor-trailer is a complex system that includes storage tanks, a compressor, valves, hoses, and two different kinds of braking systems: service brakes and emergency brakes. Everything working together ensures that a truck is able to stop safely under any conditions. Yet it only takes one failure to create a serious problem.

If ten truck drivers were to be asked the question, ” what the most important component in a brake system?” chances are there would be ten different answers. From our perspective, however, there are three critical components that make or break every system out there:

airbrakecoil

1. Air Brake Coils

Those coiled hoses you see spanning the distance between tractor and trailer are known as truck air brake coils. Actually, two of them (one blue and one red) are hoses that work the air brake system on the trailer. The other is a cable that supplies the trailer with electric service.

Truck air brake coils are a critical link between tractor and trailer. If the two hoses and one electrical cable do not functioning properly, a dangerous situation could arise. For example, a driver could be trying to stop without using the trailer brakes, increasing the chances of a dangerous jackknife. Alternatively, a malfunctioning trailer system could deploy by itself while the truck is in motion. This could result in loss of control.

It is critical that truck drivers maintain their air brake coils in top condition. These should always be inspected prior to each journey to ensure they are in good working condition.

2. Emergency Brake System

The emergency brake system does two things. First, it allows the parking brake to be deployed if needed. Second, it maintains a small amount of pressurized air in reserve to stop the truck just in case there is a leak in the service brake system. Emergency brakes exist in both tractors and trailers.

We include emergency brakes in our top three most important components because they provide redundancy. The last thing a truck driver needs is to attempt to stop his/her vehicle, discover he/she has an air leak, and not be able to keep the vehicle under control in order to avoid an accident. Emergency brake systems are designed to give the truck driver that needed control.

3. Air Compressors

Third on our list are the air compressors that make everything work. You can have truck air brake coils and emergency brake systems in perfect working order that could suddenly become useless if compressors fail. Compressors are to air brake systems what fluid reservoirs are to hydraulic brakes.

Unlike hydraulic fluid reservoirs, pressurized air tanks do not maintain a constant level of air on their own. In a hydraulic system, fluid is forced back and forth as the brake pedal is pressed and released. It is a closed system that maintains a constant level of fluid as long as there are no leaks. Air brakes are not a closed system.

When a driver steps on the brake pedal, pressurized air is released from the storage tank then moves through the hoses and into the brake system where it activates a piston that activates the brakes and linings. But releasing the brake pedal does not force the air back in the opposite direction. Instead, air is simply released. It is the job of the compressors to recharge the tanks before the brakes are needed again.

Every part of an air brake system is important, but these three components are at the top of our list. What would be on your list?


Why Air Brakes Confuse New Truck Drivers

Many a trainee has climbed behind the wheel of a truck on his/her first day of road instruction only to be frustrated beyond belief by not being able to get the vehicle moving. After several embarrassing stops and starts, new drivers have to be instructed about air brakes. Why? Because the design of air brakes will prevent a truck from moving if you don’t give them time to recharge.

truck

A typical air brake system is a triple-valve system that consists of air brake hose, pumps, pressurization valves, and storage tanks. It is a system invented by an engineer named George Westinghouse in the late 19th century. It works as follows:

1. System Charge – The key to air brakes is a full storage tank. In order for the brakes to release, the system must be fully pressurized, meaning the storage tank must be full of air.

2. Brake Application – It is the release of pressurized air that causes brakes to deploy. The more air released, the more solidly brake pads grip their rotors. That means the application of the brake pedal essentially releases air from the pressurized tank.

3. Release and Recharge – The brake system will continue releasing air as long as the driver continues pressing the brake pedal. Releasing the brake pedal immediately causes the system to begin recharging again, releasing the brakes as air pressure builds.

All of this happens in a split second – with air traveling through air brake hose in both directions. A properly functioning system is not remarkably different from hydraulic brakes in its practical application, but air brakes do feel quite a bit different from a user standpoint.

What fools new truck drivers is the fact that the air brake systems do not automatically release. With hydraulic brakes, depressing the brake pedal forces hydraulic fluid into the brakes; releasing the pedal forces fluid back out. Air brakes are different. They remain deployed until the system starts to recharge. That’s why new truck drivers who don’t understand how they work don’t give their vehicles enough time to recharge the brakes before attempting to drive away.

Regular Equipment Inspections

Another thing new drivers need to learn about air brakes is the necessity of regular equipment inspections. Just one small breach of an air brake hose can make all the difference in the world for pressurizing the system. It doesn’t take much to lock your brakes up by way of escaping air.

Hoses, belts and air tanks should be inspected regularly to make sure they are working properly. The air brake hose itself needs to be free of wear and tear, especially surface damage and worn couplings. It is also a very good idea to keep a few lengths of hose and some spare couplings in your toolbox. Breaking down in the middle of a trip because one of your air hoses broke is an easy way to frustrate yourself waiting for a mechanic, especially since replacing hoses is so simple to do.

Mytee Products now carries a selection of air brake hose, coils, and other related equipment. We invite you to browse our entire inventory at your earliest convenience. If we don’t have what you need, please contact us and inquire anyway. We might be able to help locate items we don’t currently carry.

Remember, your air brakes will not work properly if your hoses, couplings and air tanks are not all in good working condition. This is true whether you are a brand-new driver or a seasoned veteran with years of experience. So get to know your braking system and check it regularly.


Hay Tarps Help Farmers Sell Hay by Weight

With as many as three crops per year, it is common for alfalfa farmers to sell bales of harvested hay by volume. They charge by bale, under the assumption that all of their bales will be of similar size at shipment. But is there a better way? Could it be that selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers? It could be.

According to a very informative article published on the Brownwood Bulletin (Brownwood, TX) website, customers who purchase hay by the bale are always taking the risk of getting smaller bales that do not provide enough volume and may not have been adequately protected against moisture, via hay tarps or other protective means. Author Scott Anderson recommends buying by weight rather than volume.

hay-tarps

His assertion is based on the reality that there is always waste involved when hay is purchased. That waste occurs on two fronts. First, cattle typically do not eat all of the forage presented to them. All sorts of factors influence this. The age of the animals, the quality of the forage, and even the time of year all affect how much is actually eaten. What is not consumed ends up as waste.

The other area of waste is the natural waste that comes with every bale. Anderson contends that among bales of hay that are properly protected by barns or hay tarps, only about 5% is classified as unusable waste. That number jumps dramatically for hay that is not protected. Bales left out at the mercy of the weather can end up containing as much as 28% waste when it comes time to actually break apart a bale and start feeding animals.

Why Purchasing by Weight Is Better

Purchasing hay by weight is better for the customer, again for two reasons. First, purchasing by weight eliminates much of the waste associated with cattle not eating everything provided for them. A farmer or rancher who takes the time to figure out roughly how much forage his animals will eat during the course of an average week or month will know how much hay he needs to have on hand. Purchasing by weight makes it possible to get just what the customer needs without the risk of buying too much that will eventually go to waste.

For example, let’s say a farmer is looking at 1,000 pounds of hay with an average 5% waste. For every thousand pounds purchased, 950 pounds is usable. All the farmer needs to do is calculate how much he will need for feed between deliveries and purchase just that amount.

The second reason for purchasing by weight is to force the producer to know what he is selling. If a farmer doesn’t want to lose a customer, he will take the time to weigh hay bales – and verify their weight – in order to ensure that the customer is getting what he is paying for. The farmer willing to do that is also one who is likely to make the effort to protect hay both in the field and after it comes in.

If a farmer is selling by weight, he certainly does not want to expose his customer to 28% waste, which is why he is more likely to use hay tarps in the field and either store hay in the barn or under larger tarps once the crop is brought in.

Selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers. In the end, it is also better for farmers from as well.

Sources:

1. Brownwood Bulletin – http://www.brownwoodtx.com/lifestyle/20160708/hay-bales-skinny-on-size

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A Bumper Hay Crop Means More Hay Tarps in Action

It appears as though this year is turning out to be a very good one for both hay and livestock producers. Hay production is up almost everywhere and livestock producers are anticipating lower feed prices next year to account for what appears to be a bumper crop for 2016. Even companies providing tertiary support are benefiting from the good year. For example, manufacturers and retailers know that a bumper crop of hay means – more hay tarps in action throughout the fall and winter months.

According to AG Web, the USDA’s acreage report released at the end of June (2016) shows a 3% increase in hay production through the first half of the year, translating to some 56.1 million acres harvested. Of that, just over 18 million acres should generate a 2% increase in total alfalfa production.

hay-crop

AG Web cautions that hay production in the West may modify the government’s number somewhat when their August report is released. Despite a wetter than usual spring, some farmers in the West may be content with the first cutting before planting something else in their fields. That would negatively impact the USDA’s acreage numbers at the end of the year. Still, production should be up overall.

Storing Excess Hay over the Winter

In the state of Idaho, farmers are having another very good year in addition to an exceptional 2015. In fact, the 2016 crop has been so good that some farmers expect to be storing a lot of excess once their final cuts are complete. They are anticipating sales picking up early next year as livestock producers increase feed purchases for their animals. For them, it is all about storing hay until the customers start buying.

Storing hay over the winter can mean the selective use of hay tarps or putting baled hay in storage barns. With either option, farmers have to be very careful about moisture content, exposing baled hay to ground moisture, and preventing pest infestations. But the nation’s farmers have been doing this long enough to protect their crops over the winter.

Farmers who choose the hay tarp route have learned how to stack bales and cover them with tarps in a way that offers maximum protection. Others have barns specifically meant for hay storage during the winter, barns that can be repurposed the following spring and summer for other things. The key is giving the hay plenty of opportunity to breathe without letting it get so dry that it ends up being no good.

During the hot summer months, there is also the ongoing risk of fire. When the moisture content is too high, hay can spontaneously combust. Farmers have to consider that when using hay tarps instead of storage barns.

Time Will Run Its Course

Idaho farmers look to have a bigger excess inventory this year than their counterparts in other states, thanks to perfectly timed rains this spring and summer. The excess is significant enough that some farmers in the state expect it will take two or three years for the market to flatten out. We will have to wait and see, but that’s an awfully long time to have to worry about excess hay storage.

It could be that some hay producers in Idaho cut, bale and store the first and final cuttings of the year while leaving the summer cutting to waste. But in either case, they are going to need plenty of hay tarps to store everything they have harvested this year. It has been a very good year thus far, that’s for sure.

Sources:

1. AG Web – http://www.agweb.com/article/561-million-hay-acres-offers-livestock-producers-hope-for-lower-feed-costs-naa-anna-lisa-laca/
2. Idaho County Free Press – http://www.idahocountyfreepress.com/news/2016/jul/06/camas-prairie-ag-producers-enjoying-bumper-crop-ha/

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