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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Downhill Braking

Within the last couple of months, I had a driver say to me “You know it’s normal to see a little smoke from your brakes on a long downgrade.”  I asked him who in the world taught him that? And he gave a vague response.  That kind of misinformation can be disastrous for a driver!

I’ve had to ride along with hundreds of drivers and I am always somewhat amazed at how many brake improperly on downgrades.  It’s been taught for many years now that steady light pressure on the brakes is not the right way to go downhill.  If your brakes are even slightly out of adjustment, on light application of the pedal, the brakes on some wheels will not be doing as much work as others.  That can cause some brakes to heat up and others not.  This can quickly get you in trouble, especially if you do not have a strong Jake brake.

The proper way to brake on a downgrade is a firm intermittent stab of the brake pedal to take your speed down 5 or 6 MPH.  I don’t mean “slamming on the brakes”.  Just firm pressure to insure that all the brakes are engaged and doing their share of the work.  When your speed drops down 5 or 6 MPH, release and let the Jake work until it climbs back up and your rig needs another brake application.  This has been the recommended method for many years and it does surprise me the number of drivers who do it "old school".

And please, all you newer drivers out there, if you see your brakes smoke on a downgrade, you are not braking properly!  Needing to use an emergency sand pit run off leads to short careers in the trucking industry.  Sorry if I sound like a preacher, but downhill grades are serious business.
Happy Trucking, Dan

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