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.

Truck driving schools serving Abbotsford, Surrey and the Greater Vancouver area

To ensure you get the most out of your air brake course, you can trust the instructors at North Shore Driving School. Contact us today to learn more about our truck driving programs.

Air Brakes: Saving Lives with More than Just Hot Air

On March 5, 1872, an American inventor, entrepreneur, and engineer patented a device that would revolutionize railway systems all over the world. After some time, his original designs were reworked and modified so that they could be applied by manufacturers of trucks and heavy road vehicles. Today, no matter how hard one may try, it’s almost impossible to find a road-safe truck without Westinghouse’s ubiquitous invention: the air brake.

How Do Air Brakes Work, or: Why Aren’t Hydraulic Brakes Used in Trucks?

In a typical car, the brakes are of the disc and shoe types. In the case of hydraulic brakes, calipers are used to squeeze brake pads that are stationary against a rotating disc (the rotor) to slowly and steadily bring the car to a complete stop. This process works incredibly well for small vehicles, like cars, because the amount of force required to stop the vehicle is relatively low, in comparison to larger, heavier vehicles like trucks. Simply put, it takes more force to stop a larger vehicle, and hydraulic brakes don’t cut it when needing to stop an 18-wheeler carrying all of its cargo.

Compare to hydraulic brakes, with some differences. Instead of using hydraulic fluid to force the brake pads to stop the rotating rotor, air brakes use highly compressed air to get the job done.

  • First, compressed air is forced and stored into reservoirs (tanks), readily available for the driver to use.
  • When the driver pushes the foot valve (called brake pedal), a signal is sent for the compressed air to be delivered and apply the brakes.
  • Once the driver releases the foot valve (brake pedal), compressed air that is at the brake chamber will be exhausted into the atmosphere through a quick release valve, causing the brake shoes to release from the brake drum, enabling the vehicle to return to motion.

The Right Stuff: Operating Air Brakes and How a Driving School Can Help

Air brakes obviously work differently than hydraulic brakes, even if certain components and mechanisms are comparable. We, at North Shore Driving School, offer a host of truck driving lessons to ensure that all drivers know the ins and outs of driving a truck, before they sit behind the wheel.

Contact us for truck driving school and air brakes courses in the Abbotsford, Richmond, and Surrey area.0