Checking brakes on all trucks is important

The brake check

The sign says "Trucks, Stop Here, Check Brakes, Steep Hill Ahead."

Ask almost anyone and they would likely tell you the sign only applies to heavy commercial trucks equipped with air brakes. But that is not the case . The sign applies to all trucks with a licensed gross vehicle weight (GVW) of more than 5,500 kilograms, regardless of the type of brake system. It could include everything from a truck tractor to a pickup pulling an RV.

Checking brakes is part of the basic training for all commercial drivers. ICBC's Driving Commercial Vehicles manual has a section called Pre-Hill Inspections that starts on page 228.

Basic training for light vehicle drivers also mentions a pre-trip inspection in chapter 2 of ICBC's Learn to Drive Smart manual, beginning on page 24. It simply mentions checking brake fluid level and parking brake adjustment.

The Towing a Recreational Trailer manual goes into a bit more detail under the pre-trip inspection procedure, starting on page 13.

Advice in the form of advisory signs posted at brake check sites tells drivers of vehicles equipped with hydraulic brake systems they must check pedal pressure and brake assist to make sure there are no fluid leaks and that the brake drums are not overheated.

Pedal pressure is tested by applying the brakes and holding them applied. The pedal must not be spongy or slowly depress.

To check brake assist, turn the engine off, pump the brake pedal to deplete the assist, hold the pedal down and start the engine again. If assist is working properly, you will feel the pedal rise slightly.

Are you towing a trailer equipped with brakes? You will find a sign that tells you what to check at the pullout.

Disconnect the vacuum lines, pull the pin on the electric switch or the lever on the surge brake to activate the breakaway brake. Try to drive ahead and the trailer wheels should lock.

In addition to checking for hydraulic fluid leaks, it is wise to check fluid levels in the master cylinder as well. The fluid should be a clear straw colour and at or above the minimum level mark. If there is no mark indicated, then no less than 13 mm from the top of the reservoir.

Failing to stop and check brakes is a violation of Section 125 of the Motor Vehicle Act and disobey a traffic control device could result in the driver being issued a traffic ticket with a fine of $121 and two penalty points.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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