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What You Need to Know About Brake Safety Week in 2023

This episode is a must-listen for fleets and repair shops to ensure complete compliance and to ace your fleet’s brake inspections during Brake Safety Week in 2023.

Episode 273:  With CVSA’s Brake Safety Week just around the corner, this episode is a must-listen for fleets and repair shops to ensure complete compliance and to ace your fleet’s brake inspections. We dive deep into the components of S-CAM foundation brakes, explore the importance of using premium brake materials, and share valuable tips for performing routine maintenance and inspections.

Back in Episode 4, Bob Hicks, the former President of Marathon Brake Systems gave us his expert insights into how raw materials affect the friction material produced and how to properly promote different qualities of brakes. We extracted some of his comments from that episode to help you pass those brake inspections with flying colors.

This episode is a must-listen for fleets and repair shops to ensure complete compliance and to ace your fleet's brake inspections during Brake Safety Week in 2023.


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Transcript of Episode

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people.

In this episode, we are going to review recommended practices for the preventative maintenance and inspection of your foundation breaks. CVSA announced earlier this year that Brake Safety Week has been scheduled for August 20th through 26th. 2023. So this gives you plenty of time to get your fleet ready.

Make sure that you’ll pass that break inspection. Before we start this week’s episode where we talk about the recommended practices for preventative maintenance and inspection of your foundation breaks, I just wanted to take a minute to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who reached out to us last week.

As many of you know, we were evacuated because of the massive forest fire, the size of the state of Rhode Island that was threatening our hometown. We are back in our homes and I’m back in my studio, but unbelievably, we’ve had some heavy rain and now there is a local emergency declared because of flooding in our area.

So the people of Alberta, and especially Edson and the Yellowhead County, they cannot get a break. But anyway, as of right now, the floods aren’t affecting us. The fire situation is much improved because of the heavy rain, and we just hope that soon we can get back to some sort of normal life. So for all of you who reached out to us and expressed your concern, thank you so much. Now let’s get into this week’s episode.

As I mentioned, the CVSA earlier this year announced that Brake Safety Week was going to be August 20th through 26th, 2023. And again, we wanted to record this episode to give you some time to think about getting those brakes inspected and serviced if needed. So if you do get pulled over during that time period, you will pass inspection. Now, let’s review last year’s numbers. So last year in total during break safety week, there were 38,117 inspections conducted in the three countries that make up North America.

So Canada, the United States and Mexico. The average percentage of commercial vehicles inspected that were put out of service during this special week of activity where they’re focused on brakes was 13.3%. So 13.3% of all the vehicles inspected in North America were put out of service because of some issue with their brakes. That 13.3% doesn’t really tell the whole story. So let’s dig a little deeper and let me give you the actual numbers by country. Very interesting. So who had the best record out of the three countries?

Well, drum roll please. It was Mexico. Mexico only had 2.5% of the vehicles inspected in Mexico put out of service because of not being able to pass the brake inspection, only 2.5%. In second place. And certainly in the United States, you received the most number of inspections. The vast majority of the inspections were conducted in the United States, but you come in in second place with 13.6% of all vehicles inspected being put out of service.

And sadly, my home country of Canada were not doing very well. 17.8% of Canadian trucks inspected were put out of service. Obviously Canada has some work to be done. What exactly were the inspectors looking for? Well, according to CVSA’s website, they talk about the two types of North American standards applied during Brake Safety Week. It’s either a level one or a level five, and they’re not doing anything special other than focusing on brakes.

So if you do get pulled over during this time, the inspector’s going to use the same standard that they always do the rest of the year, and they’re going to give you a total inspection. So it’s not just the brakes they’re going to be looking at. Now, when they are doing these inspections, what exactly are they looking for? Well, I pulled the information here. Really, it’s not different than the inspections, as I said, that were conducted any other time during the year.

But what they are looking for when they look at the brakes is they’re going to look at the entire system and all of its components. So inspectors are going to look for missing, non-functioning, loose, cracked or broken parts, and they’re going to specifically look at spiders, castings, return springs, brake drums or rotors, brake shoes or linings or pads and slack adjusters. So that’s the area that they’re going to focus on. They’re looking specifically for things that are broken or missing in the foundation brake.

They also inspect for contaminated lining. So if the lining, for example is oil soaked, if the pads were contaminated, they’re going to look for non-manufactured holes in spring break housing. So if somebody’s drilled through the housing, that’s a definite out of service, they’re going to look for s-cam flip over and audible air leaks, and they’re going to check for mismatched brake chambers on a given axle.

And they’re also going to look at the conditions of the hoses and the lines, security for the air reservoirs, air pressure in the system, the breakaway device. They’re going to check the tractor protection system, they’re going to check push rod travel on the brake system, and they’re going to check for warning devices or fault codes. So that’s what they’re looking for. And the Brake Safety Week, it’s part of CVSA’s Operation Air Brake Program.

So this is in partnership with the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the United States, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators in Canada, and Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation. So that’s the background information on CVSA and the Brake Safety Week. That is what they’re looking for when you get pulled over for an inspection. So if you’re someone who’s selling parts, you need to know this information because you need to help your fleets and you need to educate your repair shops and mobile repair people on exactly what it is that inspectors will be looking for.

And you want to have a business development conversation, not just to try to sell them parts, but you want to sit down with fleets and talk to them about making sure that their brake systems are maintained correctly, that they’re buying the right products for the right applications. Meaning do we have the right kind of friction for the right application? Are all of those hard parts in good working order? Do they need to replace any of them?

And if you’re an inside salesperson and you’re on the counter, you want to be talking to your owner operators and the people who come to your counter about the same thing, especially as Brake Safety Week approaches. So just if you’re in the part side of the business, this is an opportunity to really add value to your customers, to educate them to, and a lot of this stuff they already know.

But one thing I found when I was selling parts is sometimes people forget. Sometimes people over time, they get a little complacent. Maybe they haven’t had any problems for a while and they just aren’t as diligent as they need to be, and then they get caught. I mean, obviously getting an out of service inspection and failing that inspection is bad, but even worse is if you have an accident of some kind because your brake system fails.

So we don’t want that at all. Now let’s talk a little bit about TMC, the Technology and Maintenance Councils recommended practices around preventative maintenance and inspection of s-cam foundation brakes. So if you want to look up this recommended practice and read it in its entirety, first of all, you need to be a TMC member, and I highly recommend it. Once you are a member, you’ll have access to this recommended practice.

The number or the designation for this RP is RP607C. And when we’re talking about s-cam foundation brakes, we’re talking about VMRS code 013. That’s the first code, and then it breaks down from there depending on what part of the foundation break we’re talking about. So let’s go over some of the preventative maintenance and inspection information in the RP. First of all, this particular RP offers useful guidelines on performing that routine maintenance and inspections.

This particular one isn’t for air disc brakes, this is for the s-cam foundation brake, air actuated type brakes. It covers all the components of a typical s-cam foundation brake, and it applies to both medium and heavy duty if it is an air brake. So this RP covers both medium and heavy duty vehicles. It does not address brake actuators, adjusting mechanisms, assembly or disassembly procedures for s-cam brakes.

Okay, so it’s just focusing on preventative maintenance and inspection of that s-cam foundation brake system. Now really you look at the RP, it’s divided into three sections. So section one is s-cam brake parts inspection. Section two is preventative maintenance, and section three is typical fleet. So issues and solutions that come up. It’s not a complete list of solutions and issues, it’s just some of the most common ones to help people and guide fleets.

One of the things that’s interesting is when you look at s-cam foundation breaks, how many individual parts do you think make up an s-cam foundation brakes system? You want a hazard a guess? Well, there’s really only two kinds of s-cam foundation brake systems. There’s a single anchor pin and then there’s the dual anchor pin, the single anchor pin and the dual anchor pin. They’re very similar when it comes to the number of parts.

So we’ll just use figure two with the dual anchor pin brake design to give you a number – 24 parts, not including the brake lining kit. So that’s a kit. So 24 different parts. I’ll just rattle them off. Shoe and lining assembly, spring for the shoe retaining, bushing for the anchor pin, anchor pin brake shoe, camshaft S-head, washer camshaft head, seal camshaft grease, bushing camshaft, pin return spring, roller for the brake shoe, retainer for the shoe roller, spring for the brake shoe.

Return number 13, spider for the brake, seal for the chamber bracket, bracket for the camshaft and chamber, caps screw for the chamber bracket, fitting and grease washer camshaft the thick washer, then the brake adjuster for the automatic washer, spacing snap ring for the camshaft, dust shield cap screw for the dust shield and plug – 24 different parts making up the foundation brake for the dual anchor pin style.

This is one of the reasons why the air disc brakes are very, very popular in a lot of applications because they have far less parts, far less things to go wrong, far less things to inspect and to maintain, but the s-cam brakes are still the dominant number of vehicles out there, have the s-cam foundation brakes on them. So for a very long time we’re still going to have to deal with this system that has a lot of moving parts.

Now when we’re talking about brake lining, this is something that I care about especially because in my past I used to reline brake shoes, so I remember relining them, I remember selling them, and I love talking to fleets about brake lining because that is one of the areas where you can actually lower total cost of operation and help them make a great decision. But let’s talk a little bit about the following components that should be replaced whenever an s-cam brake is relined.

So when you reline an s-cam brake, you want to replace the return spring, you want to replace the anchor pin spring, the roller retainers, the anchor pin bushings for the dual anchor pin design and the cam rollers. And when you look at the failure to replace a foundation brake component and what could happen, some of the issues that the negative effects of not changing these parts can include brake imbalance or pull, increased stopping distance, abnormal lining or drum wear, which this just adds to your cost brakes not adjusting correctly and unusual vibration and noise.

So it’s a good idea to get all these things changed and do it right the first time. Brake shoes and lining assemblies, basically at all times, if you are going to do a reline or if a reline is required, then it’s really important that that, just like with the spring brakes, you have matching set on each axle.

You should also reline both wheel ends of an axle. Both wheel ends of an axle must have the same type and manufacture of lining. So you can’t mix and match. You can’t even if you have the same type, let’s say you’re using a Meritor brake or a Haldex brake, you don’t want to throw an ff and a gg, right? Where you’ve got different friction, you’ve got a different aggressive friction lining, and you want to have a matching set on that axle on both wheel ends.

One of the things you can look for too is like when you’re replacing a shoe and lining assembly, when installing that reline shoe, you should still inspect the reline shoe. There’s some things you should think about. So for example, the edge codes, right? All the edge codes should match. So again, you might see 4707 for a q plus, but if it’s got a GG code on one and an FF on another, that’s two different kinds of friction material and that would be a mix and match set.

You want to make sure that the rivets are installed and tight. Sometimes when you’re re-riveting a shoe, if you’re going fast, you can actually not completely rivet one hole. So you can be bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, everything sounds good, but one of them, it didn’t compress the rivet enough and it’s actually loose and the rivet will just sit in there and that’ll could allow the friction material to move on the table.

So you don’t want that. You want to inspect all the welds for breaks. A good liner is inspecting not just the table, but also the welds and every part of the brake shoe to make sure that it is in a good working order and that it has not been stretched or the welds haven’t been broken. Also, when lining a new piece of friction material onto an old shoe, if the rivet is riveted too tightly, it can actually crack or break the friction.

So there were times when our machine would just come out of alignment and we would actually hit and the rivet would be too tight and it would actually break a piece of the lining right off the friction material, and then that was no good. You had to strip all the lining off of it and try again. So you have to look for that because sometimes it won’t break it right off, which is very obvious. Sometimes it just cracks the friction.

But over time, that crack will grow and then it will break off, but it’ll break off inside of the drum. And then you have problems. So want to make sure that there’s no broken crack lining gaps between the lining and the shoe. And you also want to look at the anchor pin and roller seats to look for wear. So sometimes you’ll see that it’s mushroomed or flared, that’s a bad thing.

That’s a re-liner who didn’t inspect that properly and should have taken that brake shoe out of service, but they painted it, relined it, and sent it back out to you. But if it’s mushroomed or flared in that seat, then that that’s not a usable shoe. You should return that to your supplier and get one that’s done right. Again, it’s really important to look for contaminated lining as well. So when you’re inspecting your foundation brakes, make sure you look for that contaminated lining.

If you see that, that’s an indication usually that there has been a seal that has gone. So you might look at the camshaft seal to see if there’s any evidence of grease leaking into the drum area. If that’s the case, the seals must be replaced. I’m not going to go over the entire RP with you, but you get the idea when you are inspecting your foundation brake, there is as many as 24 or more parts that you are inspecting.

They all have to be up to code, they all have to be working properly in order to get a safe braking application. But let’s talk a little bit more about not just the inspection, not just the maintenance, but let’s talk specifically about friction material. When we get back from our break, I’m going to share with you one of the original Heavy Duty Parts Report interviews done with an absolute master at brake friction.

And you’re going to learn quite a bit about friction, and I think it’s going to help you, especially if you sell parts to make good recommendations to your customers on what friction material they should be using. So come back after our break and listen in to that interview.

Commercial Break:

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break. Before the break, we were talking about how the CVSA has announced that Brake Safety Week is going to be August 20th to 26th. 2023. We reviewed some of the information in RP 607C put out by the Technology and Maintenance Council that really helps you to understand everything you need to know about preventative maintenance and inspection of your s-cam foundation brakes.

Of course, there’s also air disc brake that you have to worry about if your fleet has vehicles with air disc brake, and that comes under a different RP, but the principles behind it are all the same. Now I want to share with you one of our original interviews done way back on July 1st, 2019. This was Episode 4. This was actually our first interview. The first three episodes of The Heavy Duty Parts Report were solo shows of just me kind of explaining what who I was and what I was trying to do.

But one of the things that was really important to me when I launched the show was when I sold parts, I went out on the road with manufacturing reps and these people had tremendous amounts of technical experience and we would have amazing conversations with customers. And it dawned on me that many of these reps that I work with are fast approaching retirement, and once they’re gone and they’ve left the industry, the chances of us being able to get access to that information diminishes every day after their retirement.

So I wanted to start recording some of these conversations with some of the best minds in the business, people with 30-40 years’ experience and try to capture that for the benefit of everybody. One such example is Bob Hicks. Now, Bob Hicks is now retired, but he was the president of Marathon Brake for over 10 years. He was at Carlisle, I believe for over 23 years. This man knew friction material. He knows more about friction material than probably 10 of us combined.

And I got the chance to actually interview him back on July 1st, 2019. I want to re-air that interview and we’re going to specifically play some of just the gold nuggets that he shared, the wisdom that he shared about how to sell premium brake material to a fleet, to focus on what premium actually means, how it contributes to lower cost of operation, how cheap brakes are actually made, and what differentiates, let’s say the best quality brake, the mid quality and the low quality.

And as someone who worked for a manufacturer, he’s very open and honest and candid about exactly how they go about producing high quality, mid quality and low quality friction material. And really all friction material manufacturers are subject to the same physical limitations of the raw materials that they use. That’s a little hint of what you’re going to learn.

So I hope you enjoy one of our original interviews with Bob Hicks who worked for Marathon Break and Carlisle. One thing I’ll just add to that is that back then we weren’t doing video, so this is audio only. So on the video version of this, we’re going to provide a lot of B-roll as Bob is talking so that we can show some of the things he was talking about. But back then we weren’t doing video, we were just doing audio.

So if you’re just watching on YouTube, that’s why it’s just B-roll and there’s no images of Bob. If you’re listening, it doesn’t matter because you’re just listening to the audio. So I hope you enjoy this interview with Bob Hicks, former President of Marathon Break and someone who worked at Carlisle for over 23 years. So one of the first things that Bob talked about in this interview is how to help fleets buy quality brakes. Listen to what he had to say.

Bob Hicks:

Well, I think it really depends on the way we approach a customer and describe to him based on their application, what’s the appropriate material for them. Just as an example, we offer six or seven different products in both 20,000 pound axle range and also 23 K. And so our guys are experts in identifying what product they should recommend for specific applications. And that’s what we do. As far as the discussion about why the Marathon product is different other than the density is one of the tools that our guys have is they carry around little cups of all of our different raw materials.

And the raw materials that are used in lining is really the key to the quality of it and how it’s going to perform. And we try to describe that to our customers in a way that makes it easier for them to understand because typically, especially if it’s an OEM dealer, when they’re trying to sell a brake shoot to a fleet customer, they don’t even know what it is they have.

They’re selling on price. And needless to say, that’s not very beneficial to us as a manufacturer. And in many cases it’s detrimental to a fleet too because he’s buying something with an expectation that it’s going to perform for his application, whereas it may not. And a lot of it’s driven because he’s looking for the cheapest price.

Jamie Irvine:

Bob goes into more depth about how raw materials affect the friction material that is produced and how that correlates to the cost of making a piece of friction material. And what was really interesting about this point is there’s really only one way for brake manufacturers to lower their cost and offer you a lower cost brake. Listen for what that one way is.

Bob Hicks:

The raw material represents way more than 50% of the cost. And the cost of the raw material, depending on what it is, can vary dramatically as well because we have to offer economy products as well because there’s a certain segment of the market that that’s really all I want. And so in order for us to participate in that part of the market, we have to make products like that too.

But when we do that, we sacrifice the raw materials that we use in order to take cost out. And generally what that does is it does two things. It’ll make the material weaker and not stronger, and it’ll make it wear faster instead of wearing as best you possibly could support. So yeah, that’s basically it in a nutshell. The raw materials are critical.

Jamie Irvine:

One of the ways that brake manufacturers, so friction material manufacturers try to promote their different quality of brakes is by putting out different results of different tests. But here’s the thing, all brake material has to pass the FMVSS121 standard, but then they’ll use other tests to try to show how good their or what quality their break material is. So Bob explains what a transverse rupture test is in that original interview. I wanted to share that with you now.

Bob Hicks:

Yeah, what you do is you cut a piece of lining about four inches long and about a half an inch wide, and you put it on a machine that’s got a gap in the center and you rest the two ends of the lining on either side, and there’s a ram that will come down on the center of the piece and it’ll keep, it’ll push down until the lining actually breaks. And what you’re measuring is that how much pressure does it take before the material fails. And that’s what that test is for.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s important to understand how these tests work and how it correlates to the federal standard and how, depending on what they do with the test, give them different data that they can publish. You have to be really careful about what data you’re using when you’re promoting friction material. I talked to Bob specifically though about brake fade because that’s an important thing to understand when we’re talking about the performance of friction material. Listen to what Bob had to say about brake fade.

Bob Hicks:

First of all, linings fade. What’s important is that what temperature that it fades and also how fast it recovers after it cools down. And so once again, this gets back to the raw material content. What you really want to have is a line that provides the amount of retardation that’s been designed for the axle load that you have, and you want it to fade at some point because all linings will fade out and there won’t be any friction at all and you can’t let the fit lining get too hot because it won’t work anymore.

And so it has to fade a little bit. But the key is how quickly it recovers once the temperature starts to drop again, because it takes a while for a brake to cool down like that. And typically what causes that extremely high temperature is either driver abuse or in some cases the adjuster is not correct and the lining is being dragged that causes tremendous amount of heat.

And there’s a variety of other things that might cause, I mean, sometimes you hear about wheel fires. I mean, I remember just two weeks ago we had an incident where a bus had a wheel fire and it burned a bus down. I mean, those are really expensive problems to have. So, but the fade is actually designed into the lining itself, and you want to have some, just as an example, that’s the way drum brakes are designed.

Disc brakes virtually have no fade whatsoever. I mean, in order for a disc brake to not be able to perform, it’s got to get extremely hot. And that’s why at different times during the last 20 years, having a, for example, a truck with a disc brake system on it and a trailer with a drum brake system because the vehicle that’s got disc brakes, they’re, they’re not going to fade and the drum brakes will. So it’s just the nature of the design of the s-cam brake versus a disc brake.

Jamie Irvine:

We have a lot of customers that operate in the mountains. So brake fade is something that happens. I guess that heat is generated because of the tremendous weight that they’re trying to slow down coming down the side of a rocky mountain. But in another application, we deal with a lot of people that are off-road. Their wheels are submersed in mud and sand and dirt at times. They’re even being pulled by D-8 cats to get on and off a lease site. This is pretty extreme environment. What things should a mechanic be thinking about or a small fleet when they’re looking at buying brakes when they’re in that kind of an environment?

Bob Hicks:

That’s a difficult question because brakes were not designed to run in those, that type of environment because you want to have a clean surface between the friction and the brake drum. And so if you have sand in there, sand is especially bad because it’s an abrasive that will score the drum and the friction itself. And so it’s going to wear out the brake lining very quickly.

Mud is not as bad, but it’s not going to help the stopping power because if you have mud in there, you’re not going to get the same amount of braking power that you normally would. So the off-road environment that you’re describing is extremely difficult, and they really have to maintain these things almost on a daily basis to make sure that the drum to friction mating surface is kept clean. Brakes don’t work, if they’re not.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. So now that you understand, first of all how brakes are made cheaper by removing raw material, we understand what the federal is and also some of the other tests that are done, we understand what brake fade is. I wanted you to listen to what Bob had to say when talking about the difference in raw material and how that relates to performance.

So we talked about how it relates to cost, but listen to what Bob had to say about how it relates specifically to performance. And then think about your customers and think about the brake material you’ve been selling them and make sure that you’re selling the correct material for the application. So listen to what Bob had to say about the relationship between raw material and wear characteristics.

Bob Hicks:

What the difference is in the raw materials between our premium products to the middle of the road products to the economy grade products are all related to what’s in the raw materials, and as you remove a certain percentage of your more expensive raw materials, typically what you sacrifice is wear. Not performance, because regardless of whether it’s an economy grade product or premium grade product, it still has to pass the 121 test at the axle load that it’s recommended for.

So the actual retardation in it, the lining puts out would be the same regardless of what grade it’s, but what what’s going to be sacrificed as you go down the food chain in the quality aspect is going to be wear, that’s the primary difference.

Jamie Irvine:

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode about your preventative maintenance and inspection of your foundation brake, specifically your s-cam foundation break. Don’t forget, break safety week, August 20th to 26th. 2023. Don’t be one of the 13% of vehicles that got put out of service last year in the over 38,000 inspections conducted at last year’s break safety week. We want to make sure you’re in that group, that overwhelming group who passed inspections. Let’s get that over 90% this year.

Thank you so much for listening. I hope you appreciated all of the wisdom shared by Bob Hicks, who’s now retired, but former President of Marathon Brake. If you’re looking for friction material for brake shoes for foundation, brake replacement parts, head over to find it parts and look for the parts that you’re looking for. The great thing about Find It Parts is they’re going to tie you in to inventory all over North America.

So if you need product and you need it tomorrow, we can get access to these large volumes of inventory all over North America, and you can get what you need, and you don’t have to be on the phone making lots of phone calls. You just go in, hit that search bar, couple clicks, put in a couple part numbers, and there you’re going to have everything you need.

So check out Find It Parts for all of your parts needs. Thank you so much for listening to The Heavy Duty Parts report. If you haven’t had the chance already, head over to heavy duty parts report.com and click the follow button. Sign up to our weekly email so you never miss out on the content that we put out.

If you prefer to watch our interviews, you can go over to our YouTube channel and hit that subscribe button. Or if you are a podcast listener, you can get The Heavy Duty Parts Report wherever you get your podcast. And don’t forget to follow us for free on the podcast player of your choice. As always, I want to encourage everybody to Be Heavy-Duty. Thanks so much for listening. We’ll talk to you soon.

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