00:00 00:00


Preparing for Brake Safety Week 2024

Tips to Help You Inspect Your Brakes Ahead of Brake Safety Week

Episode 325:  Brake Safety Week is coming up at the end of August. Last year, over 500 commercial vehicles were removed from North American roads after just one day of surprise inspections for having brake components that were unsafe. To help us prepare ahead for this year we talked to brake expert Don Orrell, Founder and CEO of TorqStop Brakes.

Don tells us what to watch for when it comes to contamination or cracks on our brakes, and also discusses his firm belief that new is better than remanufactured. We end this episode with a video clip that shows the horrible consequences of not maintaining your commercial vehicle and having a complete brake failure in traffic.


Sponsors of this Episode

Heavy Duty Consulting Corporation: Find out how many “fault codes” your heavy-duty parts business has. Meet with us today. Visit HeavyDutyConsulting.com

Hengst Filtration: There’s a new premium filter option for fleets. If you’re responsible for a fleet, you won’t believe how much using Hengst filters will save you. But you’ve got to go to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/Hengst to find out how much.

Diesel Laptops: Diesel Laptops is so much more than just a provider of diagnostic tools. They’re your shop efficiency solution company. Learn more about everything Diesel Laptops can do for you today by visiting DieselLaptops.com today.

HDA Truck Pride: They’re the heart of the independent parts and service channel. They have 750 parts stores and 450 service centers conveniently located across the US and Canada. Visit HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/HDATruckPride today to find a location near you.

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy Duty Parts Report may receive a commission. 

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.

Welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. In this episode, we’re going to talk about Brake Safety Week. It’s coming up in August and recently they did a surprise one day inspection. The results of that one day inspection have been published.

We’re going to review those results as well as we’re going to talk to a brake expert about what we can learn from the over 500 vehicles that were taken out of service on that day. Let’s get started. Now, before we bring on our featured guest, I wanted to take a minute to talk about your business.

At the Heavy Duty Consulting Corporation we work with dozens of heavy-duty companies and one thing that we have seen over time is that if business owners and leadership groups ignore the cracks in their business, then those can become catastrophic failures in the future.

And at the very minimum, they can be very costly to the business if they are ignored.

So just like with brakes, just like when there’s a crack in the friction material, if you ignore it, it’s going to lead to either a out of service roadside inspection where your vehicle gets pulled off the road, or worse, it could lead to a brake failure of some kind or a unsafe driving condition that leads to an accident and people get hurt. In any of those scenarios, this is not something that is good.

It’s not good for the driver, it’s not good for the fleet, certainly not good for people on the road. So when you’re running a heavy duty business, it’s very similar in that you can’t ignore these cracks that are really the early warning signs that there’s something deeper going on and should be addressed.

One of the things that we have discovered over the last few years is that when we work with clients, and let’s say for example, the client is looking to grow their parts business, they want to expand and we help them to do that.

If they don’t address other systems in the business, if they don’t address their financial systems, if they don’t address their operational systems, then any increase in volume can actually create a situation where the problems in those other departments are actually made or exposed and made larger by the increase in volume. And then those problems kind of manifest themselves and any growth that was achieved is quickly lost.

So it’s really important to look at your business like you do with a foundation brake. You look at the entire system, you don’t just look at the friction material or the brakes you or pad, you don’t just look at the drum or rotor, you look at the entire foundation brake system to make sure that there aren’t problems and you fix whatever problems you find in a business.

You have to take the same approach, and that’s something that we have developed in our consulting work that we do with our clients.

We’ve developed our own set of systems that guide our clients through an analysis of their business, and we call that pre-scan. And pre-scan is where we treat a heavy-duty parts or service business just like you do a commercial truck, we scan it for fault codes, we identify symptoms, we do a root cause analysis to make sure that any upstream or downstream issues are clearly understood and that we are addressing the root problem.

We put that together in a strategy and then we help our clients execute on that to solve those problems permanently and to allow them to really work on the entire business system. If this is something that interests you, head over to heavydutypartsreport.com.

You’ll notice in our top menu there is now a consulting button. You can click that, it’ll take you right through to our consulting website where you can very easily book a meeting with us to discuss your specific situation.

Okay, so we’re just going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. We’ll be right back.

Are you deferring maintenance because of filter cost or availability or worse yet, are you trading down to no name filters to try to save a few bucks? Either way, you are rolling the dice. The good news, there’s a new premium filter option for fleets Hengst Filtration. If you’re responsible for a fleet, you won’t believe how much using Hengst Filters will save you, but you’ve got to go to heavydutypartsreport.com/hengst to find out more.

That’s heavydutypartsreport.com/hengst. Head there now.

At Diesel Laptops, they go way beyond diagnostic tools. They are your complete shop efficiency partner from diesel technician training to complete repair information, parts lookup tools and robust technical support. They are there to support you every step of the way.

Learn more and download your free starter pack today by visiting diesellaptops.com. That’s diesellaptops.com.

We’re back from the break and it’s now time for our featured guest interview where we are going to talk to Don Orrell.

He’s a returning guest on the show. You can watch or listen to his original interview by checking out episode 290. We talked about how a brake system and when you look at the entire system properly, you can lower total cost of operation, but if you don’t do that, it can actually drive up your total cost of operation.

So that episode was entitled Brake Systems Affect Total Cost of Operation Links are in the show notes on our website if you are interested in learning more about that original interview. In this interview with Don, we’re going to talk about that surprise inspection that was done ahead of Brake Safety Week.

The results of that, we’re going to talk about the most common reasons, those over 500 vehicles were pulled off the road and he gives us some really practical advice on not only how to address those specific issues, but if you’re in the parts business, what kinds of parts you should be stocking, leading up to Brake Safety Week.

And the kinds of things you can talk to your customers about to help them to get ready so that when Brake Safety week comes up in August, they will sail right through with flying colors. I hope you enjoy my interview with Don Orell.

My guest today is Don Orrell, Founder and CEO of TorqStop Brakes. TorqStop Brakes sells premium brake parts for light, medium, and most importantly, heavy-duty commercial vehicles equipped with both hydraulic and air brake systems. Don is a returning guest. Don, welcome back to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Don Orrell:

Thanks, Jamie. Good to see you again.

Jamie Irvine:

Good to see you as well, my friend. So in a couple of months we are going to have the next Brake Safety Week. It is scheduled this year for August 25th to August 31st, 2024. Now each year there’s also an unannounced one day inspection where they catch people by surprise that has happened and they just posted the results on June 10th, which is the day before we are recording.

So when we look at the results of that surprise inspection day, we see that over 500 commercial vehicles were removed from North American roads due specifically to brake violations, and that’s what I really wanted to talk to a brake expert about. I wanted to talk about what they discovered, some of the common problems, what we can do about it, and if we sell parts, how we can get ready and help our customers get ready for Brake Safety Week.

So this year they made a big focus on friction material, brake linings and also on pads, and they made that the focus of the unannounced one day inspection. So what I wanted to know from you, Don, is what do we need to know about brake contamination because contamination was one of the reasons that some of those 500 vehicles were taken off the road.

Don Orrell:

Great question. Well, contamination can actually take place on a couple of different occasions. It can happen during installation or servicing. It can also happen just as it’s driving down the road.

It’s kind of obvious as to how it would happen in the shop during a service interval, brake clean and or any other kind of solvents that are used to service the vehicle quite commonly end up getting misapplied on the surface of either the rotor or the drum or even the friction material itself. So that’s kind of an easy one to prevent, just take proper care.

Less obvious and probably more commonly is picking up various levels of debris from out there in the environment on the road. Something I see a lot when I’m looking at both air disc and your more conventional S cam drum brakes is the lack of dust shields and other shielding that’s designed to minimize exposure to road debris.

Now this time of year, you’re not going to have such an issue with ice melting contaminants like you would in the winter months, but nonetheless, that’s stuff still out there and God knows what else is out there in the environment. So those are some of the leading causes of contamination.

Jamie Irvine:

Would it also be leaking wheel seals and things like that that then would coat the friction material with oil?

Don Orrell:

And shame on me for not bringing that one up. That’s, that’s also an extremely common issue, particularly on the oil bath seals where you have the bearings that are immersed in a gear oil bath because not only it’s just a little bit of grease where the bearing is packed, but you’ve got the whole axle full of gear oil that could potentially have a lot more contamination coming out there and exposing it to the system.

Jamie Irvine:

What happens to the brakes when they are contaminated? For some of the reasons that we just listed?

Don Orrell:

I mean any of those are going to diminish the effectiveness of the friction material. So especially in the case of a lubricant leak, obviously you don’t want to grease your friction material that’s kind of counterintuitive and counterproductive to what the brakes are designed to do.

So it’s easy to imagine how that would lead to a lower coefficient of friction and actually add to heat because now the brakes are trying to work so much harder and you got so much more application pressure trying to stop that vehicle and the temperature spike and that can lead to a lot of other issues as well.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. Another common reason for these 500 vehicles being pulled off the road according to the report that I found on CVSN site is that there was cracks in the friction material. So talk to me about, first of all, why does that happen and then talk to me about the impact it has on performance.

Don Orrell:

I’m going to assume that was more prevalent on drum brakes than on air disc. It can happen on air disc, but we don’t see it that much. On drum it happens all the time, and there’s a lot of things that can contribute to that. One of ’em, probably one of the most obvious is heat. Okay, so why is it getting hot? Well, it could be getting hot because an incorrect friction material was chosen for the given vocation.

So maybe a 23 K lining is warranted or a severe duty lining is warranted and instead an inexpensive lining is applied and that lining just isn’t capable of producing the mu or the coefficient of friction to stop the vehicle. So again, you have a lot more pedal pressure, your AL factor goes up, and a amount of torque that’s being applied to that brake system all generates heat and can create a cracking issue.

Another one is in the quality of the part itself. We see a lot of cracking around the rivet holes because of inexpensive manufacturing or remanufacturing processes where you have a mechanical semi-automatic riveting machine where one size fits all rivet.

Well, the counter sink on those rivet holes is not always perfect. So you can potentially have a rivet that’s a little too tight or a little too loose, a little too tight. It’s more prone to cause a crack, a little too loose, could cause vibration and premature wear and again, ultimately lead to a crack. So manufacturing processes are a part of it, but probably one of the biggest ones is just new versus reman shoe tables and steel.

You can put a premium lining on a reman shoe, but if that shoe is distorted and you don’t have a proper contact between the shoe and the drum because your brake shoe is not square, you’ve got a much smaller contact surface between the shoe and the drum.

So that contact surface that is taking place is working a lot harder. Again, generating more heat, that can cause a lot of issues as well. So if I had to pick one, I’d probably lean towards going with the new versus the reman. And of course I’m going to say that because all we sell is new shoes.

We are anti-core, and as I’ve mentioned in previous shows, we’ve trademarked the term core is a four letter word. We like to push new product because quite frankly it’s better and we’ve been able to close the gap from a cost perspective that they’re there really just isn’t a strong argument anymore to pinch the small amount of pennies that you’re going to get by going reline versus the benefits of putting a new shoe on.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I know when I was relining shoes, one of the things that we had to really watch is our riveter had to be maintained regularly. If it didn’t, it got out of adjustment and then yeah, you’d be cracking lining and you didn’t always see those cracks visually upon putting the friction on.

Sometimes that happened later on and the customer would send it back or maybe through shipping, but worst case scenario, it makes it onto a truck and then it cracks and then causes a problem. That was a great overview of those different reasons for crack lining. I really appreciate that.

Don Orrell:

If I may add one more thing on that really is that again, to plug my product, our process is uses a state-of-the-art hydraulic methodology, so it’s pressure sensitive versus clearance sensitive. So if there is that variation in the shoulder on that rivet hole, it compensates for that.

So there’s a certain amount of pressure where that rivet should be applied at. Whether the hole is a little too deep or a little too shallow, doesn’t matter, it’s going to apply that rivet correctly and therefore preserve the integrity of the brake block.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, another big reason for these vehicles being pulled off the road was just flat out excessive wear. So walk us through how do we get to a place where we have this commercial vehicle on public roads and the brake lining is excessively worn beyond the point of where it should be?

Don Orrell:

Well, first one is service intervals. How diligent is your shop and your maintenance protocols? If you’re ignoring them and you say, ah, I got automatic slacks on there, or it’s air disc, it adjusts itself and you’re not visually doing the visual inspection. There’s no substitute for looking at it, there’s just flat out.

So while it’s good that if you’ve taken the steps to have well-maintained, say automatic slacks or an air disc system, you still got to make sure that those service intervals are well kept up with because otherwise it can get away from you quickly. And next thing you know you’re down to metal on metal or you have very little friction left, and at that point you’re not just changing the shoe, but now you’re buying drums or rotors.

Jamie Irvine:

This also makes me think of when I was selling heavy-duty parts and I talked to fleets all the time about how the drivers have to help out a little bit too and identify problems early. You might have a broken component that causes the brake to drag or something like that, that adds to the excessive wear.

And if we can identify those things early, we can prevent it from being a problem and really putting the driver and others at risk as well as doing unnecessary or excessive wear on the individual brake components.

So Don, one of the other things that was on the list, this is the last one, is loose or missing brake components. So vehicles did get pulled off the road because of just completely missing part of your brakes. How the heck does that happen?

Don Orrell:

Well, I hate to throw the technicians under the bus, but that’s definitely something that there needs to be awareness that everything’s properly torqued and adjusted to spec.

But I think a lot of times this is really more a function of either a poor quality part where there’s actual part failure or again, service intervals if you’re not keeping an eye on it and something maybe is a little bit loose, that if there is a regular inspection that can be quickly corrected and then you’re on down the road versus something that is allowed to go on so long that eventually it causes a failure.

So I mean, it’s a combination of a lot of potential issues, but product quality, we can never ignore that. It’s the proverbial pay me now and pay me later. And the ones that you want to look at most frequently are the wear parts.

It’s whether the shoes or it be the pads, the attachment hardware is a big one. How many times do people reuse the old hardware because they don’t want to make the effort of opening the plastic bag that comes in the box and put the new stuff on? It boggles my mind, but you see it every day, that’s probably not a good idea.

And things like spring brakes and brake chambers in general, quite often it’s a race to who can buy the cheapest spring brake wins, and it’s not really a winning solution whatsoever because it’s a mission critical brake part that performs a lot of very important functions millions of times over the life of that vehicle.

Do you really want to try to save five or 10 bucks on a component that does the work that it is designed to do? I can never quite figure that out, quite frankly. But I mean, being frugal is one thing, being foolhardy is something different. So I think there’s a balance.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I agree with that a hundred percent. So if you’re a parts distributor and you’re really wanting to help your customers, your fleets and the repair shops who you serve who are taking care of the smaller fleets in the local area, you want to help them get ready for Brake Safety Week and make sure they pass with flying colors.

First of all, what should we be thinking about from a parts inventory perspective and then how would we go and have that conversation with our customers?

Don Orrell:

Good question. And again, I’ll go back to the wear parts. So you’re not necessarily going to stock up on an air disc caliper or a rotor, but you sure as heck want to make sure you’ve got pads and chambers. The same thing with drum brakes, automatic and or manual slacks.

That’s really a big piece of that whole brake maintenance and adjustment puzzle, even though I don’t sell them yet, but that’s definitely a product line extension we’re going to move it towards. But I mean, slacks are something that as those that are familiar with, it holds such a crucial role in making sure that not just your adjustment is correct, but from aware and longevity standpoint, but also purely from a stopping power and performance standpoint.

If that stroke is too long and you go too far beyond 90, your braking power is significantly diminished, and then again, it’s going to cause issues with requiring more pedal pressure and generating more heat and all those other different things.

So I think that visual inspection is important, but the wear parts, again in our portfolio plus others is the friction material, the slacks, the chambers, those are the ones that I would look at most closely because that’s the stuff that goes bad.

Jamie Irvine:

And how do you go and have that conversation with a fleet, let’s say ahead of time if you’re responsible for selling product in your local regional area, you want to try to help your fleets be more successful. So how would you go about having that conversation?

Don Orrell:

Well, my intention of going about that conversation is that we’re going to be running a big promo ahead of time, so I can put a plugin for that and punctuating the point that this is upcoming and be mindful of it and we can help you prepare in a very cost-effective manner. So let us help you.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, and I think that’s important. I know my customers, they always appreciate it because they’ve got their heads down, right? They’re involved in day-to-day operations, they’re trying to keep that fleet on the road.

They’ve got a thousand things to think about. And as a salesperson, especially if you’re working for one of your distributors and you’re out on the field, you want to be able to have conversations that have some value and by reminding them that this is coming up by reviewing with them their brake program, by making sure that the product matches the vocation that they’re in and that it’s working at the best level, that it’s truly lowering their total cost of operation and not artificially inflating their costs.

To your point, buying the wrong product or trying to cheap out where you shouldn’t. I think those kinds of things really make for a great sales conversation.

And certainly if you’re a supplier like you, you’re there to support the distributors and their customers. And if you’re in the distributor game, you’ve got to get out in the field and talk to your customers about this. So we purposely made this episode a couple months before Brake Safety Week. I think we’re six or seven weeks actually before Brake Safety Week actually happens.

This should give parts managers and salespeople time to get ready, and for parts managers who are responsible for purchasing, they can take advantage of your promotion. Just before we conclude the episode, what is one thing you want people to remember about our conversation today? What’s that one thing they should take away from the conversation?

Don Orrell:

To me, it’s always about quality over price, and it’s always great if you can get both. If you can get quality at a great price, go for it. And I think we offer that solution, as we’ve mentioned a couple times today, is trying to get the absolute least expensive solution typically never is, it ends up being more expensive in the long run. So that would be one. Another one of our longstanding beliefs is the value of a new product versus a reman product.

Again, the cost differential has come down to where I don’t think that the benefits or the cost savings of a remanufactured part any longer offset the quality improvements over new. So where it used to be half the price, now it’s only 10% less. Why would you not spend 10% more to get something that’s brand new that doesn’t have any of the other potential hidden issues that you may be unaware of?

If you look at a coined shoe that is freshly painted with fresh block on it and shiny rivets, it looks nearly as good as a new shoe, still doesn’t look as good because you can’t hide the pitting and you can’t hide the hole elongation and these things.

But in general, it looks 90% as good, but you’re not getting even 90% of the part. We strongly believe in the benefits of a all new part versus reman. So that would be something I think should be given a lot of consideration when you’re selecting your brake components because again, that’s going to come back on your cost per mile in the long run for sure.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. I’ve been speaking with Don Orell, Founder and CEO of TorqStop Brakes. To learn more about TorqStop, go to torqstop.com. Links are in the show notes. Don, thanks so much for coming back on the show and talking to me about brake safety. I really appreciate it.

Don Orrell:

Always a pleasure, Jamie. Thanks for having us.

Jamie Irvine:

What a great interview. It’s always such a privilege to talk to these knowledgeable people, people with over 40 years of experience. It’s one of the great privileges of hosting this show.

Don is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to brakes and you should really think about taking advantage of his upcoming specials. I think that’s an opportunity for you to save some money and get some quality products. So check that out. Okay, it’s time for, That’s NOT Heavy Duty.

In this edition of That’s NOT Heavy Duty. I want to show you a video of a truly scary situation. So for those of you that are just listening on the podcast, I will describe it to you, but if you want to go to the links in the show notes, we’ll include the link to the YouTube video so you can actually watch it. So here’s the situation.

There is a bunch of vehicles sitting at a red light at an intersection. All of a sudden at about the 24 second mark of the video, a semi-truck from behind rear ends, one of the cars pushes that car out of the way, runs the red light and enters the intersection t- boning a car that is traveling through the intersection on their green light. So they were totally allowed to go.

This truck is going right through and running that red light after it T-bones the car, it then rolls over and takes out a light post. Now, this could have been a far worse situation, and I think the driver probably has something to do with minimizing how bad it actually could have been.

But nonetheless, this is not a good situation. And when you look at the comments on the video and when you look at the video, you can see that this is a situation where the brakes had totally failed on the truck.

And if this was an unavoidable situation, okay, fine, accidents do happen. That’s why they’re called accidents. But it’s not heavy-duty to take a piece of commercial equipment out on public roads where they haven’t had their brakes properly maintained, where people have cheaped out on parts to try to save money or where they have just fully neglected the vehicle.

And that vehicle really should be out of service, but they take a chance on it. Any of those scenarios, that’s not heavy-duty. The heavy-duty way is to use high quality products to replace those products at the appropriate intervals and to ensure that the vehicle is safe before it goes out on the road.

So take a look at the video. If you’re like, say if you’re listening on the podcast and you want to watch it, just head over to the show notes on our website, heavydutypartsreport.com, and click the show notes for this episode and you will see in the link section, a link to the YouTube video.

It’s worth a watch, truly a scary situation. Well, that brings this episode to a close. It is summertime now and the spring Trade Show season is over. So I won’t have any new trade show events to share with you until we get to the fall, but I was privileged to be the host and moderator for a Pulse webinar at MEMA.

And if you’d like to check that out, go over to the links in our show notes for that webinar, and we are continuing to try to participate in as many industry events as possible to support our mission to help heavy duty people flourish. If you haven’t already, head over to heavydutypartsreport.com and follow the show by signing up to our weekly email. We send only one email a week.

We’re never going to spam you. If you like listening on the podcast player of your choice, make sure you hit the follow button for free. If it gives you the option to give us a five star rating and review, especially on Apple, we would really appreciate that.

If you like watching the video versions of our podcast, then by all means head over to YouTube and hit that subscribe button and that bell notification so you never miss out. Thank you so much for your ongoing support of The Heavy Duty Parts report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and as always, I want to encourage you to Be Heavy Duty.

Share this:


Receive a weekly email with links to the latest episodes.

You Won’t Believe How Much You Will Save.

Your Complete Shop Efficiency Partner.

Provide Your Customers with Complete Parts Visibility.

The Heart of the Independent Parts and Service Channel.

Your Ultimate Destination for Heavy-Duty Parts.