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2.17.2 – How to Stop Quickly and Safely

If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you, your natural response is to hit the brakes. This is a good response if there is enough distance to stop and you use the brakes correctly. You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary. You can use the “controlled braking” method or the “stab braking” method.

Controlled Braking. With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Re-apply the brakes as soon as you can.

Stab Braking

  • Apply your brakes all the way.
  • Release brakes when wheels lock up.
  • As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to one second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you re-apply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle will not straighten out.)

Do Not Jam on the Brakes. Emergency braking does not mean pushing down on the brake pedal as hard as you can. That will only keep the wheels locked up and cause a skid. If the wheels are skidding, you cannot control the vehicle.

2.17.3 – Brake Failure

Brakes kept in good condition rarely fail. Most hydraulic brake failures occur for one of two reasons: (Air brakes are discussed in Section 5.)

  • Loss of hydraulic pressure.
  • Brake fade on long hills.

Loss of Hydraulic Pressure. When the system will not build up pressure, the brake pedal will feel spongy or go to the floor. Following are things you can do:

  • Downshift. Putting the vehicle into a lower gear will to slow the vehicle.
  • Pump the Brakes. Sometimes pumping the brake pedal will generate enough hydraulic pressure to stop the vehicle.
  • Use the Parking Brake. The parking or emergency brake is separate from the hydraulic brake system. Therefore, it can be used to slow the vehicle. However, be sure to press the release button or pull the release lever at the same time you use the emergency brake so you can adjust the brake pressure and keep the wheels from locking up.
  • Find an Escape Route. While slowing the vehicle, look for an escape route — an open field, side street or escape ramp. Turning uphill is a good way to slow and stop the vehicle. Make sure the vehicle does not start rolling backward after you stop. Put it in low gear, apply the parking brake and, if necessary, roll back into some obstacle that will stop the vehicle.

Brake Failure on Downgrades. Going slow enough and braking properly will almost always prevent brake failure on long downgrades. Once the brakes have failed, however, you are going to have to look outside your vehicle for something to stop it.

Your best hope is an escape ramp. If there is one, there will be signs telling you about it. Use it. Ramps are usually located a few miles from the top of the downgrade. Every year, hundreds of drivers avoid injury to themselves or damage to their vehicles by using escape ramps. Some escape ramps use soft gravel that resists the motion of the vehicle and brings it to a stop. Others turn uphill, using the hill to stop the vehicle and soft gravel to hold it in place.

Any driver who loses brakes going downhill should use an escape ramp if it is available. If you do not use it, your chances of having a serious crash may be much greater.

If no escape ramp is available, take the least hazardous escape route you can, such as an open field or a side road that flattens out or turns uphill. Make the move as soon as you know your brakes do not work. The longer you wait, the faster the vehicle will go, and the harder it will be to stop.

Multiple-Choice Questions:

Question #150 (1 of 5)

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What is controlled braking?

  • You stay in control of your braking by remaining gentle and consistent at all times, never pressing hard enough to rock the suspension forward
  • You apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels
  • You apply the brakes as hard as you can until you lock up the wheels. Then release the brakes to allow the tires to roll again. Repeat if necessary.
  • Get on the brakes slightly and steer somewhat aggresively at the same time. The combination of steering and braking at the same time gives you more control and stability

Controlled Braking. With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Re-apply the brakes as soon as you can.

Turning and braking at the same time in an emergency is extremely difficult and dangerous, especially in a tractor-trailer with a high center of gravity. It's easy to cause a rollover. Be aware of this and try to be as gentle as possible with your steering and braking.
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Question #152 (2 of 5)

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What can you do if you lose hydraulic brake pressure?

  • Use the parking brake
  • All of these are good options
  • Pump the brake
  • Downshift

Loss of Hydraulic Pressure. When the system will not build up pressure, the brake pedal will feel spongy or go to the floor. Following are things you can do:

  • Downshift. Putting the vehicle into a lower gear will to slow the vehicle.
  • Pump the Brakes. Sometimes pumping the brake pedal will generate enough hydraulic pressure to stop the vehicle.
  • Use the Parking Brake. The parking or emergency brake is separate from the hydraulic brake system. Therefore, it can be used to slow the vehicle. However, be sure to press the release button or pull the release lever at the same time you use the emergency brake so you can adjust the brake pressure and keep the wheels from locking up.
  • Find an Escape Route. While slowing the vehicle, look for an escape route — an open field, side street or escape ramp. Turning uphill is a good way to slow and stop the vehicle. Make sure the vehicle does not start rolling backward after you stop. Put it in low gear, apply the parking brake, and, if necessary, roll back into some obstacle that will stop the vehicle.
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Question #149 (3 of 5)

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If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you:

  • Get on the brakes hard and steer right at the same time. This will give you good control and take you in the safest direction
  • None of these are the correct response
  • Try to stay off the brakes completely and steer around the problem
  • You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary.

If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you, your natural response is to hit the brakes. This is a good response if there is enough distance to stop and you use the brakes correctly. You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary. You can use the “controlled braking” method or the “stab braking” method.

Turning and braking at the same time in an emergency is extremely difficult and dangerous, especially in a tractor-trailer with a high center of gravity. It's easy to cause a rollover. Be aware of this and try to be as gentle as possible with your steering and braking.
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Question #151 (4 of 5)

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What is stab braking?

  • None of these definitions are correct
  • Apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking up the wheels
  • Apply the brakes lightly. Once the vehicle has slowed to a reasonable speed you can stab the brake pedal to bring it safely to a stop
  • Apply the brakes all the way. Release the brakes when the wheels lock up. As soon as the wheels start rolling again, apply the brakes fully again.

Stab Braking

  • Apply your brakes all the way.
  • Release brakes when wheels lock up.
  • As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to one second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you re-apply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle will not straighten out.)
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Question #153 (5 of 5)

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If you lose your brakes going down a steep grade, which of the following is true:

  • Use an escape ramp if it is available. If you do not use it, your chances of having a serious crash may be much greater.
  • Steering gently back and forth will create additional friction which will slow the vehicle surprisingly fast, even without brakes.
  • If your foot brake fades to failure, use the trailer hand brake. This will normally still work in an emergency
  • Do not use an escape ramp if at all possible. This is an outdated method of stopping. If you try to ride it out on the highway, your chances of surviving are better.

Brake Failure on Downgrades. Going slow enough and braking properly will almost always prevent brake failure on long downgrades. Once the brakes have failed, however, you are going to have to look outside your vehicle for something to stop it.

Your best hope is an escape ramp. If there is one, there will be signs telling you about it. Use it. Ramps are usually located a few miles from the top of the downgrade. Every year, hundreds of drivers avoid injury to themselves or damage to their vehicles by using escape ramps. Some escape ramps use soft gravel that resists the motion of the vehicle and brings it to a stop. Others turn uphill, using the hill to stop the vehicle and soft gravel to hold it in place.

Any driver who loses brakes going downhill should use an escape ramp if it is available. If you do not use it, your chances of having a serious crash may be much greater.

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