A requirement for operating this Class A, diesel, 44’ motor home – equipped with air brakes – is to have an air brake endorsement classification on our drivers license. In Ontario the classification is a “Z”. In the USA the classification is a “Q”.
Every province and most territories in Canada require drivers of vehicles equipped with air brakes to participate in an air brake program. In most cases the requirement refers to “commercial vehicles” and RV’s are often not specifically mentioned. So, of course, this opens up a lot to interpretation and confusion in the RV world.
We were confused also – so, rather than take any chances – we both signed up for the course!
The course was being offered in Niagara-on-the-Lake at one of the Ontario Truck Driving School locations. There were 11 of us in the class. Chuck and I were the only ones with an RV – the others were being trained to operate a tractor-trailer and/or heavy equipment. There was a young woman in the class so I was in good company!
This was a 2 day course and included both a written test and a practical test in a tractor-trailer. Of course, much of the content was not applicable to RV’s (bummer…) but educational nonetheless.
We learned about each of the brake components, demands on the brake system during vehicle operation, how to inspect air brake system components, how to inspect air brake adjustments, how to drain each of the 3 air tanks [the wet or supply tank, the primary tank and the secondary tank]. We learned the difference between “brake lag” and “break fade”.
The written test had 20 multiple choice questions and you were allowed no more than 4 incorrect answers to pass. The instructor was great at practice, practice and more practice. My 1st written test had 3 wrong! I couldn’t keep the numbers straight – 55 psi for low air warning; 90 – 100 psi for conducting tests; no more than 135 psi for the compressor governor to cut-out; 60 psi for the compressor governor to automatically cut-in, and more! Tests have ALWAYS made me nervous – but I could do this…
The 11 question practical test was conducted in a tractor-trailer.
To pass this section we needed to perform the following:
- Secure the vehicle
- Test the low-air warning device
- Test air pressure build-up time
- Confirm air compressor governor settings
- Test air loss rate
- Test the automatic application function of the trailer brakes
- Test the tractor protection valve
- Test the spring (emergency/parking) brakes
- Drain the air tanks
- Inspect brake-adjustment
- Indicate the correct response to defective vehicles conditions [record, report, remove from service]
While we didn’t actually drive the tractor-trailer we did have to start the engine; use the spring brakes; service brakes; change from neutral to drive and back [whew it was an automatic transmission]; chock the wheels; locate the air tanks; inspect the brake chambers and take measurements with the callipers and tape measure.
We both aced the written! 100%! The instructor actually commented “you guys make a good team”.
On the practical test – I had one error and Chuck had two. I didn’t have my foot on the brake during the Air Loss Rate test. And Chuck, his main one – he was revving the engine too high!
- only 1% of truck drivers check their brakes each day!
- Ministry of Transportation officials have as much authority as police – they can pull you over; revoke your license and impound your vehicle. Don’t ignore them if you see their lights flashing in your rear view mirror! AND, don’t give them attitude!
- As the speed of your vehicle is doubled, the braking requirements are 4x the original requirements… slow down!