Common Causes of Semi-Truck Brake Issues

Brake failure has the potential to be catastrophic for any vehicle. For semi-trucks, the risks are even greater since these vehicles are so much larger than a standard passenger vehicle and require more force to stop. Even though complete brake failure is relatively rare, any reduction in the amount of force brakes can apply can have serious consequences. Commercial drivers have a responsibility to make safety a priority, and this includes taking steps to prevent brake issues.

Some common causes of semi-truck brake issues to be aware of include:

Improper Maintenance

It’s essential to inspect your semi-truck before you hit the road each day. Doing so is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and it helps you catch any potential maintenance issues before they become serious. Failing to perform these inspections or not getting maintenance when your truck needs this can cause brake issues to get worse over time.


If you are braking too hard or using excessive force when braking, especially when descending steep hills you are over-breaking. Over-braking can overheat the brake drum and weaken the brakes over time. To prevent this, use a hard and short intermittent brake application instead of holding the brakes for a long stretch of time.

Airline Damage

Since semi-trucks typically use air brakes instead of hydraulic systems, they won’t run out of brake fluid or experience these types of issues. Air brakes are more effective for vehicles of this size, but that doesn’t mean these systems never have issues. If there is any damage to the airline, the air will not be pressurized properly and you won’t be able to brake as effectively. Cracks, tears, breaks, or worn-down areas of the airline are some possible causes.

Brake Lock

If the brake shoe on your truck becomes stuck, this is known as brake lock. If your truck has a sluggish acceleration, this may be the cause of that issue. This is due to the shoe struggling to release after it has been engaged.

Improper Loading

An uneven load does not distribute weight properly in the trailer, and this can lead to issues with braking. It may be more difficult to stop if this is the case. This is why even if you aren’t directly responsible for loading and unloading your truck, you should still check to make sure the distribution of weight isn’t causing any problems.

What to Do If Your Brakes Fail

Although full brake failure is unlikely, especially if you are keeping up with maintenance, it’s a good idea to know what to do just in case. If your semi-truck brakes fail, you should first downshift. If you’re on a downgrade, there are often runaway truck areas at regular intervals that you can drive toward. Otherwise, look for other possible escape routes such as an open field or side street. Going uphill is also a possible way to slow the truck down. Engage the emergency brake to stop the truck, but do so slowly to avoid the wheels locking up.

Learn to Be a Safe Trucker

At Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, we teach our students valuable skills to help them become safe truckers.

To learn more about our commercial driver’s license training program, contact us today.

Tips for Semi-Truck Tire Maintenance

No one likes a flat tire or blowout, no matter what type of vehicle they’re driving. In addition to being inconvenient, blowouts on a tractor-trailer have the potential to cause serious accidents. This is why semi-truck tire maintenance is so essential. 


These tips can help you avoid tire failure, improving safety while also helping save you time and money: 

1. Always Perform Thorough Pre-Trip Inspections

When it comes to any potential maintenance issue, pre-trip inspections are one of your best tools for preventing problems before they occur. These daily inspections are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and you’ll need to know how to perform one to get your commercial driver’s license (CDL). Tires are one of the many parts you’ll check during these inspections. 


Unfortunately, many drivers get less thorough over time when it comes to pre-trips. Avoid the impulse to “save time” by shortening your daily inspections. Taking a few extra minutes in the morning to make sure your vehicle is in good working condition could save you hours of downtime due to a flat tire, or worse. 

2. Check Air Pressure With A Gauge

Some truckers swear they can tell if a tire is underinflated solely based on its appearance. Others may also use a “thump” check. While these can certainly help you catch a seriously underinflated tire, it’s easy to miss a less severe underinflation or overinflation, and these still need to be addressed. 

3. Ensure The Tread Isn’t Worn Down

To be safe to drive, your tires need to have enough tread. One trick to check this is to place a penny with Lincoln’s head pointing down in between the tread grooves. If you can see Lincoln’s face, the tire is too worn down. You should also check for any uneven wear on the tires. 

4. Rotate Tires Regularly

Just like you rotate tires on a four-wheeler, you need to rotate them regularly on a semi-truck as well to keep tire wear even. There are various methods for determining how often to do this, and if you’re a company driver, there may be a policy in place as a guideline. Otherwise, you should aim to rotate the tires at least once during their expected mileage lifespan, either at the halfway mark or at each quarter mark depending on various factors. Other truckers prefer to rotate based on measuring the difference in tread wear between the tires. 


If possible, try to schedule tire rotations during other required maintenance visits. This helps you reduce downtime. 

5. Practice Safe Driving

The way you drive impacts how quickly your tires wear down and helps you avoid flats and blowouts over time. 


Here are some safe driving tips that can improve the mileage you get out of your semi-truck tires: 


  • Avoid accelerating too quickly or braking suddenly. 
  • Maintain a safe speed. 
  • Be careful around curbs. 

Learn Safe Driving Habits at Phoenix Truck Driving Institute

At our CDL school, we teach our students the skills they need to succeed in the trucking industry. This includes going over important safety information and covering key maintenance topics, like how to care for semi-truck tires and how to perform pre-trip inspections. 


Contact us today to learn how we can help you earn your CDL in as little as four weeks. 

All About Semi-Truck Fuel Efficiency

While semi-truck fuel efficiency has improved significantly over the past century, diesel is still one of the biggest expenses in the trucking industry. The average semi-truck gets around 6.5 miles per gallon (MPG) as opposed to the average car, which gets around 25 MPG. 


The difference in fuel economy between a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck is due to the considerable difference in weight. For semis, efficiency also depends on the make and model of the truck, how big of a load it is hauling, and if the truck is driving up or downhill.


Fuel efficiency is important for truck drivers because they often trek upwards of 100,000 miles every year. Although drivers don’t have a lot of control over the weight of their vehicle, there are some steps that can be taken to get the most mileage out of a full tank of fuel.


Follow these four tips for a more fuel-efficient vehicle:

1. Regulate Your Speed 

In any vehicle, maintaining a constant speed also maintains steady fuel usage. Try to stay in one gear for as long as possible as you follow the speed limit of the road. For every MPH increase above 55 MPH, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency reduces by 0.1 MPG.

2. Avoid Idling 

Another way to get the most out of your tank is to avoid idling whenever possible. Many drivers leave their vehicle running so they can run an errand, maintain its internal temperature during extreme weather, or avoid restarting it. However, it is a good rule of thumb to not leave your semi idling for longer than five minutes at a time. Each hour of idling your truck can burn a gallon of diesel and contribute to decreasing fuel efficiency. 

3. Take Advantage of Cruise Control 

Excessive acceleration and braking will negatively affect the fuel efficiency of your semi-truck. Taking advantage of cruise control will keep you driving at a steady and safe speed at all times. Just be sure you continue to pay close attention to the road. 


You can also try coasting when possible. Driving a heavy truck builds up a lot of momentum. Periodically using this built-up momentum rather than the gas pedal to propel you forward can add up and save you on fuel.

4. Check Tire Pressure 

In addition to making sure you choose the right tires for your vehicle, it will also help fuel efficiency to keep them in good condition. Check your tire pressure regularly to make sure they are not underinflated. If your tires are underinflated by 10 pounds per square inch (PSI), your fuel consumption increases by 1.5%. 

Additional Tips

A few more ways to maximize fuel efficiency in your semi-truck are:


  • Watch out for slippery roads.
  • Stay in top gear and shift as little as possible.
  • Don’t overfill your fuel tank.
  • Fix your roof-mounted air deflectors. 

Earn your CDL with Us

If you are interested in pursuing a truck driving career, take the first step by earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL). At Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, we can help you get on the road in as little as four weeks.

To learn more about how to earn your CDL through our training program, contact us today.

Driving a Semi-Truck in Windy Weather

Semi-truck drivers are on the road a lot during ever-changing weather. There are many challenging driving conditions you’ll encounter over the course of your career, and one of these is driving in high winds. If you find yourself in a wind storm while on the road, the best thing you can do is come prepared. 


These six tips will help you safely drive a semi-truck in windy weather:

1. Check the Weather Before Your Trip

The first step you can take to stay safe while driving during windy weather is to prepare yourself for the conditions. Check the weather before you leave on your route so you know what to expect. If the forecast is calling for a storm, look out for the frequency of the wind as well as the speed of the gusts. In general, wind speeds above 60 miles per hour (mph) are dangerous for semi-trucks.

2. Slow Down

Truckers should always exercise caution when driving a semi, especially in less than ideal circumstances. It is okay to drive slower than your usual speed if it makes you feel safer, even if it is below the speed limit. Listen to how your truck is holding up in the bad weather and adjust accordingly.

3. Consider Your Surroundings

Paying close attention to your surroundings when driving in windy weather can be the difference between being involved in an accident or avoiding one. To prevent a crash, do not pass other vehicles or make sudden lane changes on the highway. It is also important to be cautious when driving through bridges, overpasses, and tunnels.

4. Know When to Pull Over

Sometimes, wind speeds will just be too high for you to keep driving safely. It is important to know when it is best to stop driving rather than try to power through. If you do decide to pull over, try to park next to a building so it can block some of the wind from hitting your vehicle and make sure your truck is visible to anyone passing by. 

5. Secure All Doors and Exposed Items

Preparing your semi-truck before a trip is another step you can take to drive safely when it’s windy. During your pre-trip inspection, make sure that the doors of your vehicle are closed tightly. In addition, tie down any other exposed items that have the potential to come loose while you are driving. 

6. Keep a Firm Grip on the Wheel

Keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel is a good practice to keep a handle on your truck, but it is especially crucial when the wind picks up. Gusts of wind can force your vehicle side to side, causing you to veer off the road. Keeping both hands firmly on the wheel can ensure that you safely stay on course.

Learn How to Be a Safe Truck Driver

While you are earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL) at Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, we will teach you the necessary skills to be a safe and successful truck driver. Our accelerated program can get you out on the road in as little as four weeks. We also offer job placement assistance to help you find employment as soon as possible after earning your license. Many of our students even have offers before graduation. 

Contact us today for more information about our truck driving school.