Safety Comparison: Air Brakes vs Hydraulic Brakes

Both air brakes and hydraulic brakes are used on trucks where brake safety is of paramount importance. Brake failure on a truck can cause injury and even death. These days, hydraulic brakes have overhauled air brakes in terms of popularity.

Air Brakes

Air brakes, which were originally intended to stop trains, are very powerful. They became the standard for brakes right from the very first big trucks. For those working on air brakes, there’s one huge advantage because when lines are uncoupled, air is lost. However, this is the only thing that is lost and it’s easy to couple the lines again with few problems and no drips. A single pedal can work all the air brakes in the system which makes everything much easier for control.

Air Brakes Problems

The downside to air brakes is that they can fail under some circumstances. Air cools as it expands. When applying the brakes, the air has to cross the pressure-regulating valve as part of its expansion. The danger comes if the air in the system becomes cold enough to condense and even freeze. When that stage is reached, the air brakes are at risk of failure. Air brakes can develop compression problems. At times, when the brakes are compressed, there will be a delay in performance which can be dangerous.

Notably, these days it’s possible to couple air brakes with hydraulic brakes. This means that the air brake system doesn’t have to be replaced, but drivers and mechanics can enjoy the benefits of a hydraulic brake system.

Hydraulic Brakes Safety

The first hydraulic brakes appeared on cars in 1922. It’s only in more recent years that they’ve become powerful enough for use in commercial vehicles. They’ve come on very rapidly, however, to the point where they’re cheaper to install on a truck than air brakes and are less expensive to operate.

There have been a number of developments with hydraulic brakes that make them safer than air brakes. Now, you can find hydraulic brakes with traction control and anti-lock brake systems. They can even have electronic stability control, making them even safer overall than the brakes you have on your car. Where compression can cause problems with air brakes, the same isn’t true of hydraulic brakes as it’s almost impossible to compress them.

Tests have shown that vehicles equipped with hydraulic brakes can stop in shorter distances than those which have air brakes. This makes them safer in emergency situations.

Hydraulic Brakes Reliability

One modern feature with hydraulic brakes is the advent of leak-free couplers for hydraulic brakes. This allows the brake lines to be coupled and uncoupled without any fluid leaking, so there’s no loss of brake fluid.

There are fewer components in a hydraulic brake system. This means that the system is going to be more reliable as there’s less that can go wrong. It also leads to reduced maintenance costs, which is always an advantage especially with a fleet of vehicles. As the brakes take up less space, it becomes easier to design vehicles, too.