In the past several years I did an EVOC class in Canada and found a fire department that had taken their fire apparatus to a local heavy duty truck dealer to get their trucks evaluated by a computer system that measures vehicle safety and it is a test that is performed annually. The evaluation is centered on a computer based system called Vis-Check. Vis-Check is being used by heavy duty truck shops around the world as a diagnostics tool, checking braking systems, weight distribution and handling characteristics for large trucks.
So I wanted to learn more so I googled Vis-Check and found that their U.S. based distribution center was in Orlando Florida. One phone call later and I found that a long time, well respected heavy duty truck brake and spring facility had the closest Vis-Check to my home in Orange County New York. So I took a trip to the City of Newburgh to McDonald and McDonald to learn more about Vis-Check.
I met with Tom McDonald president of McDonald and McDonald who gave me a tour of his facility and an education on Vis-Check. McDonald stated that his machine was about 8 years old and the machine’s technology was designed and built in Australia for the Australian large truck combinations called Road Trains. Road Trains are large tractor trailer combinations that may have as many as one tractor pulling four or five full size trailers and where the brakes on the last axle on the last trailer have to activate first. This technology was used to calibrate brake systems in conjunction with the weight to bring these large, heavy vehicles to a safe stop. The cost for the Vis-Check machine was $115,000.00 when it was new and McDonald and McDonald charges $95.00 for a single axle truck and $125.00 for a tandem axle truck. For McDonald and McDonald it is used primarily as a diagnostics tool for Brakes, King Pins, Wheel Bearings, motor mounts, frame cross members and handling problems. As a City Manager, Fire Chief or Fire District Commissioner this vehicle check is a great investment as it reduces liability as a number of important operating systems on the apparatus are checked with a digital computer generated report delivered to the fire department (Figure 1). As you can see in ( Figure 1) the following systems are checked Maximum Rolling Resistance, Maximum Brake Force, Brake Balance, Maximum Deceleration, Weight, Parking Brake Force (Maxi-Brake), Rolling Resistance Ratio, Parking Brake Deceleration, and Weight Balance. Each axle is measured independently of each other and these values as well as values measured on each wheel on each axle are recorded on the report and then a total of those values are also noted in the report. Also included in the report as pictured is a graph showing braking efficiency.
The machine is made up of several components (Photo 1). As you can see in the back of the picture there is a desk with a computer screen and a printer. To the immediate right of the desk is the computer capturing the information and to the right of the computer’s brain is a blue cylindrical shape machine that is the hydraulic pump that powers the rollers and the yellow panels that act as shakers. Vis-Check requires two trained personal in which to operate it. One person operates the hydraulic pump and the computer and the other person pulls the truck onto the rollers. Once the truck is driven onto the red roller it signals the computer to start Vis-Check. The driver must then operate the truck on the rollers at a low speed (drive axle). The other two rollers are actually checking braking efficiency. The yellow plates are used to shake the truck which checks the King Pins, Wheel Bearings, Motor Mounts and Frame Cross Members. Each truck takes about an hour to do.
As you can see it is an inexpensive way to reduce liability, check vital components, reduce vehicle down time and diagnose small problems before they become a large repair bill on your apparatus. If you are interested you can google Vis-Check or you can visit your local heavy duty truck repair shop to see if they have a Vis-Check machine.
Firehouse Magazine June 2014
By Michael Wilbur