Before he was a Teamster truck driver for the city of Chicago, Bob Allen drove semi-trailers for a living and would often travel across state lines. One afternoon, during a blizzard, he was driving through Indiana in whiteout conditions when his truck jackknifed. Without being able to stop, Allen almost hit and killed a state trooper.
While jackknifed truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, one of the most common reasons is improper brake maintenance or adjustment. When the brakes are not functioning properly, it causes the axles to lock up, particularly when braking hard. The truck then drags the trailer with locked brakes, so it is pushed out to the side of the cab.
For nearly 30 years, Allen had been thinking of creating a system that would make it easier for truck drivers to prevent frozen brake lines before trekking across the country. A few years ago, he finally put his idea on paper and borrowed half a million dollars to get the product into tooling to create a prototype. Unfortunately, Allen ran out of money to keep it going, but instead of giving up, he received interest from Milton Industries and kept his dream alive.
Milton makes high-quality pneumatic accessories and fittings, covering a broad range of applications in various industries, such as automotive, fleet maintenance, construction and manufacturing. Pneumatics is a branch of engineering that makes use of gas or pressurized air in systems. Milton took Allen’s almost-finished product into retooling and development and soon after, the Brake Releaser® was born.
Allen’s invention of the Brake Releaser® is designed to dissolve ice crystals in the air brake system and serves as a backup to the cab’s dryer unit in freezing conditions. It is a portable device and can be used to either release already frozen brakes or pre-treat trailers to reduce the risk of frozen air brake lines.
“If a driver breaks down, it could be a three- or four-hour wait to get a service call, plus the cost of service,” Allen said.
Allen made a licensing deal with Milton and the Brake Releaser® hit the market last year. The product has patents in both the U.S. and Canada and Milton just applied for a European patent.
In the city of Chicago, the invention has been purchased in some of the Water Department yards and has been used on some lowboy trucks that carry the heaviest equipment. Several Local 700 members have used it while working and the product has already saved the city money by avoiding service calls.
A proud Teamster for more than 25 years, Allen still acts as an ambassador for Milton while he works for the city. He is working on trying to get the Brake Releaser® mandated into Illinois state law so that it is required to be used by truck lines as a safety tool for drivers.
“I’ve personally known Bob for many years from working in the Water Department and his knowledge of trucking and his invention is a true testament of his character,” said Robert V. Santana Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of Local 700. “We are all very proud of Bob and commend him for his work and dedication to the trucking industry and his fellow Teamsters on the road.”
“I’ve been driving trucks for nearly 35 years, and when I was out on the road and had to pull over for any reason, the only people that would stop and help me were Teamsters,” Allen said. “Teamsters will always help other Teamsters.”