Putting the brake on

Truck op­er­a­tors need to in­vest in safety, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

IF THE Aus­tralian road freight in­dus­try is to meet de­mand it will have to use larger, more pro­duc­tive trucks and lift its game on safety.

When it comes to tech­nol­ogy such as disc brakes, ad­vanced brak­ing sys­tems, elec­tronic brak­ing and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, Aus­tralia trails the rest of the truck­ing world, says the chair­man of the Aus­tralian Road Trans­port Sup­pli­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

In a speech to trans­port op­er­a­tors in Mel­bourne, Dr Peter Hart, au­thor of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s code of prac­tice on heavy ve­hi­cle brakes, said fleets had to em­brace ad­vanced safety tech­nol­ogy if they were to meet fu­ture de­mand for freight — tipped to dou­ble over the next few years.

A dou­bling in de­mand would nor­mally mean dou­ble the num­ber of trucks on the road, but that’s un­likely to hap­pen given the ef­fect on traf­fic con­ges­tion, and motoring safety.

The pub­lic is al­ready con­cerned about the num­ber and size of trucks on the road, so any­thing that would in­crease ei­ther is likely to meet out­rage.

The an­swer, Dr Hart says, is larger, more ef­fi­cient trucks that would carry greater loads, but the in­dus­try and reg­u­la­tors have to re­as­sure the pub­lic they are safe.

That’s where ad­vanced safety sys­tems like disc brakes, ABS, EBS and sta­bil­ity con­trol come in.

Ve­hi­cles with ad­vanced brak­ing sys­tems can re­duc­ing brak­ing dis­tances up to about 30 per cent, with a quan­tum im­prove­ment in road han­dling and sta­bil­ity.

Much of the tech­nol­ogy is avail­able, but Aus­tralian op­er­a­tors have been slow to adopt it.

Only 10 to 15 per cent of new trucks sold here have disc brakes, even though they have markedly bet­ter per­for­mance and bet­ter re­sis­tance to fad­ing than drum brakes.

And only 50 to 60 per cent of trucks sold have ABS when laws now de­mand it is fit­ted to all new trucks sold in Europe, North Amer­ica and Ja­pan.

The take-up of load-sens­ing brakes, which ad­just the brak­ing ac­cord­ing to the load car­ried on trucks and trail­ers, is also low.

Load-sens­ing brake sys­tems are more or less stan­dard on Euro­pean trucks, Dr Hart says.

It’s a sim­i­lar story with elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trols, which de­tect when a ve­hi­cle is likely to leave the road or roll and ap­ply in­di­vid­ual brakes to bring it un­der con­trol.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol will be com­pul­sory on new heavy trucks in Europe from 2011; the US will make it manda­tory on light trucks from 2011 and is mov­ing to make it manda­tory on heavy trucks.

It’s com­ing whether we like it or not, so we should em­brace it, Dr Hart says.

Aus­tralian reg­u­la­tors will find truck sta­bil­ity con­trol ir­re­sistible be­cause it has such rad­i­cal po­ten­tial to im­prove the dy­nam­ics of heavy ve­hi­cles.

Other sys­tems, such as adap­tive cruise con­trol to main­tain the gap be­tween ve­hi­cles, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing that ap­plies the brakes to avoid a frontal col­li­sion, and lane de­par­ture warn­ing de­vices are com­mer­cially avail­able on many Euro­pean trucks sold here.

Dr Hart says op­er­a­tors must em­brace the new tech­nol­ogy in the in­ter­ests of safety, just as they did when elec­tron­ics were ap­plied to diesel en­gines, with mas­sive im­prove­ments to emis­sions, fuel ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance.

He urges gov­ern­ments to pro­vide the reg­u­la­tory frame­work.

Con­ti­nen­tal cau­tion: big Euro­pean trucks usu­ally come fit­ted with the lat­est safety tech­nol­ogy.

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