Reversing a trailer is one of the most dangerous truck and trailer operating procedures with statistics indicating that up to 35% of incidents involving trailer damage - colliding with pallets, docking stations, gates, trees, forklifts and other vehicles - and as many as 40% of fatal accidents occur while reversing.

So says Enoch Silcock, Wabco Automotive SA General Manager, who says that it is because of this that Wabco has come up with an innovation linked to its Trailer EBS series to prevent such incidents. Called the TailGuard, it is a blind spot detection system which is expected to play an important role in bringing fleet working environments closer to achieving zero accidents. TailGuard reduces risk during reversing of a trailer by detecting small, large, static and moving objects in the driver's blind spot behind the trailer. It also stops the trailer automatically at a safe distance.

Back in 2005, FleetWatch gathered together a number of like minded partners in the industry to highlight via a lateral thought exercise the skills needed to be a professional truck driver.Our main partner was MAN Truck & Bus which provided us with anMAN TGA 26.410 and trailer to drive around Gerotek. The rig was fully loaded at 56 ton. Instead of a truck driver, we then solicited the services of Johan 'Brandie' Branders, a commercial airline pilot who had been around aviation for 30 years and given instruction for 25 years.

We wanted his impression of trucks and truck driving with the objective of getting people to realise that a truck driver needs to have a high level of skill to be a true professional. Among his many observations was one I will always recall. It was about reversing. Here's what he said: In my mind the biggest challenge reversing with the trailing link is to know exactly where the pivot points are and to have good situational awareness with respect to the length of the trailers. Under the guidance and instruction of George Killian, our professional truck driver for the exercise, the pilot eventually got it right but only after a number of attempts. He summed up his reverse parking with these words: I shall be eternally grateful that I always park my aircraft moving forward.

Not many people reverse anymore. Gone are the days when motorists would pop into town to do their shopping and reverse into a parking space alongside the curb. Nowadays, they visit shopping centres where ample parking is provided. They arrive and just pull into the nearest spot going forward. If you think of it, it's pretty much only truck drivers that still need to have reversing skills as part of their daily armoury and given the statistics outlined by Silcock above, it is obvious that any technical help they get can will be welcomed. Let's have a closer look at this innovative braking system.

Compatible with all the latest truck-tractor models,TailGuardTM is automatically activated when the towing truck's gearbox is placed into reverse gear. At the back of the trailer, outline marker lights start flashing and a warning signal sounds to alert people standing close to the reversing vehicle. If TailGuardTM detects an object within 3m behind the trailer, the display of the Trailer Remote Control in the cabin shows the distance to the object with green, yellow or red coloured blocks.

TailGuardTM automatically slows the trailer down to 9 km/h, should the reversing speed exceed this limit. As the trailer comes closer to the object, the outline marker lights blink faster and the frequency of the reverse-warning beep increases. The system stops the trailer automatically at a programmable distance between 30 cmand 100 cm, depending on the configuration.

After the automatic stop, the driver can slowly reverse the last few centimetres to, for example, dock the trailer at a loading area. The Wabco Intelligent Trailer Programme was developed to improve trailer construction, operation and maintenance throughout its lifecycle. TailGuardTM is the latest add-on feature of the company's EBS-E generation Trailer Electronic Braking System.

WABCO has been working in close collaboration with trailer builders, fleet and workshop managers worldwide to achieve the best possible braking performance, says Silcock. Our Intelligent Trailer Programme further automates the vehicle and actively supports original equipment manufacturers, trailer owners and truck drivers. It improves their daily operations through maximised vehicle performance, safer operation, more efficient loading and unloading and more cost efficient maintenance.

It's all pretty stunning stuff isn't it?

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