While some trailer buyers may cringe at the notion of spending a cent more on a vehicle that seemingly does the job with a load deck, a set of wheels and a few lights, others will be delighted to hear that WABCO Automotive South Africa has announced the local introduction of breakthrough software enhancements developed to optimise commercial vehicle road safety — including two world first features released simultaneously in Europe.

These innovations are part of the WABCO Intelligent Trailer Programme developed to improve trailer construction, operation and maintenance throughout the lifecycle of the vehicle. The new onboard software has been introduced to further enhance electronic braking and air suspension functionalities in trailers.

WABCO Automotive SA General Manager, Enoch Silcock, says: “WABCO has been working in close collaboration with trailer builders, fleet and workshop managers worldwide to achieve the best possible braking performance. 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.”

The new functions comprise two world firsts, OptiLoad and OptiTurn, as well as Tilt Alert and Bounce Control and are featured on the E1 version of the company’s Trailer Electronic Braking System (EBS) E generation.

Load mass compliance

”The OptiLoad function automatically redistributes cargo weight over the truck-trailer combination. As a trailer’s cargo is partially delivered along its route, the remaining cargo can exceed the legal maximum weight limit on the truck’s rear axle/s. With OptiLoad and Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) on the trailer, the trailer’s suspension system redistributes load weight without physically moving any cargo,” explains Silcock.

“This function optimises cargo loads up to 24 tons and helps truck drivers and fleet operators remain in compliance with regulations for maximum weight per axle, while preventing axle damage due to excessive weight. Other benefits include reduced tyre wear and avoiding damage to the truck’s rear tyres,” he says.

Reducing scuffs and dings

The OptiTurn function provides intelligent support for manoeuvring and steering through curves in the road, as well as through small traffic roundabouts and in loading bays, by automatically recognising curves, says Silcock: “This feature reduces tyre friction on rear axle wheels by partially or fully lifting the axle when the vehicle navigates curves at low speed and manoeuvres at loading docks, eliminating the scraping of tyres on the road surface. In conjunction with Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) on the trailer, OptiTurn can replace steering axles and significantly reduces tyre wear. It also allows dispatchers to schedule delivery routes via narrower roads, since drivers can manoeuvre short turns much more easily.”

Mitigating risk

According to Silcock: “The other new features, Tilt Alert and Bounce Control, also fall under WABCO’s Zero Accident Programme, which aims to reduce the frequency and severity of road accidents involving trucks and trailers while driving, manoeuvring and loading/unloading.”

The new Tilt Alert enables truck drivers to safely operate trailers that raise one end to unload. It warns drivers with an audible alarm signal and/or a light indicator when the tilting angle reaches the trailer’s physical limits of stability. This allows the driver to lower the tipper in time to prevent a roll-over and avoid vehicle damage and human injury.

”Bounce Control prevents a trailer from pulsing up and down as brakes are released after the cargo has been loaded or unloaded. It improves safety in the loading zone and avoids damaging vehicles or loading docks. Once activated, this feature gently releases the forces that build up between the chassis and the tyres after loading and unloading,” Silcock adds.

Safer transport of hazardous materials - The new onboard trailer management software from Wabco enhances electronic braking and air suspension functionalities in all makes of trailers, not least, tankers.

Wired for efficiency

”WABCO’s Trailer E1 version continues to feature roll stability support, as well as an operating data recorder that registers the trailer’s technical data, much like an aircraft’s black box. Trailers can now be optionally retrofitted with SmartBoard, an easy-to-use control box that graphically displays the trailer’s critical real-time operating information,” Silcock continues.

“Being able to monitor a range of trailer functions and conditions is important to ensure maximum efficiency on the road and reduce fleet operation costs. By combining separate monitoring devices into a single, easy-to-access, easy-touse multi-functional system, the SmartBoard boosts the safe and efficient operation of trailers. The price of this device is minimal compared to the cost of a single truck and trailer — and it adds tremendous value in terms of boosting trailer productivity and reducing operating costs,” he says.

Powered by an internal battery, the SmartBoard offers an easy-to-read, icon oriented graphical display with only three operating buttons. In addition to operating controls and information, the device provides an optical warning for safety-related issues such as trailer overload and low tyre pressure. The screen can be customised to show an image or company logo.

“Up until now, every trailer function monitored or controlled has required its own trailer-mounted device. The SmartBoard has changed all this by combining all these separate displays or operator keypad devices into a single, user-friendly multi-functional system,” concludes Silcock.

With South Africa’s truck accident rate being what it is, it’s high-time our local trailer industry had access to the best safety systems available. Our truck tractors have them, so why not our trailers. Well done WABCO!

Wabco's intelligent Trailer Programme is driven by this little on-board marvel, making rigs safer, more cost-efficient and easier to maintain.
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