The advances made in truck brake technology in recent years have redefined the notion of bringing a vehicle to a dead stop. It’s no longer only about discs and drums and how hard you put your foot down on the pedal, but about automated vehicle stability, stearability and that ever-present holygrail – death-free roads. Paul Collingschecks what’s helping and what’s not.
Initiatives like Brake & Tyre Watch are helping educate law enforcers on the technicalities of truck brake systems
Knorr-Bremse and Jannie Geldenhuys have special training tools at their disposal to ensure knowledge transfer on braking systems to fleet technicians and drivers.
Wabco’s Enoch Silcock is keen to point out that EBS can be retrofitted to trucks and trailers.
ABS kits must be fitted by law to truck trailers but not to truck tractors... one of the confounding anomalies of SA road transport legislation ... here a Knorr Bremse...
Readers of this magazine will know all too well that we have far too many trucks on our roads with ineffective braking systems. The reasons for this are two-fold – ignorance and negligence. In their quest to keep wheels rolling, operators are cutting corners in both the fitment and maintenance of truck brakes, with fatal consequences.
As is the case in the tyre industry, brake manufacturers have the products and human resources to equip transporters with the best braking gear for their rigs. Once again, it’s all about having the right mindset, about adopting a ‘best practice’ approach to running a truck fleet.
According to Airbrake Brand Manager at CI Automotive, Sean Annandale, “price wars are affecting the purchasing decisions of transporters when it comes to trailer brake systems. There are cheap products available but they lack support infrastructures. There is a degree of ignorance on the part of operators as to what ABS system should be fitted to specific trailers. Some operators are demanding non-ABS trailers despite this being a legal requirement on these vehicles.”
Weighbridges and vehicle test stations need to improve their truck brake testing ability.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many fleets are a mix of old and new vehicles, both trailers and truck tractors. “Ongoing training from OEMs, trailer builders and brake system suppliers is being done to overcome the problem and ensure that truck and trailer braking systems are compatible. Too many drivers out there don’t know how to use trailer brakes so it is vital that we offer basic orientation programmes on the workings of ABS systems.”
Beyond this, CI Automotive also offers courses on brake system maintenance. “It’s all about having comprehensive product knowledge. Understanding how the technology works goes a long way in ensuring the systems work properly at all times,” Annandale says. “If operators need help on any aspect of truck brakes, they just have to ask for it and we’ll gladly oblige.”
There is no shortage of training expertise when it comes to truck brake systems.
The fact that ABS must by law be fitted to truck trailers and not to truck tractors is one of the more confounding anomalies of South Africa’s road transport legislation. The confusion and road risk resulting from this are worsened by the fact that Electronic Brake Systems (EBS) are now coming as standard fitments to new trucks.
“This simply adds to the risk factor, where truck tractors not equipped with ABS or EBS are towing trailers with either ABS or EBS. As with ABS, trailers running EBS must run behind trucks fitted with EBS otherwise the system won’t work,” says Wabco Technical Director, Enoch Silcock.
The ability EBS has to activate braking force instantaneously, without the lag experienced in pneumatic brakes allows for matched braking between horse and trailer, explains Silcock. “One of the myths in this industry is that ABS is able to get the trailer to brake first. This is impossible because air has to travel to the rear end of the rig from a reservoir on the truck tractor. The drive axles are closer to that reservoir and will naturally be activated first.”
With EBS on tractor and trailer, brakes on all axles are activated simultaneously, creating the ideal braking situation, says Silcock. “It is clear that technical managers in fleet operations need to be trained on these latest technologies to avoid any mismatching of vehicles and simply to ensure the right choices are made when buying braking systems for trailers. With new products like the Roll Stability System (RSS) and Park Distance Control (PDC) available for trailers right now, operators need to consider their truck tractor replacement strategy and get trailers that are as highly spec’d as possible.”
The brake roller test facility at Knorr-Bremse adds to its service profile.
With a research and development budget for its active safety systems of around 4% of its 5 billion Euro turnover, Knorr- Bremse maintains its position as one of the world leaders in truck braking and chassis management and is pioneering new ways to prevent rigs from coming to a sticky end.
“It’s all about controlling dynamic forces,” says Jannie Geldenhuys, Fleet Marketing Manager at Knorr-Bremse in South Africa. “We have test facilities around the world for road and rail vehicles and it’s interesting to consider that around a billion people put their faith in our systems every day.”
Despite these facts, South Africa is still a hot-bed of truck and trailer mismanagement. “There’s a distinct lack of policing of trailer brake fitness locally, predominantly due to a lack of training amongst traffic authorities,” he says.
“Vehicles from north of our borders are allowed to operate inside South Africa with nothing more than a ‘brick and a rope’ as their braking system.”
Once again, it’s an issue of know-how and Knorr-Bremse has an active training infrastructure offering courses to all its customers on the many facets of truck braking systems. However, “there are too many fleet operators who complain about a lack of technical support but the support is there, they just have to ask for it,” says Geldenhuys.
The need for specialised technical knowledge in this area will become more acute as the technology advances. “Knorr- Bremse’s product range includes complete stability management systems incorporating diagnostic electronics and telematics management systems. Our objective is to improve road safety through knowledge and therefore our training courses for fleet employees working with our systems cost as little as R100 per day.”