Trailer anti-lock brake rule tension rising


Rural transporters' concerns can be covered through exemptions and shouldn't block reform says TIC

Trailer anti-lock brake rule tension rising
Trailer anti-lock brake rule tension rising
August 16, 2013

Frustration continues to mount over anti-locking brakes rules for trailers.

Mandated Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) for all new trucks is now in force, to the satisfaction of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Truck Industry Council (TIC).

The new design rule, Australian Design Rule 35/04 (ADR35/04) updates ADR35/03, will take effect from July 1, 2014, for all new model trucks and January 1, 2015, for all new trucks and is part of Phase I of the National Heavy Vehicle Braking Strategy (NHVBS).

However, opposition from rural trucking bodies has so far stymied a similar amendment to Australian Design Rule 38/03 on all trailer brakes.

ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says the truck-brake change will save lives on the road as ABS brakes can help truck drivers maintain control when they brake hard.

"I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a truck," St Clair says.

"It’s important to drive conservatively and not rely on the technology, but it’s a great comfort knowing the ABS will kick in if it’s needed, such as if a car cuts in front of the truck on a wet road.

St Clair says an incoming government, whether Labor or Coalition, must press ahead with a similar design rule for heavy vehicle trailers.

"The ATA wants to see a similar design rule imposed on trailers, which should be implemented on the same schedule as the new rule for trucks," he states.

"Our advice from operators and braking experts is that ABS on trailers can be effective and reliable in all Australian conditions with basic maintenance."

According to the ATA, the only exemptions should be:

  • very heavy trailers that already meet the relevant brake performance standards because of their weight
  • the special purpose trailers used to carry large indivisible loads under over-size over-mass permits. The technology cannot yet deal with more than four axles in a single group or with axle groups where rows of eight tyres are involved. These specialised trailers are used under very restricted conditions in any case, often with escort and pilot vehicles
  • a one-off, per-vehicle exemption available for operators with unusual needs or who operate in very harsh conditions.

It
will continue promoting the next generation of braking, Electronic Braking Systems (EBS), through its technical advisory material.

"EBS or brake-by-wire technology, integrates ABS technology, automatic traction control and other key vehicle control systems," St Clair says.

The TIC is happy with the outcome on trucks but notes there are issues outstanding on trailers.

"The final version of ADR35/04 was developed with extensive input from TIC, and the Department complied with all of TIC's requests for Phase 1," Chief Technical Officer Simon Humphries says.

"ADR38/04 for trailers, on the other hand, is more of a problem.

"Minority user groups wish to dilute the minimum requirements for trailers and the final ADR has not been resolved.

"TIC is of the strong opinion that all heavy trailers should have ABS as a minimum, to match the minimum standard for trucks, and therefore to achieve the best possible compatibility outcomes for most combinations.

"TIC believes that the very small number of exemptions that may be required could be handled by special permit to the handful of operators that can justify their case.

"The ADR applies to all on-road new vehicles (i.e the majority), and should not be compromised by a splinter group.

"I understand that, even within the membership of the association that is pushing back, there are operators who already use ABS in their trucks and trailers without concern."

One concerned party is the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA).

"While generally supportive of safety improvements, we have serious concerns about the cost, reliability and performance of modern ABS in remote operating environments," the organisation says.

"The practical implications of compatibility issues likely to arise when operating ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ trailers in combination are also worrying."

ALRTA is seeking a "robust trial" to "properly resolve" the issue.

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