Don’t take your fifth wheels for granted 05 January 2010
Oldham-based haulage firm TTX is recommending operators to consider Jost's on-site safety inspection service for fifth wheel couplings. "JOST was able to inspect and give a clean bill of health on 30 of our fifth wheels in a single half-day session," says TXX managing director Dave Taylor. "The cost was extremely reasonable and I consider it money well spent."
Jost technical director (and ex Seddon-Atkinson engineer) Dave Deri points out that the service is free to operators taking their trucks to its Heywood, Manchester HQ, but makes the point that, although there are no legal requirements, these are safety critical assemblies. "There should be a visual check – looking for obvious signs of damage or distortion – every time a truck is serviced, but also a full functional inspection at least every six months," he warns.
Deri accepts that there's not a lot to go wrong, but points to a survey of operators back in 2007 that revealed 57% considering dropped trailers remain a serious concern – with 82% having experienced one. Interestingly, that survey also found 70% of respondents blaming drivers and 15%, faulty equipment.
"In fact, it's almost inconceivable that it could be the pin: 99 times out of 100 it's going to be the mechanism or the driver not following coupling procedures properly," says Deri. "The problem is that even experienced drivers can get distracted or make mistakes and forget the final check. Mostly, the trailer comes off in the yard, but when it doesn't…
"We now produce a fifth wheel with embedded sensors and a display in the cab that indicates if the trailer is coupled correctly – green for 'go' and red for 'no' – and other manufacturers have similar products. The point is you can't take the fifth wheel for granted."
Jost's checklist covers the operating handle and springs, safety latch, latch cord, adjuster rod, pivot bolts and wearing ring bolt. There is also a functional check, using a test king pin, a wear limit check and lubrication assessment. Most manufactures recommend high pressure grease with a molybdenum sulphate additive.
Deri urges operators and workshops get a copy of Jost's booklet on driver and technician fifth wheel coupling procedures and checks. "These are 50 year old, mostly agricultural designs, but they're too important to overlook," he says.
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