Europe sets the pace for CV braking technology 29 March 2012
Europe is well ahead on truck and much trailer braking technology – and more than most in the industry realise, according to Jeff Lowe of Doctor Air Brake.
Lowe, who has been setting up a division of Doctor Air Brake in Australia to deliver brake systems test equipment and services, says he has been surprised not only at the lack of sophistication in terms of standards, but also the immaturity of electronic systems.
"EBS on trailers has become pretty much standard in the UK for the last 22 years, whereas in Australia it's only been six or seven years – and then just on certain makes and configurations," he states.
"When I'm alongside these B Double trailers on motorways, with a total mass of up to 68 tonnes on nine axles travelling at 100kph, I can't help but think about how the combination would behave under heavy braking on slippery conditions," he continues.
"The North American tractor units have been the preferred interstate work horse for many years and only in more recent times has the European tractor made inroads as their power output reached the levels required to pull these multiple trailers. But most North American tractor units do not have EBS as standard so, even if the trailers are equipped, there's no full CAN communication between the two, unless retrofit kits are fitted."
Lowe makes the point that roll stability, load sensing and ABS are standard on most new European trailers, and adds that extended safety products from his company and others work in harmony with these systems.
But he also says: "All this clever technology works hand in hand with the need for higher freight efficiencies, but the downside is you have to know its working correctly."
For him, the key is partly reliable test and diagnostic equipment that is easy to use, with no need for expensive training or "wheel choc sized operating manuals" – and partly experience.
"Thanks to Doctor Air Brake's 34 years of experience, coupled with a fleet of mobile fitters fixing ABS/EBS and ECAS problems every day, we thoroughly test all equipment we design and build, before it goes public," he insists.
"From the basic Trailer Check II, through to the VTC and Code-Talk, all [our] diagnostic gear is put through rigorous testing and refinement."
His view: we may take our ABS/EBS and roll stability systems for granted, but part of the reason is that the UK has built up an enviable reputation for appropriate testing and maintenance systems.
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