The increased use of electronic braking performance monitoring systems (EBPMS) is deemed to be acceptable by DVSA in the latest version of its Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness. The guide goes on to add that from April 2025 there will be ’an expectation’ that a laden roller brake test or EBPMS will be the only acceptable methods of assessing braking performance in most cases.
It stresses, however, that a roller brake test will still form part of the annual heavy commercial vehicle MOT test.
THE PLUS SIDE
EBPMS can only be fitted to a trailer, and not to a truck. However it can monitor the combined braking performance of both the trailer and the tractor unit hauling it, says BPW, which has played a prominent role in developing the technology.
“It’s a software-based system which continuously monitors the air brakes by combining the data from the electronic braking system (EBS) with data from the telematics system in order to calculate the change in speed over distance and time to determine the deceleration rate,” says engineering manager Roger Thorpe.
The data it collects is transmitted to idem’s servers using GPRS, can be accessed through a telematics portal or smartphone app, and can then be used to generate performance reports. The software employed enables a braking efficiency figure to be produced which can be compared to an equivalent figure from a laden roller brake test (pictured below), BPW states.
“The reports generated can be for various periods,” says Thorpe. “However 90 days will give a very good overall picture of how the brakes are performing, and a weekly view will give an early warning of any problems.”
That means they can be dealt with promptly before a serious safety glitch arises. Increased awareness of what is happening to the brakes during particular duty cycles also makes it easier for maintenance to be scheduled as knowledge grows of the problem types likely to arise, and how frequently.
“The longer the system is used, the more accurate the data becomes,” Thorpe says.
A report gives the average performance of the brakes compared with the minimum acceptable for an MOT pass, and states whether they would pass or not. It shows how many times the brakes were applied, how many times their performance was above the minimum pass level, and how many times they fell short.
All such reports should of course be retained, along with evidence of any action taken as a consequence of their findings, as proof of compliance with
O licence requirements. “Sharing EBPMS data demonstrates compliance with Earned Recognition,” he says, referring to the DVSA compliance scheme.
EBPMS has the advantage that braking efficiency is calculated each time the brakes are applied. This means they are tested under varying load conditions, at normal highway speeds, on different road surfaces, in all weathers and at their correct working temperature. In other words, they are functioning under real-world conditions, rather than in the unavoidably artificial conditions of a workshop roller brake test.
The technology also means that operators using it only need to subject the vehicles concerned to one roller brake test annually rather than the four adopted as best practice in recent years, resulting in useful cost and downtime savings.
There are things an EBPMS cannot do, admits BPW. At present it cannot monitor a trailer’s parking brake performance, says the component manufacturer, and although it can flag up any sudden or steady declines in braking efficiency, it cannot tell why they are occurring. Nor can it tell whether the issue is with the trailer or the tractor unit.
“Some other means of diagnosis will be required to determine where the problem lies,” the company remarks.
And the investigation is likely to involve a roller brake test, says BPW. A further test should be conducted before the vehicles go back on the highway.
The onward march of EBPMS coincides with changes to MOT test requirements introduced on 1 January which mean that trucks and trailers must be presented for test laden, ideally to at least 65% of their total maximum weight, unless exempt. Exemptions include tri-axle semi-trailers, which can be tested unladen says the DVSA, because of the difficulty of loading them for a brake test; an unfortunate omission given the huge number of tri-axle trailers in service across the UK.
The benefits of EBPMS are not lost on old-established haulier Longs of Leeds. Earlier this year it took delivery of 17 SDC curtainsider trailers [pictured below, alongside new DAF tractors] sourced from TIP Group and fitted with BrakePlus, the trailer rental giant’s own EBPMS package launched almost three years ago. It was specified by Longs after a successful three-month trial on two of its existing trailers, and is being retrofitted to 86 existing trailers.
Says TIP telematics product manager, Brian Robertson: “BrakePlus can work on any trailer with an EBS. Trailers manufactured after 2008 should be fine.” BrakePlus forms part of TIP’s Insight telematics package, which among other things allows vehicles to be tracked and monitors tyre pressures, door openings and fridge unit temperatures.
Other suppliers involved in the roll-out of EBPMS include Axscend, which played a pivotal role in its early development. Along with Haldex, Knorr-Bremse, TIP and CV Braking, it worked with the IRTE some seven years ago to introduce a standard industry specification for the technology.
EBPMS provides the same braking efficiency information no matter which manufacturer’s system you pick. It can be integrated with various other pieces of data to provide operators with a useful telematics-based management toolbox, and the contents of this toolbox can vary from supplier to supplier.
EBPMS is included in Axscend’s TrailerMaster package. TrailerMaster also embraces tracking and tyre pressure monitoring and can warn if trailers are overloaded.
Furthermore, it is capable of highlighting EBS valve problems, delivering detailed explanations and manufacturer recommendations which should hopefully allow the fault to be resolved.
A growing number of Don-Bur’s customers are specifying EBPMS, says marketing manager and technical support specialist, Richard Owens. Suppliers used by the Stoke-on-Trent-based trailer and bodybuilder include Axscend and Microlise.
“EBPMS is not that difficult to fit, it’s not overly expensive, and is a straightforward plug-in to most onboard telematics systems,” he says.
“The data it produces is accurate so far as I’m aware, it allows users to see when the brakes are starting to lose their efficiency, and it helps with compliance. It makes life easier for the operator.”