Dumb-struck!!! That’s about the best way to describe our reaction to a new, three month old trailer fitted with manual rather than automatic slack adjusters as is required by law.
The result of this error by the trailer manufacturer , more likely slackness if you’ll excuse the pun – is that an operator’s tipper was removed from service and lost valuable ‘˜up-time’ through no fault of the operator writes PatrickO’Leary.
Will all trailer manufacturers – as well as truck operators – please take note as the law is quite clear on this. Any trailer above 3 500 kg GVM first registered on or after February 14, 2004, has to be fitted with automatic slack adjusters. If such a trailer is fitted with manual slackadjusters, it is illegal.
We were thus highly surprised to find during our Polokwane Brake & Tyre Watch exercise a recently manufactured trailer – built by a well known, reputable trailer manufacturer – fitted with manual slack adjusters.
Obviously the rig had to be taken off the road for in Brake & Tyre Watch, there are no grey areas. Either it complies with the law or it doesn’t. In this case, it did not so it was taken off the road. When the operator arrived at the holding yard, he was highly peeved off and wanted to know why we had taken his rig off the road while there were many other, totally unroadworthy trucks, still driving out there.
I tried to explain to him that we were just there for one day and therefore could not get to all the trucks but were taking a random selection for testing and training of the cops. Thereafter, it would be up to those cops who , with their new knowledge , would apply the law so as to get the unroadworthy trucks off the roads. I also pointed out that some of the rigs we had taken off were far worse than his and in fact, his was not bad at all but was, nevertheless, illegal. He didn’t want to know anything of this.
It was then I lost my cool a bit and said something like: “OK, of ons kan boks of ons kan praat. Dis jou keuse’. (“Either we can box or talk. It’s your choice’.) He gazed at me with steely eyes and barked: “Praat maar!’ I then pointed out to him the manual slack adjusters and explained that they were illegal. “Maar ek ken nie van sulke goed nie man. Ek koop die donerse ding en dit moet reg wees van die vervaardiger,’ he retorted. (“But I don’t know about things like that. I buy the ‘˜jolly’ old thing and it should be supplied correctly from the manufacturer.’)
And he is right – although he should also read Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act which spells out the Duties of an Operator! The point is that this man bought an expensive new trailer in good faith from a trailer manufacturer who supplied him with an illegal trailer by fitting manual instead of automatic slack adjusters.
I know many of you will be itching to know which trailer manufacturer it was. I am highly tempted to name the company but in the educational spirit of Brake & Tyre Watch, this is the first time we have come across such an incident and we highlight it here for all trailer manufacturers to take note of. It is totally unacceptable.
FleetWatch is issuing a warning to all trailer manufacturers that if we come across such blatant disregard for the law in any future exercises, you will be named and shamed. Please take note.
Although this particular manufacturer will probably not like me for this, I told the operator to charge his trailer supplier for the downtime, which he estimated at around R8 000. Wolfgang Lehmann, our trailer expert who was on site, did speak to the trailer manufacturer on the phone at the time and spelt out in no uncertain terms that what they did was wrong. The manufacturer eventually admitted this to him.
FleetWatch has, in the past, urged transport operators to use their suppliers as sources of information and advice. If a supplier is, however, cutting corners for whatever reason, how the heck is an operator supposed to put his faith in that supplier?
In an era when standards and service delivery seem to be falling apart on all sides, we urge industry suppliers , especially those who have been around for a long time and are thus trusted as reliable , to please not let ‘˜best practice’ take a back seat to other considerations, whatever those may be.
On this point, I spoke to a KZN-based operator just last week who told me that in the ‘˜old’ days, they would specific what equipment , slack adjusters, ABS braking system etc – they wanted on the trailer and it would be supplied.
“Now,’ he says, “when a new trailer is delivered, we get underneath to check that the specified equipment has been fitted as we’ve had cases where cheaper, imported equivalents are fitted without us knowing.’ Let it be noted that the majority of Chinese slack adjusters inspected by the Brake & Tyre Watch team have been faulty.