With the recent heavy rains causing havoc around Gauteng, the news that Volvo Trucks has introduced a new innovation to minimise the risk and potential accidents – particularly jack-knifing – of trucks travelling on slippery roads comes at a most appropriate time.
For trucks with trailers, slippery roads and downhill gradients represent a tough challenge for even the most skilled of drivers. There is always the risk of the rig becoming unstable and, in the worst-case scenario, starting to jack-knife. Volvo Trucks’ new system, called Stretch Brake, automatically retards the trailer and straightens up the rig on slippery downhill stretches.
“Even if the truck driver ultimately manages to control the situation, it can be extremely unpleasant and scary both for oncoming road users and the truck driver if a rig suddenly veers off its intended course on a downhill gradient,” says Mats Sabelström, brake specialist for Volvo Trucks.
According to Sabelström, approximately 15 percent of the 30 000 serious road accidents in Europe every year involve trucks – although this is a declining trend, with more effective brakes, stability systems and collision warning systems already helping drivers avoid risky situations in difficult conditions.
“Stretch Brake is yet another important part of our long-term drive to increase traffic safety and minimise the number of accidents involving trucks,” says Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Product Safety director at Volvo Trucks.
Stretch Brake is a complement to the rig’s electronic stability program (ESP) – yet another system that Volvo Trucks was the first in the world to introduce. While ESP is at its most effective at higher speeds, Stretch Brake is only operational at speeds below 40 km/h. Both systems contribute to better stability and easier steering.
“One might call Stretch Brake a kind of low-speed ESP. As the rig approaches a downhill slope, the driver manually activates the system. When the driver then releases the accelerator, the brakes on the trailer are automatically applied in a pulsated mode all the way down the hill until the gradient levels out and speed can once again be increased,” says Sabelström.
In Europe, Stretch Brake was introduced in 2012 on Volvo FH trucks pulling drawbar trailers and in 2013 on Volvo FM trucks pulling drawbar trailers. In 2014 it will also become available for Volvo FH and FM semi-trailer rigs there.
“Drivers who have tested Stretch Brake came away most impressed with the system. As we now also introduce the system on tractor-semitrailer rigs, even more drivers will be able to negotiate difficult downhill gradients more simply and safely,” says Almqvist.
Volvo Trucks SA has announced that this technology will become available in South Africa on certain models.
To see more of the Stretch Brake system in action, click on the following link: