Letters to the editor

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Past Issues

June 2005

In the March 2005 edition of FleetWatch, we ran a story on a new pneumatic kingpin that does away with suzie coils, made by Dave Claxton of Kingpin Pneumatics. Apart from generating much interest (even as far away as in Australia), the article has also opened a couple of cans of mopanie worms, writes Paul Collings.

FleetWatch received a call from Shaun Ellithorne, sales manager at Nylon Tubes and Coils (which manufactures SABS-approved suzie hoses called Flexicoil), who requested FleetWatch visit his plant to learn what's actually going on in the suzie coil business. His bone of contention was with Claxton's statement - "0.6% of our national fleet is standing still at any one time because of suzie hose problems, costing around R54 million a year". Ellithorne is adamant that suzie coils fail because they're of inferior quality. Basically, the difference in price is about R20. "Is it really worth putting lives, equipment and cargo at risk for R20?" he asks, "not to mention the costly down times."

Spot the 'cheapie'. Suzie hoses should be marked with indelible ink (suzie on right). If it feels waxy and can be scratched with a fingernail it's dodgy (suzie on left).

Dodgy imports
"We have a huge problem in this country with grey imports and suzie hoses are no exception. They're being sold cheaply and are so under-spec'd, they're potentially lethal," says Ellithorne. "Suzie hoses should be made from nylon 11 or 12 but unscrupulous manufacturers, mostly in India, China and Turkey, are using low density polyethylene and other materials which costs about one-eighth of what we pay for nylon."

Ellithorne has his nose close to the ground searching out dodgy new suzie coils, which he sends to France for testing by the company, which supplies his raw material. "Most trucks operate at between 8 and 12 bar pressure. We've tested competitor suzie coils that burst at 12 bar. They're actually designed for irrigation purposes, not air brakes," he explains. "Our suzie hoses are made for an 18 bar working pressure at a 4 to 1 safety factor. We've not had a single failure in 16 years of operation."

Well-coiled suzies should be made from flexible, durable polyamide (aka nylon) 11 or 12.

No legislation
Despite the fact that SABS audits Ellithorne's product on a monthly basis, there is no legislation in place to control the quality of suzie hoses. "Guys don't know what they're buying and price obviously plays a huge role in their buying decision. Suzie's may look the same but truckers need to know what makes a good suzie coil and how to identify inferior suzies," says Ellithorne. "First of all, if there's no printing on the coil, don't buy it! Secondly, if it is printed, make sure it complies with the correct specs and is from a reputable supplier."

What is interesting is that the USA takes its suzie hoses very seriously and legislation regarding suzie coil quality is strictly policed and offenders are severely punished. Similarly in the UK, where government officials impound inferior quality suzie hoses. For Ellithorne, two messages need to be delivered: To legislators of the Road Traffic Act - "put laws in place governing the specifications of suzie coils." To transporters: "don't skimp on your suzies. A saving of a piffling R20 will cost you big time in downtime and call-outs, not to mention lawyer's fees for a culpable homicide defence." 

Shaun Ellithorne with batches of suzies, labelled with the SABS mark. 


Is it homologated?

FOLLOWING THE story we ran in our March edition headed Bye Bye Suzie, our technical correspondent Dave Scott had a query from an operator on whether or not the device had been homologated. In all honesty, it’s a point FleetWatch missed when writing the story and we thus put the query to Dave Claxton of Kingpin Pneumatics, developer of the pneumatic kingpin. Here is his reply.

The facts are as follows: The product was required to be tested by the SABS and they put us onto their engineers, BKS Advantech (Pty) Ltd of Pretoria, who conducted the tests to the requirement and satisfaction of the SABS.

DAVE CLAXTON, Kingpin Pneumatics ... enormous interest has been generated

Editor’s Comment: The SABS Test Report is in FleetWatch’s possession).

Although we too were under the impression that homologation would be a requirement by SABS, there exists no such requirement by the SABS in current legislation. As a result, they cannot issue us with a document which states that it is “homologated”. Strange, but true!

This very subject was handled under cover of a special meeting at the offices of BKS Advantech in Pretoria, at which the SABS and Jim Campbell, chairman of the technical committee of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, were present. Professor Rudi Du Preez chaired the meeting.

Interestingly, they advised us that many of the off-the-shelf kingpins available in the country have never been through the stringent tests our kingpins were subjected to - a fact which Mr Campbell seemed concerned about. At this stage of development, we had taken on the services of Ian Charlton, ex SABS and respected consultant in the industry who investigated the question and who was also present at the said meeting. It seems there is only a dimension and material requirement by SABS and a test which proves that the kingpin meets with the SABS strength test – which ours does.

As an aside, we currently have quotes outstanding with one transporter for 360 units and Cargo Carriers have purchased a number of kits for use on the Swaziland sugar-cane rigs. These are operating under the most severe conditions and much to our surprise, are being used on cane “trains” where a single tractor is towing 3 x 40 ton trailers -120 tons in total - with huge success. 

In ending, I must mention that your magazine has generated enormous interest and we have fielded queries from all over South Africa - and even from as far afield as Australia - as a result.