I have a colleague, Dave Scott, who talks about precious moments. No, not the kind where your little one, still grappling with the concept of appropriate behaviour, blurts out if the vertically challenged person standing in front of you is a hobbit. But that moment which we all know all too well, where time slows down to a standstill, your heart skips a beat, your brain goes into overdrive, your body tenses as milliseconds slip away while you brace for the inevitable impact of a pursuing accident. But then the realisation hits you, like e-tolls. You have time, it hasn’t happened yet, you can react! Or can you?
If you’re a driver of a standard heavy commercial vehicle on SA roads, probably not’¦ Why you ask? Because the standard heavy commercial vehicle combination on our roads doesn’t give the driver the best opportunity to react and before you say “Here we go again, another article about unroadworthy trucks’ and arrogantly believe your fleet of vehicles is without fault. No, this is not an article about unroadworthy trucks. This is not an article about how more than 70% of vehicles tested by industry professionals fail roadworthy. Nor is this an article about how more than 80% of those vehicles which failed didn’t have a functioning ABS (anti-lock Brake System). No, this is not an article about roadworthiness. However, this doesn’t mean that your fleet is without fault either, just do an ABS test on your vehicles and if you can’t find a fault, call me and I’ll come show you!
This article is about embracing change and giving your driver the best chance. At present, the standard heavy vehicle combination’s brake system off the assembly line offers the bare minimum to conform to law. So when it comes down to that precious moment, the driver does not have that electronic brake signal to save him 1.2s or 27m (travelling at 80km/hr for 1.2s), nor does he have ABS on the truck to allow him to steer out of trouble in wet conditions or the ability for maximum brake force to be supplied at each wheel and ABS used to regulate the pressure at the wheel to achieve the minimum braking distance over the combination. No, when it comes to his precious moment he doesn’t have a system which prevents the vehicle from rolling over, automatically corrects his under/over steer or automatically senses the last moment before collision is imminent and intervenes to avoid it. No, what he has is the bare minimum, a system which uses 1.2s from the moment he pushes the brake pedal fully to supply him with 75% of full load-sensed brake pressure. A system whereby the load sensed (ratio’d) brake pressure is used under panic braking rather than full available brake pressure. A system whereby a truck does not require ABS, thus has no steering control under lock up, and a trailer 2S/1M ABS brake system is legal, even though it could actually lengthen your stopping distance.
I ask why? Why do we fail to feel the need to evolve? Why when purchasing a trailer is practically everything specified yet its common practice to overlook the brake system? And why do we still get some twat complaining about how brake systems worked fine before the invention of ABS and he doesn’t see the need for it? Is it because we as an industry are afraid of change and the cost involved in it, is it because we don’t understand the change or have we just become complacent in the thought that the brake system of yesteryear is still good enough today.
Either way it’s time to wake up and realise that change is good, because serious accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles are on the increase and as Confucius says: “the definition of an imbecile is doing the same thing and expecting different results.’
written by Keir Guild