Myth Busters

It’s time to appreciate the additional safety benefits of roll stability and to explode the myths of non-acceptance

If you think the world is flat and that a good driver can’t be improved by providing them with the latest technology, then you are probably not going to like this feature on advanced braking systems.

It’s now around 11 years since ABS systems became available on trucks and trailers in Australia, and just one year less that EBS (Electronic Braking Systems) were added to the options list for trailers and trucks.

A decade ago the non-believers cited connection problems, durability, voltage miss-matching, extended stopping distances and equipment cost as just some of the reasons why the industry didn’t need to adopt EBS or ABS technology.

No doubt, we have all heard stories as relayed to me, by an “old school” trailer salesman at one of Australia’s major field days only last year, that these new fangled systems worked off fitting a pendulum between the chassis rails that swings out on bends and applies the brakes prematurely. No amount of explanation at any level was going to change his opinion; such was his conviction that technology of this type had no place under a trailer that he sold.

The benefits of ABS are clearly understood. In an overbrake situation or when on slippery roads, the ABS system prevents premature brake lock-up and maintains steering and braking control. We have it as a standard item on all cars sold in Australia, and I have never heard a buyer complain of its fitment. For the private car buyer, ABS has now been joined by Vehicle Stability Control.

So why the reluctance to consider EBS and the opportunity to include advanced safety features such as roll stability control?

An Electronic Braking System sends an electronic signal to the brake actuators, replacing the compressed air signalling of the old braking systems. The electronic signal travels faster than its air-signal predecessor, and, consequently, the brakes are applied in a shorter timeframe. The earlier the brakes are applied, the shorter the stopping distance from the first reaction of the driver to brake.

From January 2015, all trailers sold in Australia must be fitted with ABS or load-sensing systems to prevent premature wheel lock-up. It is anticipated that mandatory fitment of EBS will be through the legislators by the end of next year and that implementation will be confirmed probably within a three to four-year timeframe.

So, if buyers of new trailers appreciate the advantages of the inclusion of ABS on every trailer they buy from January 2015 onwards, why not take the next step and move immediately to specify the adoption of EBS at the same time? The cost of stepping up to include EBS technology is negligible, but the advantages are substantial. It also future-proofs your trailer purchase against the added cost of retrofitting additional upgrades to EBS in the future, plus it preserves your resale value.

In researching this feature we enlisted the aid of the team of Paul Lewin, Blair Rundle and Tony Cheyne from WABCO Vehicle Control Systems, one of the major global suppliers of brake technology systems to truck and trailer manufacturers.

“The growth in fitment of advanced braking systems has certainly resulted partly from the intense media interest generated around recent incidents, which has made the operator more aware,” said Paul Lewin, business leader for the Pacific Region.

“More fleets are realising what other features and benefits they get from new technology. It’s no longer just a braking system. From an EBS perspective there are all the other forms of technology that can be included,” said Paul.

According to Tony Cheyne, WABCO’s application engineering manager for Oceania, the fitment of ABS is actually limiting the ability of the trailer in terms of today’s technology.

“With ABS having been available for eleven years now, it has been totally adopted by the European market and subsequently augmented by the introduction of EBS. The standardisation of ABS and the technology advance of EBS have resulted in Europe now focusing almost exclusively on EBS systems and the additional advantages that comes with EBS.

“ABS is basically the end of the line for that level of technology. If you fit EBS, it’s a building block with access then to suspension controls, roll stability control, reversing systems, tyre pressure monitoring and suspension ride height controls. For the few hundred dollars you pay for EBS over ABS you open up so many more doors to the features available,” said Tony.

“I think the light has finally come on. EBS has been available for 11 years, with stability control for 10 years. This is no longer new technology. Every fleet complains about the difficulty in finding experienced drivers, and by adopting EBS it gives that added protection against a lack of finesse.

“One of things we have to get across is how simple it is. It’s a black box with three cables going into it. There is no increase in maintenance over an ABS system and, with the industry already having mandated ABS, the move to EBS has the same number of components and cabling. Maintenance is therefore not an issue. The number of pieces of hardware are identical, but you have the benefit of being able to include Roll Stability Control,” added Tony.

For Paul Lewin, the objective is to identify the advantages to operators that come with control systems such as the WABCO SmartBoard.

“The ability to monitor a wide range of trailer functions is important in order to improve efficiency on the road and to reduce fleet operation costs. Until recently, every function that was monitored has required either its own trailer-mounted device or a multipurpose device. The advent of the latest generation SmartBoard by WABCO has changed that situation by combining the functions of a wide range of trailer monitoring devices that previously had to be separately mounted.

“The SmartBoard readout unit can be configured to display WABCO’s integrated tyre pressure monitoring, load monitoring, brake lining wear, distance travelled, advanced braking functionality and general trailer information such as pressures or voltages, vehicle inclination, operational data recording and vehicle configuration.

“Truck and trailer EBS is the key because of the other things that can come off it. Our top distance alert introduces automatic brake application through the use of ultrasonics to operate as a Forward Collision Warning system.
“Other systems can then be added to the EBS installation such as Adaptive Cruise Control and WABCO OnLane, a lane departure warning system.

“Reversing a trailer can also be monitored by TailGuard, which again uses ultrasonics to automatically stop the trailer when it detects small and moving objects and loading docks. TailGuard forces the vehicle to slow to 9 km/h by pulsing the trailer brakes. When the trailer comes close to an object, a series of marker lights in the display blink faster and the frequency of the reverse warning beep increases.

“By using electronic control of suspension ride heights when on the highway, the ride height of the trailer can be reduced by 25 mm when it reaches a speed of 60 km/h. The safety benefit here is the reduction of the centre of gravity of the trailer. The control system returns the trailer to the standard ride height when the speed drops below 60 km/h to maintain the required ground clearances. This is especially suitable for tanker operators, as by lowering the centre of gravity it again raises safety levels,” said Paul.

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