National Transport Insurance have been running series of webinars giving experts, in various fields associated with the trucking industry, the opportunity of sharing expertise with others in the industry. One such brake professional is Shane Prendergast, a technician at AirBrake Systems.
If Electronic Braking Systems are not plugged in they are not functioning, and Shane comes up with one of his many anecdotes. He drove from Sydney to Lismore after getting the call. On arrival, he took the ABS plug out of the dummy socket on the back of the prime mover and plugged it into the socket it needed to be plugged into to enable the ABS to function. Unfortunately, the driver had, by that point, already flat-spotted $6,000 worth of tyres.
“In terms of a cost/benefit analysis, if you fit EBS and ensure it is always working, whether you have got two trailers, or two hundred, you will never flat-spot another tyre,” said Shane.
Shane tells us of other things he finds regularly, from a wheel sensor ripped out after a wheel bearing failure, to another wheel bearing problem seeing a sensor half ground away by the wheel. Pole wheels are critical to the ABS and need to be kept clean and tidy.
Shane has been called out to a B-double on the side of the highway with its ABS warning lights on. Twenty minutes later, after he cleaned off the pole wheels himself (something which should be done as part of servicing) the truck was on its way with no warning lights. A modern EBS system can tell the driver exactly why the light has come on and highlight underlying faults in the system.
“What I love about my job these days, is I can drive up to a truck and plug my computer in and it will tell me exactly what’s wrong,” said Shane. “It couldn’t be an easier way to do maintenance, it will pinpoint exactly what to look for.
“The diagnostics come free for fleet owners, so that’s a zero cost for all of your software, your cables could cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 depending on the brand, but you only have to save one wheel lock to pay for it. It’s very cheap.
“We are living in a nightmare of a lack of great mechanics, so I’m the guy they call last, after the truck has sat at a dealership for a a day, then gone back to the dealership and they have called us, we can pretty much get these things sorted in a matter of minutes, or a couple of hours at the most. I can’t encourage people enough to become self-sufficient with diagnostics.”
Training, Training, Training
Shane is involved with training to try and bring drivers and fleets up to speed with these EBS issues. He has found that returning for a second session with a fleet is the best way to get the message across.
“When you make a second visit to a fleet, there is always that one guy in the room, that has taken hold of EBS and is going to run with it,” said Shane. “That’s because they have discovered that running around with a laptop is easier than replacing brakes and hubs, bushes and suspension components.
Power is key to good EBS function and Shane emphasises the use of good quality crimp pins to ensure consistent voltage. He also fill plugs with battery protector to avoid issues and maintain a functioning connection. Twist lock connectors fitted to the front of trailers and further back also maintain integrity for the system.
Shane trains mechanics to use the data logging system to not only identify problems but also record maintenance activity on each system. It is also now possible for telematics systems to pick up on issues and flag them for fleet managers.