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Practical action to boost drawbar trailer safety

23 July 2020

A project aimed at enhancing drawbar trailer safety is now underway, led by the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) Industry Technical Council (ITC). 

The ITC is the trucking industry’s brains trust that solves issues and saves lives. Established in 1994, the working committee’s role is to enhance the industry’s safety, professionalism and viability by providing technical input and best practice advice to the ATA

ITC members have recognised and expressed concerns regarding key technical safety aspects of drawbar trailers, specifically the use of Susie coil air lines for the emergency brake function in a breakaway,” ATA Chief Engineer Bob Woodward said today.  

“The ATA is taking practical action on this real issue to improve safety for operators, drivers and everyone who shares the road,” Mr Woodward said. 

Mr Woodward said a breakaway occurs when a trailer accidentally disconnects from the primary coupling and the secondary coupling such as a safety chain, if fitted, also fails.  

“In that circumstance, the emergency brake system must be designed to function and perform in accordance with Australian Design Rules, but we have encountered significant issues with Susie coil airlines,” he said. 

“This is not a new issue. The ATA issued a safety alert about the use of Susie coils in 2015, and an NHVR working group recommended in 2016 that their use on drawbar trailers be prohibited. But there is yet to be any action to regulate the serious safety risks involved.” 

The ITC has established an expert member working group to develop a Technical Advisory Procedure (TAP), a voluntary guide to meet the needs of industry and fill the gaps in vehicle standards. Developed by industry, for industry, ITC TAPs outline processes for safe, optimum component performance.  

The working group includes coupling suppliers, drawbar trailer operators and engineering consultants.  

“There are known examples of drawbar trailer breakaway where the emergency brakes did not apply because of the type of air line connection,” Mr Woodward said.  

“This TAP will address this issue by outlining best-practice procedures to improve personal and vehicle safety. 

“It will also address concerns regarding drawbar design and maintenance, as well as the installation of towing eyes that are not in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations,” he said.  

Mr Woodward said the TAP project is expected to be complete in April 2021, following a comprehensive review from the wider ITC membership and ATA General Council.  

“Upon completion, the TAP will be available to prime contractors and major project consortiums who have the ability and motivation to improve safety when a deficiency is known,” Mr Woodward said.  

The ATA ITC has an extensive library of Technical Advisory Procedures covering a range of relevant topics, including side underrun protection and heavy vehicle visibility, many of which have been adopted by project managers and operators across Australia.  

Find out more about the ITC or join today