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Trailer safety boosted by new drawbar guidelines

18 March 2021

New drawbar trailer guidelines have been released today, delivering practical advice to improve the safety of trucking operators, prime contractors and major project consortiums around the country.  

Developed by the Australian Trucking Association’s Industry Technical Council, the guidelines have been published as a Technical Advisory Procedure - a voluntary guide to meet the needs of industry and fill the gaps in vehicle standards. 

ATA Chief Engineer Bob Woodward said the guidelines were developed following strong 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. 

“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. Susie coils are self-coiling airlines that should only be used in semi-trailer applications.  

“For drawbar trailers, when there is a breakaway it’s important that the airline is disrupted and the emergency brakes function. Therefore rubber hose must be used so that the emergency brakes work,” Mr Woodward said. 

“It’s vital the emergency brake system be designed to function and perform in accordance with Australian Design Rules,” he said. 

Mr Woodward said this was not a new issue. 

“The ATA issued a safety alert about the use of Susie coils in 2015, and there are known examples of drawbar trailer breakaway where the emergency brakes did not apply because of the type of airline connection,” Mr Woodward said. 

“That’s why we have taken practical action to improve safety for operators, drivers and everyone who shares the road,” he said.   

“The guidelines address this issue by outlining best-practice procedures to improve personal and vehicle safety,” he said. 

 Developed by industry, for industry, the guidelines also address concerns regarding drawbar design and maintenance, as well as the installation of towing eyes that are not in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations. 

“Implementation of these guidelines can deliver real safety benefits for not only trucking businesses, but also prime contractors, major project consortiums, construction vehicles and the wider community who share we share our roads with every day,” 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.   

View the Drawbar Trailer Technical Advisory Procedure