Australians investigate coupling strength in world first project

Several industry bodies are investigating dynamic loads on the couplings on heavy high productivity freight vehicles and Performance-Based Standards (PBS) combination vehicles.

The safety of couplings project is funded by the Australian Federal Government through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, and will fill a gap in knowledge and provide evidence to update relevant Standards and Rules.

The ARTSA Institute, Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Truck Industry Council (TIC) and Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) are leading this investigation.

“The current Australian Design Rules cover heavy coupling requirements but they do not provide any guidance beyond a road train Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of just 125 tonnes,” said ARTSA Institute Chair, Martin Toomey.

“As increasingly higher productivity vehicle combinations enter the Australian heavy vehicle fleet, evidence-based guidance is required to support engineers, regulators and fleet managers, so that couplings can be safely specified, inspected and maintained.”

HVIA CEO, Todd Hacking, said: “Coupling failure on high productivity vehicles has the potential to lead to death and injuries, major traffic disruption and reduced public confidence in heavy vehicle safety. It is important for regulators and industry to be confident in the relevance and integrity of the Standards that guide the safe selection of components.”

TIC CEO, Dr Tony McMullan said: “Australia has always pushed truck equipment to its limits, doing what no one else does anywhere in the world. Couplings are a prime example with quad trailer Road Trains exceeding 150 tonne GCM. This project will help define coupling safety factors and requirements for multi trailer configurations around the world.”

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said the joint investigation will help accelerate the introduction of new safety technologies to support safe and securely loaded heavy vehicles.

“The NHVR is proud to support this project that will help mitigate the safety risks posed by non-compliant couplings and enhance the safety of vehicles operating under higher productivity schemes,” he said.

The project will conduct investigations of coupling dynamic forces using on road testing and follow-up laboratory testing to confirm the strength of the couplings. Couplings to be validated in the project include fifth wheel and automatic pin couplings used in heavy combination road trains including the various innovative quad road train combination types.

Because of the complexity of the project, Wayne Baker has been appointed project manager as he has significant subject matter expertise and extensive industry experience. A working group from ARTSA-I, TIC, ATA and HVIA has been formed to provide project guidance.

The project is expected to be completed by June 2023.

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