The decision to mandate Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) has been a long time coming. ABS, or some form of load proportioning, will be mandatory on new trailer models in July 2014 and introduced on all new trailers in January 2015.
The arguments around this issue have held up the introduction of a technology, which is manifestly safer for the vast majority of trucks on the road. Trucking operators in rural areas spending much of their time on dirt roads have a concern about the inability of the ABS control systems to handle the low friction surfaces they travel on.
This limited issue should not have held up the passing of the new ADR bringing in ABS. There simply was no way around it and the solution five years ago would have been the same as it is today. The compromise is, simply, enabling rural operators to have an off switch on the ABS system.
Anyone with experience of ABS and non-ABS trailers knows how uncomfortable the feel is for the driver when they first hit the brake pedal in an emergency stop situation with ABS. However, longer experience with the system starts to change minds. It is safer for just about all drivers, especially those with lower levels of experience.
The government announcement reckons the new ADR will save 50 lives over the next 30 years. There is no doubt this is the case and statistics are sure to prove this. The question has to be asked, however, what was stopping the government introducing this five years ago, making an exception for the rural truckies then, and saving a further eight or so lives?