Why Are Major Companies Disconnecting Safety Systems?

Remain Vigilant

The question has to be asked, why are major companies disconnecting safety systems on their trucks? Combinations are running around with ABS or EBS fitted on trailers but disconnected from the prime mover. This is essentially disabling a sophisticated electronic system from doing its job, which is improving safety and saving lives.


The major question that is exercising my mind is what is the basic philosophy and thinking behind someone making a decision to deliberately disable a safety system? We can only guess at the actual motives of those involved. We can be sure that if the proverbial did hit the fan, and one of these vehicles was involved in a major incident, the reactions by the media and the public to the knowledge, that the EBS was turned off, would lead to great deal of truckie bashing.


There are two issues at play here. One is a wording in the rules that has led some people to read it to mean their truck will be compliant even with the ABS/EBS disconnected. This is not something we need to discuss here. The chances are, the rules’ wording will be tightened up in 2018.


The second issue is more of a big-picture problem. Just because there is a loophole in the law, doesn’t mean you have to use it. However, there is good evidence to suggest a large number of trucks are running around our highways, fully loaded, with the ABS or EBS unplugged.


We are not talking about livestock trucks running on dirt roads. They do have cause to disconnect ABS on dirt as the system will compromise stopping distances on loose ground. We are talking about trucks and trailers running on the major highways at full mass.


The problem seems to be some people, including a lot of drivers, don’t ‘believe’ in ABS or EBS. They seem to think it is like global warming, something invented by scientists to shut down coal powered power stations. There is a belief EBS and ABS don’t brake a combination as well as a skilled driver.


When ABS/EBS is mandated on trucks and trailers, some drivers complain bitterly about how the system keeps on cutting in and slowing the truck. There is also a belief the only way to pull up multiple trailers in a straight line is by skillful manipulation of the hand-piece.


Yes, the first time you use ABS/EBS it can be a little disconcerting. Hitting the brakes hard in a traditionally braked combination sees an immediate feeling of braking, even if some of the trailers start to drift out and shove the prime mover around. Hitting the brakes in a fully EBS combination can feel like the braking is softer, even less effective.


The fact of the matter is the combination is able to brake more safely if it is fitted with state-of-the-art braking systems. With traditionally braked systems it is a bit of a lottery.


Yes, the EBS will cut in sometimes, but this is only when the trailers are getting close to a rollover situation. All drivers need to realise a lot of their driving habits of the past do take them too close to the rollover threshold than is desirable.


These are cold hard facts. It is not a matter of whether you ‘believe’ in EBS or ABS, it’s a matter of using the safest possible system to keep everyone on the roads safe. It’s a matter of understanding scientific fact and acting accordingly.


We went though the same process with disc brakes. They were effective at stopping a truck quicker, but rejected on grounds that were more about ‘belief’ than cold hard fact. Now, the proportion of disc-braked trailers in the fleet is rising rapidly and we are all safer, as a result.