Key industry bodies work together on world first coupling strength investigation

The ARTSA Institute, Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Truck Industry Council (TIC) and Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) are investigating dynamic loads on the couplings on heavy high productivity freight vehicles (HPFV) and PBS combinations vehicles.

The safety of couplings project is funded by the Commonwealth Government through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative.

In what is considered a world first, the initiative will fill a gap in knowledge and provide evidence to update relevant Standards and Rules.

Chair of ARTSA Institute, Martin Toomey said the current Australian Design Rules cover heavy coupling requirements but they do not provide any guidance beyond a roadtrain GCM of just 125 tonnes.

“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,” he 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 according to HVIA CEO, Todd Hacking.

“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,” he said.

Commenting on behalf of the TIC CEO, Tony McMullan said Australia, in pushing truck equipment to its limits, was often doing what no one else does anywhere in the world.

“Couplings are a prime example with quad trailer roadtrains exceeding 150 tonne GCMs,” he said.

“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,” said Petroccitto.

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 roadtrains including the various innovative Quad roadtrain 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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