Looking for answers

by James Menzies

CACHE CREEK, B.C. – Researchers and truck experts gathered in this quiet B.C. town between Oct. 1-5, to collaborate on some of the most extensive truck rollover testing ever carried out in Canada.

In an unprecedented display of cooperation and teamwork, people from various law enforcement agencies, research groups, fleets and government departments joined Innovative Vehicle Testing (IVT) to take part in a series of tests designed to measure the rollover threshold of various heavy-duty truck configurations.

Log trucks, lumber trucks, chip trucks and various types of tanker trucks were all put through the rigors of some in-depth testing that should shed new light on their rollover threshold limitations.

The process each truck underwent, kicked off with a detailed examination by Insurance Corp. of B.C. (ICBC) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) inspectors. Each truck that participated was weighed and inspected to make sure it was up to snuff.

After that, it was off to Arrow Transport’s ore dump facility tilt table, where they were chained down and tilted until the first axle left the ground. The details were carefully noted before the truck was sent to stage three – the Ashcroft airport – where dynamics testing was carried out through a series of abrupt lane changes.

Transport Canada field defect investigator, Mike Macnabb, was on-hand throughout the week to help carry out the study. He explains that it’s a unique procedure that can benefit everyone in the industry in one form or another.

“Here in Canada, I’m not aware of any other group that has done this,” explains Macnabb. “They have done some testing in the States, but most of it is proprietary and the information has not been released.”

In addition to the RCMP, ICBC and Transport Canada, other groups taking part included the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada, the Washington State Major Accident Investigation Team, the National Research Council, the Department of National Defence and Michelin.

Each contributed volunteers or equipment, which helped keep costs to a minimum.

“It’s a real collection of talent that we’ve brought together and it’s a great way of doing testing economically,” notes Macnabb. He points out that a company would have to shell out about $250,000 to carry out similar tests without counting on volunteers and equipment donations.

Although it will take some time to fully analyze the results of the week-long tests, Macnabb says it’s already proving to be a valuable exercise.

“It’s a significant type of testing that we’re doing because we don’t understand, we just do not have a great deal of information about these vehicles that are running around on the public highways,” says Macnabb. “The information can be used by manufacturers, it can be used by regulators, it can be looked at for standards development. And it is very, very important for the RCMP and police forces to understand what the rollover threshold is for these vehicles,” says Macnabb.

Eric Brewer is a senior collision reconstructionist with the Kamloops district RCMP. He says about 20 RCMP officers from as far away as Vancouver Island and Alberta were on-hand to help out in the study.

Brewer says that it was an excellent learning experience that compliments last year’s study that involved rolling over two semi-trucks.

“What this is going to do, is give us a sense of truck stability by type and load,” says Brewer. “We’re hoping to do as many different configurations as we possibly can.”

There’s no more appropriate place to hold the tests, Brewer points out, noting that the Hwy. 1/97 corridor has been home to the highest number of heavy-vehicle crashes in the province. In fact, there had been 16 crashes in just five weeks preceding the study.

“We have all the data from the actual rollover tests that we did (last year) and now these lateral acceleration values and looking at truck stability from a configuration point of view is really going to help us a lot,” says Brewer.

Some of the more interesting tests involved tanker trucks.

The Canadian military donated the use of their tankers, most of which were tested full, and half-full of water.

Some were also tested with and without the bafflers in place to prevent excessive fluid movement.

Kevin Green, a Transport Canada dangerous goods specialist, kept a watchful eye over the tanker tests.

“So far, it’s been water (on-board) which isn’t ideal because it’s quite a bit lighter than fuel,” says Green. However, the research team did have an opportunity to work with a fully-loaded Chevron tanker hauling diesel fuel.

“It’s impressive to see just how far some of these will tilt on the tilt table,” says Green. “You get a feel for what’s out there and then maybe we can think a little bit about what we want to see.”

The results of the testing will be made available to the public in hopes that the results will help improve truck safety. Once the data is collected and analyzed, different configurations of trucks and trailers can be compared and ranked as per their rollover threshold.

But for those who took part, Macnabb says the rewards are far greater.

“I think every participant will probably take away something a little bit different because each one has a different focus coming into it,” says Macnabb. “It’s very hands-on, and that’s probably the best way to educate.” –

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