Finally Taking Action? – What Can Be Done to Ensure the Safety of Drivers

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Dear Editor,

I read with interest the article “Trailer Brake Alarm Sounds.” As one of the participants in the original 1996 discussions of this subject, I’m glad to see the industry finally wake up to the potential for widespread death and destruction.

I have driven and maintained combination vehicles on and off road since 1968. I have been certified as a HD Mechanic for over 20 years, am a certified BC vehicle inspector, and hold an unrestricted BCDL with hazmat.

In 1996, I offered a simple band-aid warning solution for under $100 that could be retrofitted onto any trailer, but was told by Transport Canada that to install such a system would violate federal law.

As far as the OTA recommendations, these seem to be intended to cover the liability issue by adding more complexity, increasing costs, penalizing the technicians, and ignoring the real issue, which is a flawed standard.

With the imminent switch to disc brakes on all future new trailers and tractors, we should be willing to band-aid the current problem by increased vigilance.

By retrofitting proven valves, designing warning devices using current technology, and all getting off our rear ends we can work together to create a new standard that will actually meet the needs of the transportation industry out there.

One recommendation made by the OTA needs further highlighting.

Their position that the only recourse available to drivers when trailer brakes fail is to use the red knob is incorrect.

Use of the red knob on a non-ABS tractor fitted with a bobtail relay valve will result in a jackknife in almost every circumstance if any brake application is used.

When the trailer air supply is dumped, the bobtail relay valve cuts off air to the drive wheel brakes, and will cause immediate steer axle lockup, and a jackknife!

The correct procedure is to pull both the red and yellow knobs together, use application air to control the steering brakes, and once the unit stops, push in the red knob and fill the trailer maxi system, then push the yellow knob back in!

This allows steering, and saves air for further braking, and stops the bobtail relay valve from limiting the drive axle brakes.

Addressing the design flaw, I would immediately retrofit RE6 (or equivalent) relay emergency valves into every trailer out there.

To answer the question of how to move the trailer off the road, simple, fix it! I don’t want anyone to have the ability to move a loaded trailer down the road without adequate braking.

Practically speaking, there are several ways to replumb the system, and install a hostler valve to release the maxis in an emergency to appease the “Clear the Road” advocates.

In summation, do we have a problem? Yes. Can we live with it temporarily with some tinkering and vigilance? Yes.

If it took 10 years to wake up the OTA, a few more months aren’t going to mean the end of the world. Do we need the draconian solutions suggested by OTA? No. Do we need to do a better job of training technicians and drivers? Yes.

Ian Vaughan


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