SOME contests just aren't fair. Unless we're a fan of one of the contenders, in which case we take any advantage we can get.
But when a car meets a truck, I'll back the truck every time.
For a start, the static energy difference between a family sedan and a B-double is about 50-1.
Add in the speed that each vehicle is doing and the truck's greater mass is amplified even further.
The gruesome photos of the tragic triple fatality at Menangle on January 25 illustrate the inevitable effect of a car and truck meeting head on, with the prime mover riding up over the car's passenger compartment.
It's called an underrun, and recent regulations have been implemented in Australia to give effect to a United Nations regulation dating back to 1994 that aims to minimise that happening.
Back then, the Economic Commission for Europe issued Regulation 93, which specified the type, location and engineering standard for Front Underrun Protection Systems (FUPS) across both passenger and commercial vehicles.
Since then the use of FUPS has spread fairly slowly, but in September 2009 ADR 84/00 was introduced, requiring all new truck models (12-tonne and over) released in Australia from January 2011 and all existing models from January 2012 to incorporate the devices.
The reason these devices are so critical to safe interaction between trucks and cars is two-fold.
Firstly, that energy difference. Even a "small" 40-tonne semi-trailer is nothing but bad news for the passengers in a one or two tonne car.
Secondly, the truck bumper is usually higher than the car bumper, so the compression, or crumple zones designed into the front ends of cars have no chance to work their magic if the car slides straight under the truck. By the time the car has reached the truck's front axle, the chassis ends and base of the engine block have already reached the passenger compartment, with what are usually disastrous consequences.
FUPS is designed to prevent that. In essence, an approved FUPS device will include a secondary bumper fitted behind the cosmetic bumper that sits lower on the truck than the standard unit.
It actually sits a little lower than a car's bumper, because in many emergencies, both drivers will be trying to push the brake pedal through the floor, but the front of the car will dip further on the front suspension than the more stiffly-sprung truck, and its bumper could be up to 10cm lower than it is when standing still.
On impact, the FUPS bar helps the car's crumple zone to work properly to absorb energy, and it usually means the car's airbag systems will deploy sooner.
Hino has already included FUPS in its 300 series wide-body models, which although not at the heavy-duty end of the market and not required by law, still pack a hefty punch in a prang, particularly when loaded. All production of the 500 and 700 series trucks from late 2011 is now fitted with FUPS.
Hino claims it is the first manufacturer in Australia to offer this lifesaving technology across all three categories of trucks - light, medium and heavy-duty.
"FUPS assists the deployment of SRS airbags in the opposing vehicle in the event of a front-on or front-side collision, and also works to protect the truck's steering components, thereby assisting the driver to maintain control of the vehicle and bring it to a controlled stop," Hino Australia product planning manager Daniel Petrovski said.
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