Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard

Bring brakes into 21st Century

SALESMEN love to bamboozle customers with the initials of safety systems built into their vehicles, even though quite often they have little understanding themselves of what it all stands for.

This was no more evident than a couple of years ago visiting a company on the south coast of NSW at the same time as their local truck salesman paid them a visit - boasting about how EBS can now be fitted to a particular brand of vehicle. When I quizzed the salesman about the particulars of the system available, his lack of any understanding of what EBS is and can do quickly became apparent.

EBS stands for Electronic Braking System which to add more initials includes as one of its base functions ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). Like ABS, it can be fitted to both prime movers and trailing units and its prime function is to improve the safety of the vehicle by aiding the driver when the vehicle starts to approach the outer limits of traction and stability.

EBS achieves this through the use of many sub systems depending on the specifications of the unit fitted to your vehicle - these can include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), also marketed as Roll Stability Support (RSS); Traction Control System (TCS); and even automated Differential Lock Control (DLC); amongst others including diagnostics tools and data recording.

This technology is proven and has gained widespread use in other heavy vehicle markets now for many years in an effort to improve safety and reduce wear and costs.

One thing that myself and many other drivers have never been able to understand is why, since their introduction over 20 years ago, B-double prime movers are required to have ABS fitted while trailers do not? Any B-double driver that has driven on a slippery road in the wet when empty will tell you it can be an on the edge-of-your seat experience and this is where EBS comes into its own.

Not only does it prevent wheel lock-up through the ABS function, but EBS will balance the vehicle braking by proportioning the application of the brakes to the axles where it is needed the most, giving the driver a feeling of sure-footedness that they would not otherwise have.

In fact, many drivers would be unaware, that some EBS-equipped prime mover and trailer combinations actually utilise "brake by wire", utilising technology originally used in jet fighters to activate the brakes, giving faster reaction times, smoother, balanced and safer braking, as well as improving stability against rollovers.

How does EBS prevent rollovers, one of the most common types of heavy vehicle accidents?

By sensing the G-forces being applied as a vehicle takes a corner, EBS can measure whether the stability limits of the vehicle are going to be exceeded and if necessary will automatically apply the brakes to both slow the vehicle and improve its stability.

EBS cannot change the laws of physics and double the speed at which you can take a corner, but it can increase the envelope of safety where five or 10kmh might mean the difference between safety and tragedy.

All Performance Based Standard (PBS) combinations are required to have some sort of braking assistance (normally ABS/EBS) and so do B-double prime movers.

The authorities obviously recognise its safety advantages as do some of the industry associations who have been investigating its advantages for the last couple of years and whether its use should be mandated.

We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

ABS and EBS is already in limited use on some combinations in Australia as well as standard fitment to heavy vehicles in many other parts of the world, shouldn't we be using it to put the brakes on heavy vehicle fatalities?

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