Runnin' out of air going down the Toowoomba Range...
We continue Alan Rutland's story from last edition about Murphy driving down the Toowoomba Range...
You shouldn't be using your service brakes going down the Toowoomba Range anyway.
Then suddenly he looks down to find he has run out of air "WTF!?"
Even after the spring brakes have come on the trailer, the brakes do not hold!
You see trailers are designed with what we call a maxi brake on each wheel. This is a large spring that activates when air is lost and the tension on the spring activates the brake. However if the brakes are not adjusted properly or worn down, the spring will work but with a reduced tension. If he is loaded, going down the Range it is nowhere near enough tension for the brakes to work on their own.
So his brakes aren't holding and he starts roaring down the Range, building speed and screaming for his life.
There is a B-double in front of him who is negotiating the Range safely, but being unable to stop Murphy can do nothing but sound the horn as he comes smashing into the back of him.
This B-double driver jams on his brakes but to have another 42.5 tonnes leaning on you, there is not much he can do. So now this bloke is also in a panic, out of control being pushed down the Range.
This B-double driver in turn smashes into a second B-Double and starts pushing him off the Range as well. What a disaster!
Luckily during the mayhem, Murphy looks ahead of the two Doubles and sees a sign that reads: gravel emergency stopping ramp on right.
The emergency stopping ramps are built from deep loose gravel that absorbs energy, enabling a vehicle to stop very quickly.
So Murphy turns the rig, drives up the safety ramp, dives into the gravel and eventually comes to a stop. He's ALIVE.
Unfortunately he's done about $7000 worth of damage to the radiator on the Kenworth and obviously much the same to the two blokes that he crashed into.
Now Murphy could have killed a whole family on the Range this morning simply because he did not do his safety inspection thoroughly, all because he was in a hurry.
Because he skipped his tug and drag test with his trailer, he didn't find the open tap which almost cost himself and many others their lives.
This tug and drag test is a very simple but very important aspect of heavy vehicle safety. It doesn't matter if you are picking up the same trailer you have carried all week, or picking up a trailer you have never seen in your entire life.
This five minutes worth of work could be the difference between being a professional and being a muppet.
Remember Murphy's Law dictates if it can go wrong it will, so don't take the chance.
Now what else did he do wrong on top of the range? What does the sign say? It says Trucks Must Use Low Gear.
Now that does not mean you use low low gear, the law states you must be in a gear which can control the vehicle's speed without the necessity of applying the brakes.
This is because if you are riding your brakes all the way down the Range you are going to overheat them. Worst case this means your brakes catch on fire and burn the rig to the ground.
Best case, your brakes get hot. The problem here is the hotter your brakes get the less braking power you have.
Now let's face it, if a car breaks down on the Range where they are going to end up is smack bang at the bottom.
Now if you have been riding your brakes all the way down the Range, by the time you get to the bottom you are not going to be able to stop in the event of an emergency so will end up ploughing right through them.
Now if that doesn't deter you, be aware that in places such as the Toowoomba Range, the police like to monitor heavy vehicles.
If you apply your service brakes more than a couple of times while being tailed by a police car, you could get issued with a $300 fine. Recently people have spotted a blue unmarked police ute doing just that. Other ranges that are gazetted with this law are Cunningham's Gap and Mt Ousley going into Wollongong in New South Wales.
So a lesson for those who aren't familiar with negotiating ranges, you may find that the correct gear to drive down is the same gear that you used going up the range.
If you drove up the range in say 5th gear with a full load, the rule of thumb is that's the gear you will probably find is the best to let you down the range, with some help from the engine brake or retarder.
Also you can get further assistance if you have an American-made truck. All you have to do is turn on the engine fan switch to manual, this will cause about 20hp of drag on the engine and increase your braking.
Keep your vehicle under control and don't travel too close to other traffic. Remember there is always a camera set up in Withcott so make sure your brakes are cool enough to control your speed to 60kmh.
Going up the range with a heavy load you should select a suitable gear at the saddle and stay in it.
You are not in a hurry and you don't want to put yourself in the position of changing down on a steep grade.
You risk breaking a drive line, snapping an axle or doing damage to the gearbox. If you drive an European truck, flick the computer around to read engine temperature, it's amazing how much it will rise on the steep section.
Take your time and don't be afraid to ask questions, your priority is to get home safely.
- From the series - I Got Bills to Pay: Stories from 55 years on the road by Alan Rutland