Even though Australia’s heavy transport community is eagerly working toward a ‘zero incident’ goal, there is a certain residual risk stemming from the industry’s very DNA – a truck is constantly exposed to the forces of nature and has to interact with the general public whenever it is not being loaded or in the workshop. And even then, the probability of human error is too high to ignore. As a result, risk reduction is top of mind for many in the industry – especially for those providing safety-critical equipment.
To tackle the issue head-on, Fuwa K-Hitch has come up with a range of dedicated bulletins that are meant to raise awareness for safety-critical processes – from initial installation all the way through to the obligatory pre-drive check. “We do everything we can to rule out issues from the outset,” says Chris Barrett, National Sales Manager at Fuwa K-Hitch and a passionate safety advocate. “We invest a lot into R&D to ensure every product we release to the market has been put to the acid test, and we make sure our production is always up to the latest technological standard. But we can’t predict human interference once the product has left the factory gate, so we try to provide as much advice and support as possible for those using it in the field.”
According to Chris, Fuwa K-Hitch has developed a sophisticated ‘feedback cycle’ where information from transport businesses is remitted back to the responsible engineering team in order to help the community as a whole learn from an individual’s mistake. “We really try to understand what’s happening out there so we can learn from it and prepare accordingly,” he says. “Sometimes the lesson is that we need to improve the product, but most often it’s more of a process issue than anything else.
“Take the kingpin. It’s a classic example of a ‘fit and forget’ item. People neglect that it is a critical link for connecting the trailer to the truck. As a result, kingpin service is a topic that’s rarely discussed in any workshop. Do you check it all? Do you use a gauge? It’s one of those things that tend to get overlooked, even though it can severely damage the turntable if it’s faulty.”
According to Chris, a quick visual check is easy to do and could save lives in the long run. “Just ask yourself, is the kingpin still squarely installed? Are there signs of damage? Are there signs of severe impact?,” he says. “It’s a common sense exercise, not rocket science.”
In the workshop, he says a NO-GO gauge should be used. “But don’t forget to check the gauge regularly, as it is a wearing item that will go out of tolerance too,” he adds. “Then check the bolts to ensure correct torque and you should be ready to go.”
Chris says the same procedure should be standard for turntable maintenance, as a faulty part can affect the kingpin and, eventually, the very connection between truck and trailer – a typical high-risk area. “Have a visual check first, it will help you gauge if you have to take action or not. Are all the fasteners in position? Are all the springs in position? Is the release handle straight and locked in? Is the turntable properly lubricated?”
Chris says that if there are any signs of a severe impact, for example, don’t take a risk. “Don’t take any issues lightly. Consulting the workshop is always the first step, and of course we at Fuwa K-Hitch are always here to help too. Safety always has to be the top priority, everything else has to get in line.”
Next to the connection between trailer and truck, Chris says landing leg operation is a second area where a general lack of attention and/ or awareness can lead to an increased safety risk. “Just like the coupling, the landing leg is a bit of an unsung hero and should get a little more attention,” he explains. “Although it is a vital part of each and every articulated vehicle, it’s still widely perceived as a commodity item.”
But, Chris says that image is now about to change, as companies from around the globe continue to invest in next generation technology that could see the landing leg transform from a simple reinforcement tool into a viable safety feature. Fuwa K-Hitch is leading the way with the eLeg, a fully automatic landing leg that will be on display at the Brisbane Truck Show and is now available for purchase. Designed in close co-operation with Razor International, it is said to positively affect Operational Health & Safety, maintenance, aerodynamics and idling time – even driver recruitment.
“What it does is taking a lot of the guesswork out of operating a landing leg. You push a button and the job is done, which means there’s effectively one less variable in the safety equation you need to take into account,” says Chris. “It’s just one example of how we’re trying to be proactive and make a real difference to commercial vehicle road safety in Australia.”