The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has a mandate to improve safety for the drivers of large vehicles, as well as other road users. Because of the size and speed of large vehicles, trucks in particular, deceleration is a significant safety concern. Drivers often underestimate the amount of time needed to come to a complete stop after hitting the brakes.
Braking distance standards are set through rigorous tests on various large vehicles, but these vehicles have different frames, features, and chassis. This makes results inconsistent and sometimes unreliable. Brake tests need to be universal to assure road safety standards and save lives.
By developing a single, reliable, repeatable test that is effective across all models of trucks and buses, the roads will be safer for all involved. As part of this mandate, the NHVR recently drafted roller brake testing procedures on a national level. The plan is to create a single universal system to be used for testing brakes throughout Australia.
Having a single set of requirements will ensure that the same safety standards are applied, implemented, and enforced all over the country. This policy was not developed in isolation. Key players in the heavy vehicle industry had protested the inconsistency of current testing procedures and results.
These inconsistencies lead to potentially unfair penalties on heavy vehicle owners, drivers, and operators. It also makes it difficult for them to source compliant truck parts for their braking systems. Without a universal standard, inappropriate components may be purchased and installed, leading to even higher safety concerns.
During the initial stages of this new roller brake safety policy, safety trials were carried out at the Marulan Heavy Testing site. The tests were done by the NSW RMS (Roads and Maritime Service), in partnership with NHVR, ATA (Australian Trucking Association), and HVIA (Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia). The trials occurred from 14th to 17th August 2017 and were carried out on both laden and unladen trucks.
Three different roller brake machines were tested, namely the Nepean in-ground, the Levanta portable, and the Maha in-ground. They were gauged for deceleration and roller brake integrity. The tests were performed without tie-down or simulated load, to mimic actual road test conditions.
A large volume of data was gathered during testing and this data is currently being analysed. Following the testing, heavy vehicle operators were given a limited period to ensure that their trucks and buses complied with the new brake safety standards.
However, the NHVR has since consulted with stakeholders in the heavy vehicle industry and decided to extend the compliance period. Vehicle owners will now have until 31st January 2018 to ensure that their heavy vehicle brakes are compliant with these new regulations.
According to Les Bruhza, the chief engineer at NHVR, the compliance extension allows more time for the test data to be analysed, compiled, and verified. These processes will help the NHVR to ensure they have the most effective testing methods for heavy vehicle safety.
Once repeatable tests have been put in place and applicable braking standards secured, it will be easier and more realistic for heavy vehicles to implement and ensure compliance.