Sensor systems help keep dump truck drivers out of harm’s way

Blair Rundle, Wabco Australia’s TR-AM product support manager, talked to Inside Waste about the benefits of a good safety sensor system and how the smallest margins in detection can mean everything for dump trucks.

IW: Could you tell us about the collaboration between Wabco and Daimler?

Blair: The Daimler and Wabco partnership dates back to the early 80s, when ABS brakes were organised for heavy commercial vehicles and there was a strong tie-in. The Daimler Econic is the only truck that I know of that has a tail guard system. And the Wabco sensor has parts of the Econic system, which allows us to fit the tail guard system without fitting other components that would normally go on another type/brand of truck. It’s certainly new to us and the first Econic trucks are in the country at the moment through Daimler. Wabco is in the process in Melbourne of working through fitting up of our system in these newly released trucks.

IW: Is there a long-term supply agreement for Wabco parts on Mercedes trucks?

Blair: Since 1981, there has been a long-term supply agreement for Wabco parts on most Mercedes trucks, but this is new as it is a separate system. I think within Europe they’ve had a mandate to have some sort of reversing technology on rubbish collection trucks.

IW: Will there be a need for such a regulation in Australia?

Blair: Not so much in Australia. There’s no rules or regulations to say that if you want to run a rubbish truck in the country, that you would need a reversing system. In Europe, there has been a law passed for rubbish trucks to have this technology fitted into it. That’s why bin truck companies come to us and ask what can be added to their trucks – and that’s really where we sit at the moment.

IW: What is the motivation behind this?

Blair: Safety and the chain of responsibility. When this system was first released to trailers, we put it on EBS Trailers. Then, around two years later it was released so that it could be mounted to a rigid truck. It was only in 2017 that we have seen quite an uptake of customers. We now need to look at how we limit our liability with the chain of responsibility changing. These include all types systems that are currently out there which can stop the vehicle before it makes contact with something.

In addition, there are obviously a lot of people in the past that have used cameras, but that still relies on the driver putting his foot on the brake before hitting something, while our system will automatically stop the vehicle before any impact.

IW: What is the differentiating factor when compared with other sensor systems?

Blair: The other side of our system links into the marker lamps of a vehicle and will flash faster as you get closer to something. A driver of a truck normally spends probably 80 per cent of the time looking at their mirrors and down the side of the vehicle. This is where they will see the site markers flash faster as they get closer to something, meaning they don’t have to turn their attention to somewhere else, like a camera that is mounted in the centre of the truck.

IW: Can existing cameras be used in conjunction with Wabco’s system?

Blair: The camera is best used in conjunction with our system, because if our system stops and brakes the vehicle, and if an object was in the blind-spot of the vehicle, you would not know why that truck has applied the brakes. With a camera, you can then look behind you to check if an object is there.

IW: How would this impact operations and the sector moving forward?
Blair: It will limit the impact, which is why we have been pushing it. When we first brought the system into the market, we had a lot of people talking to us, with some waste companies being in excess of $100,000 in reverse damages in a month!

IW: I imagine that is a steep cost to bear for waste companies?

Blair: It is, and these companies have to justify that cost. Our system may not be cheap, but what we find with a lot of companies is that they end up liking the system and they’ll spec it out on all new vehicles because it just makes sense to do so.

IW: What is the initial capital investment for businesses wanting to implement this and what is the expected ROI?

Blair: At the end of the day, to retrofit a truck with our system, it could be between $5,000 – $6,000. We have some specialised workshops that have some very neat and quicker ways of fitting these systems in, which can help customers save on the cost.

There has been a lot of interest about our product recently. It has been on trailers for a while now and there are a couple of companies that work within the CBDs nationally that are talking to us at the moment to put the systems in their new vehicles.

IW: What would you like to see in terms of legislation in this space?

Blair: It has taken us quite a while to get roll stability support on a trailer in Australia and that is still not passed until this time next year – so it all takes time. Ultimately, in terms of safety, you’d want it installed in every vehicle. This is the kind of technology that you want on the market, however, it comes at a cost for fleets. With rising fuel costs, you might get people who are unwilling to spend any more money to invest on these types of technology.

We deal a lot with trailers. In terms of the roll stability side of things – it’s like when the seatbelt was first introduced. When they first came in, not many people would use them. However, we never knew how much it was actually worth until we were met with an accident. At the same time, we’ve been able to drive for years without that happening. The same goes for EBS – we don’t really know until the trailer goes over. And if you then tell somebody that roll stability and plugging the lead might have prevented that, only then will there be some emphasis on it, then maybe, more fleets will install the EBS.

IW: Can you see a movement towards that direction moving forward?

Blair: I do. With any new technology, it normally takes a few years before people pick it up, but with the technology and safety trailer EBS, we are already selling quite a bit of it now. And there is no mandate to do it, so fleets owners themselves see the benefit in it and are willing to spend the extra money to have that safety. What we find is that more often than not the industry picks up on safety technology before government bodies enforce it, which is great.