Two years of work by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) working group including trade associations, trade unions, traffic commissioners and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), is about to result in publication of new guidance on safe trailer coupling and uncoupling procedures.
The new, free HSE guidance will replace a similar publication dating back to 2006 and will focus more on driver training, including a pictorial guide to the safest trailer coupling and uncoupling procedures.
One of several new recommendations is that there should be a standard position on semi-trailers for the park-brake valve, making it easier for drivers to locate. It is recommended that the valve should be mounted on the nearside front of the chassis side-member, forward of the trailer landing legs.
A persistently high number of accidents and incidents involving truck and trailer runaways has prompted the HSE working group’s action.
Many drivers simply do not understand how trailer parking brakes work. And failure to apply the tractive unit and/or trailer parking brakes is the primary cause of runaway incidents.
Many of the drivers surveyed mistakenly believe that there is no need to apply a trailer parking brake after the red (emergency) airline between unit and semi-trailer has been disconnected.
Truck operators and drivers are often reluctant to talk publicly about incidents and accidents involving dropped or miscoupled semi-trailers. However, the HSE revealed ten years ago that it had investigated 24 fatal and serious accidents involving drivers engaged in trailer coupling or uncoupling between 1986 and 1996.
Nobody has suggested, however, that the frequency of tractor/trailer miscouples could be blamed mainly on shoddy maintenance, or on inadequate design or construction of couplings.