Coupling and Uncoupling Training

The dangers of coupling and uncoupling trailers have been known for many years. Yet still to this day the process puts the driver in a very dangerous position should things go wrong. So how often do things go wrong? Well according to two pieces of research conducted in the UK in 2015, 2 out of 3 drivers will at some point witness or be involved in an uncontrolled vehicle movement. 20% of these incidents will be reported while 80% will go unreported. Mistakes in the process can be the cause of serious injury or in many cases fatal. It’s a very frightening experience when a driver is left standing on a cat walk between the tractor unit and the trailer on a moving vehicle, they have only split seconds to make the correct decision. For many unfortunately they make the wrong decision. They try to get to the cab of the truck to apply the hand brake. In investigations of fatalities it has been show that this action was the key contributory factor of the serious injury or fatality, crushing.

Gencat developed a training program to address the issues in relation to vehicle uncontrolled movements. Three key types of situation were identified. The first was a roll away caused by the tractor or trailer brake or both not being applied. The second was when the fifth wheel was not locked in the jaw and the third was when the driver got a false positive from a tug test. Research told us that Drivers felt distraction was a key contributor in getting the process wrong. Forgetting to apply the handbrake or checking to see if the trailer brake was applied or the landing legs were lowered, were put down to being distracted. Distractions that were mentioned were, under time pressure, talking on the phone, being distracted by someone in a yard telling you something as simple as that the yard is closing, or the loaders are heading off soon.  Or as one driver mentioned that he needed to go to the bathroom but there was nothing available to him, so he was rushing to get the job done.

Manufacturers have their part to play in reducing the risks associated with the process. Firstly, drivers should not be put in the crush zone between the trailer and the cab in the first instance. This can be overcome by simply fitting the air line valves at the side on the tractor unit. The driver will be on the ground when opening the emergency red line valve and if an uncontrolled movement is observed, the driver can simply remove the air supply to the trailer forcing on the spring brake on. Secondly the trailer manufacturers should put the trailer brake in a common position on all trailers. This will allow any driver to respond quicker to apply the parking brake as they will instinctively know where it is located. These two simple solutions will make the process safer.