Sep 17, 2023
Trailer stability systems maintenance to keep tractor
Whether your fleet is large, small, or a single tractor-trailer, nobody wants to
Whether your fleet is large, small, or a single tractor-trailer, nobody wants to deal with a rollover: They’re dangerous, expensive, and can be damaging to your reputation. So let's look at the operation and maintenance of trailer roll stability systems that are designed to help prevent rollovers.
A trailer roll stability program (TRSP), like the Bendix family of trailer antilock braking systems (TABS) solutions, uses sensors and wheel-end controls to detect conditions that may lead to a rollover and then intervene through brake applications, typically before the driver realizes an intervention is needed. There are two basic types of trailer TRSPs: single-channel and multichannel.
Single-channel configurations are typically built on an antilock braking system (ABS) configuration of two sensors and one modulator (2S/1M). This is a simple and popular solution that adds less weight without sacrificing performance and allows for easy installation and maintenance. It's also a good choice for fleets looking to add trailer stability to an existing ABS system.
Multichannel TRSPs address different demands: They’ll be easier to install on vehicles with ABS systems that are already built with multiple sensor-and-modulator configurations, such as 2S/2M or 4S/2M. Additionally, tandem axle trailers are better served by a multichannel option, since each axle is sensed and controlled. Most key components of a multichannel TRSP are efficiently housed in a single, environmentally protected modular unit.
"The first thing any driver should know is what sort of stability system – if any – is on the trailer they’re pulling," said David Dennis, supervisor, Bendix Tech Team. "This is pretty easy to spot: You should be able to tell by looking at the information sticker on the trailer if it's equipped with an ABS or roll stability. And just to be clear – if it's got stability, it's built on ABS. You can't have stability without the ABS controls."
Safety technologies like trailer stability complement safe driving practices, Thomas stressed. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times, which is why it's important for the person behind the wheel to be aware of any system's capabilities and possible interventions.
Monitoring a trailer stability system from the cab just requires a watchful eye: There's an amber warning lamp located on the left rear side of a trailer, in view of a driver's side mirror. If it's illuminated, there's an active Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC), and it needs to be checked out as soon as possible. Additionally, on all tractors built after 2001, the trailer will communicate issues to the tractor through the power line carrier, which enables dashboard warning lights. It's important to note that a stability warning lamp does not mean the trailer has no brakes: It just indicates that the ABS/stability system is not functioning – the brakes will operate normally.
Drivers may also catch on to trailer stability issues by listening to the "chuff test" that the system runs at startup. When the tractor is keyed on, the air brake system runs through the process of firing the individual modulators to make sure they’re working – creating a series of clicks and "chuffs." A system or modulator that has faulted will not produce the "chuff" sound.
When it comes to diagnosing an issue with a trailer stability system, details matter. If you’re the driver, try to provide as much information about the situation as you can: Do you notice, for example, that the trailer pulls during long right turns–such as on a cloverleaf–or that the warning light comes on when you go over railroad tracks? Anything you can let the techs know about driving situations, road conditions, or weather is helpful. Owner-operators can also examine some DTCs themselves, as the trailer sticker will include basic blink code information providing insight on the severity of the fault.
Wiring-related issues are among the most common causes of trailer stability system faults, since weather and exposure can easily contribute to wire problems. In fact, many times, the system's Electronic Control Unit (ECU) isn't the primary cause, which reinforces the importance of knowing as much information about the circumstances as possible.
Technicians should begin by using a diagnostic tool such as Bendix ACom PRO to identify the ABS or stability system installed on the trailer. From there, deeper dives into the issue may be required, highlighting the importance of using up-to-date diagnostics.
Further instructional videos and interactive training on stability systems and other safety technologies are available at the Bendix On-Line Brake School. For more information, contact the Bendix Tech Team at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE.
This story was contributed by Bendix.The Basics of Trailer Stability What to know about trailer stability In the garage