Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) product manager Simon Humphries says that Australia’s road transport is under great pressure to support the nation’s growing population.
Despite this, Humphries says that great improvements have been made recently on heavy vehicles, particularly when it comes to safety technology for drivers and other road users.
“Australian operators have a unique combination of factors and challenges to tackle that include operating conditions, climate and the roads themselves,” Humphries says.
“This is across a vast landscape that covers greater kilometres and a much greater range of road conditions compared to most other countries on the planet.”
While Isuzu applies the government-regulated Australian Design Rules to its manufacturing process in Japan, Humphries says IAL has taken further steps by conducting its own testing program in Australia to ensure its trucks are capable of withstanding Australia’s conditions.
Humphries says that IAL sees vehicle safety in two different ways, the first being ‘passive’ safety. In past years, Humphries says that features such as the development of seat belts, airbags and improving the cabin’s overall construction were a key component.
However, Humphries says that it has changed since the late 1990s. He says that IAL and other OEMs have puta much greater emphasis on improving ‘active’ safety features to prevent incidents from happening in the first place.
“This is of particular importance in our arena in the development of heavy vehicles, where even low speed accidents can have catastrophic consequences to not only drivers and passengers, but other users on the road,” Humphries says.
“Even in recent times and with improved safety measures in place, heavy trucks and buses have been involved in high-profile crashes that have ended with fatalities. The tragic event which unfolded in the Hunter Valley recently springs to mind.”
Humphries says that truck safety is a high priority at IAL and has seen it collaborate with commercial vehicle braking specialists Knorr-Bremse for many years in Japan.
Humphries says that recently it has taken it one step further by conducting a rigorous round of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) testing and calibration exercises in the DECA Wodonga TAFE testing and training facility in Central Victoria town Shepparton on a medium-duty Isuzu.
Flexible loading racks and extended outrigger wheels were among the test body features that Humphries says enables a safe testing environment.
“This control unit is factory-fitted to Australian-market MY22 Isuzu FTR 150-260 models and all MY22 FV models in the range, providing for an advanced ESC system,” Humphries says.
“What was unique about this particular FTR model was an extended wheelbase of 7.2 metres, which is a dimension beyond that available from the factory in Japan.”
Humphries says that the truck was put through a series of specific manoeuvres within the DECA’s controlled environment to determine a new calibration for its EBS-5 control unit. Specialised Knorr-Bremse equipment on board the truck sending data back throughout the process.
Humphries says that the types of manoeuvres for it were tailored to how trucks are deployed within Australian industries and applications such as simulating a roll-over situation on the bitumen.
“The ESC system being tested and calibrated would then intervene automatically for the test driver and help to prevent those incidences of rollover or loss of directional control,” Humphries says.
“The system works by firstly removing the throttle from the driver’s control and then automatically applying appropriate braking to individual wheels to slow the truck down to a safe speed.”
Critically analysing the testing data and fed back into the EBS-5 control unit, Humphries says that using outriggers in the process also helped prevent any rollovers and the exact point at which it would happen on the test truck.
Humphries says further on-road testing took place to ensure correct calibrations and that systems work in everyday situations in Australia.
While it may apply its braking system in Japan, Humphries says that it’s important for Isuzu to apply its local knowledge and engineering rigour to refine the truck’s safety technology in the Australian market.
“It is a continued process as technology evolves, with our end goal to deliver the safest driving environment and the most fit-for-purpose on-road product to Australian businesses,” Humphries says.