Title: Point of View
Pages: 24 - 25
Text: Point of view
How to beat the lorry jack-knives
Last month, in Point of View, we gave publicity to a device which acts as an advance warning system in the event of a road accident. This month, we want to draw attention to another device which governs the conventional king pin between the trailer and tractor of an articulated vehicle and can all but eliminate the danger of jack-knifing.
Jack-knifing-the situation in which both parts of the vehicle fold up - usually occurs when the driving wheels of the tractor begin to slide sideways, and this can happen because of a slippery surface, badly adjusted grabbing brakes, worn tyres, or the need to brake on a corner which turns out to be unexpectedly sharp. Usually, as a result of the slide, the tractor swings round on the king pin and gets pushed along sideways by the trailer behind. But the reverse can also happen, the tractor maintaining its course and the trailer, instead, swinging out of alignment. In either case, once the movement begins, there is nothing the driver can do to stop it; and the result is often a serious accident.
Up till recently, jack-knifing has been regarded as an occupational hazard, an inevitable drawback to articulated vehicles. The Motor Industry Research Association, for example, has given the matter some thought, and suggests that jack-knifing might be prevented by controlled and progressive braking, ie, by reducing the likelihood of wheels locking and sliding. But this is a complicated and expensive solution.
The anti-jack-knife device we have in mind is much simpler. Acting rather like a clutch On the king pin which links the tractor and trailer, it is brought into action by the application of air brakes, snubbing any excessive movement between the two parts of the vehicle. Thus, if either of them begins to move out of alignment from the vehicle's path, the device checks the movement as soon as it begins, increasing its grip on the king pin as more pressure is applied to the brakes.
The anti-jack-knifing device has been invented by F. J. Hope who, as a haulage contractor, has lost a number of trailers through jack-knife accidents. It is the result of more than three years' development, and is now being used by firms such as Gulf Oil, Beechams Foods, J. Lyons & Co, and the Atomic Energy Commission. It has also received a good deal of support in the United States, where the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is hoping to make its use obligatory.
The question now is, will Britain do the same ? The only comment from the Ministry of Transport, which has recently been attacked for failing to give insufficient backing to a fail safe braking system for lorries, is that its engineers know about the device, but are conducting their own investigations into the problem of jackknifing. And while they do this, articulated vehicles, which are still liable to jack-knife accidents, continue to run on British roads. At this year's Commercial Motor Show in Earls Court, Barbara Castle, Minister of Transport, stressed the need to get action on road safety moving. Perhaps she can devise a way by which inventions like the anti-jackknifing device, the fail safe braking mechanism, advanced warning systems and even anti-locking brakes can be brought into use without long delay.
Hy-mac's remarkable marriage
The progress of the Hydraulic Machinery Company (Great Britain) Ltd. since it was formed only five years ago, is a remarkable case study of the success that can result from the marriage of industrial design to modern technology, backed up by energetic salesmanship. Speaking at a recent Press lunch to launch the Hy-mac 580B hydraulic excavator, right, Peter Hamilton, the company's managing director, described the background to the firm's achievements.
When the company set up in business, earth-moving equipment using hydraulic lifting mechanisms was not made in Britain, and production was confined largely to France, Germany and the USA. As a result, British manufacturers were in a poor position to compete in these overseas markets. "Today," he said, "we can match any of these foreign competitors, and indeed I like to think we can outclass them."
Judging by the firm's export record, these were not the sort of pious hopes that characterise so much talk about British quality. Already by June this year, Hy-mac exports had topped the £1 million mark, and by October 31 (the end of the firm's financial year) reached an all-time record, representing a 40 per cent increase in turnover compared with the previous year.
"This progress," Mr Hamilton went on, "is due to a number of things. We have developed a wide range of machines; we believe in industrial design and endeavour to make these machines not only functional but good looking. It is our belief that if it looks good it is good, and while this does not seem to matter in this country it is especially important and essential in overseas markets." Earlier, Kenneth Dabell, the company's technical director, had said that the decision, in the early days, to take on an industrial designer was possibly the most I
important the company had made. It is an encoursing testimony to the value of industrial design to the capital goods industries. The designer was A. G. Ross Ashton, technical director of Douglas Scott Associates.