Pam O’Toole Trusdale, executive director of NATM, introduces the special panel discussion on trailer brake safety. Shown are Titan’s Randy McMann, UFP’s Bernie Goettker, Dexter Axle’s Tim Meckstroth, and U-Haul International’s Luis Vendrell.
NATM continues to push forward in its bid for uniformity in trailer brakes laws, feeling accountability to contribute to a safer towing environment in the United States.
“One of the issues we face, especially with manufacturers, is we are very fragmented with towing laws throughout the US,” said Titan’s Randy McMann, who joined UFP’s Bernie Goettker, Dexter Axle’s Tim Meckstroth, and U-Haul International’s Luis Vendrell on a brake-panel presentation.
“We get questions all the time, ‘Well, this is legal in this state but not in this state.’ There is a lot of confusion. We want to tie this all under one and from the NATM standpoint help you and try to coordinate all of the different towing laws throughout all the states.”
McMann said NATM wants to utilize its membership to set common standards.
“NATM adopted a policy of certifying with stickers,” he said. “Questions arose from that. You as a manufacturer, where do you turn to get your information from the manufacturer of the parts you’re putting on? There’s some confusion there, and a lack of accountability. We’re trying in this group to make sure you’re putting your part correctly on the trailer according to NATM, but who’s certifying that part? Who’s saying, ‘This part really does the job it says it does’? We want to minimize the burden to trailer manufacturers and require compliance/certification by component manufacturers—basically just like NATM requires compliance and certification from the trailer manufacturer itself.
“We also want to work with the SAE Trailer Brake Committee. One of things we failed on this year was to really tie in the SAE and this NATM committee.
NATM, which researched this issue for four years through its government affairs committee, canvassed other organizations for their opinions on what a uniform brake standard would entail and how it should be approached. NATM then worked with a coalition of trade organizations—led by the Boat Trailer Manufacturers Association (BTMA) and Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)—to develop an industry work group.
The completed work includes: reviewing literature; developing a test procedure table; drafting a standard document, references, test conditions, a road test procedure and performance criteria, dynamometer test procedure and performance criteria, and component compatibility for hydraulic systems.
The SAE Trailer Brake Committee met twice in 2013 to discuss a trailer brake standard, which would be for light- and medium-duty trailers and include both electric and hydraulic brake systems.
“Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of communication between SAE and this committee,” McMann said. “That’s one of the things we want to accomplish. We’d really like to have trailer manufacturer input. We feel there is a big need out there, and we want to make sure it’s the need you guys have, to answer your questions.
“We can look at the individual part, test and certify that part. How does that part relate to other components? Do we certify as a system or do we certify individual pieces?”
Said Meckstroth, “Spare parts become an issue at that point.”
The way the draft was written for the Recommended Practice, it tried to cover two areas. These areas should have been separated into either two separate recommended practices or into two distinct areas in the same document:
• Design criteria for brake hardware. This is the responsibility of the brake manufacturer. This should cover the brake design, performance, and durability metrics in regards to brake components.
• Performance criteria for a braked/unbraked trailer. This is the responsibility of the trailer manufacturer. This would cover vehicle dynamics and brake performance when installed on a specific trailer. The content would be specific to “on-the-road” testing, with a focus on stopping distance. This does not need to be specific to braked trailers, as the performance metrics would be applicable to both braked and trailers without brakes. There should also be a method to correlate the results of the brake hardware metrics to the “on-the-road” performance results for braked trailers.
The stated goal is to “improve the overall safety of small to medium-sized trailers manufactured for use in the US by creating a standards document that details general US requirements and performance tests for light- and medium-duty trailer brake systems. It should be constructed in such a way as to provide for simple, yet effective testing that can be performed either in a laboratory setting for more sophisticated organizations or as a simple road test in order to accommodate smaller organizations. The test procedure would accommodate both electric and hydraulic braking systems.”
“We want feedback,” McMann said. “What do you want done? What will help you? It doesn’t do any good for somebody to put something together, and the reality is it’s not useful. We want everybody in this room to participate—even if it’s just an email: ‘These are my top five concerns.’ ”
He said an Information Report or Recommended Practice will be published first as an SAE J Doc. NATM will add to the Compliance Verification Program checklist as a recommendation. Once brake manufacturers have adopted and implemented the J Doc, NATM will move to the compliance portion of the checklist. ♦
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