Wincanton in pioneering steering system trial

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A new steering system that allows trailers to follow the path of a tractor unit accurately is to be unveiled at the CV Show next month.

The “Path Following Steering System” has been developed by the Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium, a collaboration between engineers from Cambridge University and companies including Wincanton, SDC Trailers, TRIDEC, Haldex and Goodyear.

The UK Department for Transport is a year into a decade-long trial of longer semi trailers with selected operators deploying the vehicles into their fleets and reporting their findings back to the department.

However while longer trailers are proving they can bring significant benefits to the industry and wider economy, such as reduced road congestion, better fuel economy and lower C02 emissions, their length can also limit manoeuvrability and accessibility, both forwards and in reverse.

The new system incorporates light-weight electro hydraulic actuators that control the steering of each axle. A computer reads signals from sensors on the vehicle and controls the actuators so that the trailer precisely follows the path of the towing point (fifth wheel) on the tractor unit.

Following the development of a commercial prototype it is hoped the new path following steering system will be deployed into “live” testing by the middle of this year, with CVDC member Wincanton using it on its fleet of longer semi trailers.

David Cebon, professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge University and director of the CVDC, said: “We have developed an engineering solution that virtually eliminates the trailer’s excursions from the path of the tractor unit at all speeds. This makes these vehicles both safer and, operationally, much more efficient and effective.”

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