April 2000

NTRC facility will test truck brakes

A first-of-its-kind facility for testing commercial truck brakes could help put a screeching halt to hundreds of accidents caused by mechanical failures.

The facility will be housed in the National Transportation Research Center, a collaborative effort by DOE, ORNL, the University of Tennessee and the Development Corporation of Knox County. It is expected to open this summer.

“Faulty brakes contribute to about one third of truck-caused crashes,” says Energy Division’s Scott Stevens, who heads the project. “The problem is that current methods of inspecting brakes are labor- and time-intensive and subject to considerable error.”

Compounding the problem, as electronic brake systems are developed, new test equipment will be required to accurately measure and evaluate their performance. The proposed brake testing facility will be capable of characterizing the brake performance of an entire vehicle quickly and accurately.

The new device, being developed jointly with Jeff Hodgson of UT, will also simultaneously and accurately weigh every axle of the vehicle. It works by measuring the forces exerted on a supporting structure by the tires of a vehicle. The device consists of a group of plates with attached sensing devices that can support the entire vehicle.

Like the system Stevens and collaborators developed to prevent truck rollovers, the thrust of this project is to make highways safer.—Ron Walli