Fears that supply issues could leave trailers parked up

As operators struggle to get hold of essential parts to keep their trucks and trailers going and ADR compliant, there are real concerns about how some of these trailers will be able to stay on the road.  

Operators are having issues sourcing everything from oil and air filters to trailer EBS parts – with suppliers of the latter saying there is unlikely to be any short-term improvement.  

While non-genuine parts can be a viable option for things like oil and air filters, the same can’t be said when it comes to advanced safety technologies.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chief engineer Bob Woodward says the issue of trailer parts supply shortages was raised in March during the first Industry Technical Council (ITC) meeting for 2022.

“What our members are saying is that there are problems at various levels, and that’s been confirmed by suppliers as well,” Woodward said. 

“Suppliers are essentially sitting on the limited parts they have because they’re trying to keep manufacturers supplied, so they can keep manufacturing going. We know there’s a limited supply, particularly with trailer EBS parts.”

And the worldwide shortage of chips is only exacerbating the problem. 

“EBS systems are pretty reliable and robust and do service well. New trailers built after November 1, 2019 must also be fitted with roll stability as a requirement. Now, if for some reason one of these two systems goes down and operators can’t get parts, technically the vehicle is no longer compliant. In that instance, are operators going to be given an exemption or do they have to park their trailers up?”

Operators of equipment fitted with modern safety technologies are the ones most likely to be impacted by parts supply shortages.

“There have been some unfounded stories of people doing bits and pieces to emissions systems because they couldn’t get the parts. If people spent as much energy as they do trying to defeat these technologies, and put it into trying to do the right thing, the industry would be flying. 

“I’m a big believer in EBS and roll stability. I’ve seen what these systems can do when things go wrong. Unfortunately, there will always be operators out there who think they’re smarter than all of the smart systems. But for every bad story in this industry, there are at least half a dozen good stories.”

Woodward says discussions around this issue need to start now. “It’s a bit like with the AdBlue shortage situation, the supply was more dire than anybody appreciated. Unfortunately, the regulators don’t have a good track record with these sorts of issues, so the industry really needs to get on the front foot with this,” he said.

“These sorts of issues are really important to the industry. The general public will remember the shortage of toilet paper, but they’ll never accept if there’s a shortage of toilet paper because we can’t get the parts required to keep the trucks that deliver that toilet paper on the road.”

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