Following successful trials, Fowler Welch, one of the UK’s leading supply chain distribution organisations, are now specifying as standard the air-operated sliding fifth wheel coupler from Fontaine Europe.
The trials were carried out at the company’s Washington and Newton Abbot depots using trailers from 10m to 15.65m which require constant coupling and uncoupling to MAN TGXXLX and Mercedes Axor tractor units. The objectives being to reduce driver handling – eliminating two-phase or ‘split’ coupling- and to improve safety.
The mechanism relies on a low pressure air feed to reduce the manual force normally required to operate the handle. Once in place, a sensor automatically registers ‘green’ for a correct coupling – with ‘dog clip’ inserted – or ‘red’ if incorrect and the dog clip is not in place.
An external, green LED warning light serves as a fail-safe back up to the audible flashing light on the cab’s dash board. Therefore, if the coupling is defective and the driver has not responded to the in-cab alert, the light will not come on externally and will be noted by ground personnel. To operate the pneumatic slider, a button is pressed in the cab.
Fowler Welch say that the air-operated fifth wheel also comes into its own by reducing the need for driver access between the tractor and trailer where space is restricted owing to the nose-mounted refrigeration units – another plus for safety.
“With a fleet the size of ours and the high frequency of coupling and uncoupling involved” says Paul Allera, Head of Fleet for Fowler Welch “it is important to use equipment which not only reduces risk and improves safety but also adds efficiency.
“The air operated coupler has certainly lived up to these requirements and as such is now specified as standard.”
Fowler Welch whose warehousing, consolidation and distribution network spans 11 locations in the UK and Europe, operate 327 Euro 5 tractor units along with 782 trailers, 570 of which are refrigerated. The company expects to take delivery of a further 20 Scania Highlines in April.