Human error can be taken out of trailer coupling through three-sensor fifth wheels, which allows the operator to be confident that the vehicle is safe to drive. The technology was pioneered by JOST UK 14 years ago, who here looks at how it has developed over the years and become popular with increasing numbers of fleets both in the UK and around the world.
JOST’s Sensoric fifth wheel is based on its market leading lightweight JSK 36D. All the sensors are incorporated within the structure of the fifth wheel, to create a robust and damage resistant unit.
Paul Clayton, JOST’s UK and Regional and Technical Sales and Support Manager, explained: “Safety has to be paramount with fifth wheel couplings. Special features within the standard JSK36D, include a recessed lock jaw to assist safe coupling, guide bars to ensure the king pin is directed squarely into the mechanism, while a fully supported locking bar gives complete security to the king pin when the mechanism is closed. Once the tractor unit and trailer are coupled, an automatic locking catch ensures overall security.
“Thus coupling is quite a straightforward operation and there is even a spring hook and chain to provide extra security. In addition there is also an option of a Fleetmaster handle. ”
Uncoupling is equally simple, using the JSK36D’s pull cable.
JOST’s Sensoric fifth wheel brings additional operational safety and driver confidence by detecting three separate functions. The first sensor indicates that the skid plate of the trailer has made contact with the main plate of the fifth wheel; the second one shows that the king pin has entered the mechanism correctly; the third sensor, located on the locking catch, provides a final double check.
When all three sensors have been activated a green ‘coupled’ light is automatically illuminated on the sensor console mounted in the driver’s cab. This confirms to the driver that every step of the coupling process has been safely completed.
Once driving has commenced the green light gradually fades away until it is completely out. However, the sensors constantly monitor the fifth wheel during travel, giving the driver confidence that the vehicle remains safe.
Clayton added: “The Sensoric means the driver has one less thing to think about,” says Paul, “so can concentrate on the road, traffic and weather.”
JOST offers several versions of the Sensoric fifth wheels, including cast steel and low maintenance versions. Some vehicle manufacturers offer these as a factory option, which allows them to integrate sensor display within the dashboard rather than fitting it as a separate remote unit.
Jannine Burt, Regional Sales and Fleet Manager for JOST UK, gives her view on the Sensoric fifth wheel: “As you would expect, JOST has designed the sensor system to be incredibly robust and able to withstand the rigour of long hours on the road. The sensors are located in places where they are afforded maximum protection from knocks and bumps, environmental conditions and vibrations. They are also positioned so that they are not likely to be broken during coupling/uncoupling and to discourage deliberate tampering or unauthorised adjustment.
“Our design team also ensured reliable signal transmission by selecting top quality sensors, shielding against signal corruption by electromagnetic interference and maximised compatibility with other electrical and electronic vehicle systems.”
In summary, JOST takes the view that sensors systems are becoming a way of life and are further enhancing vehicle and driver safety and represent another step in the onward march of technology.