Archive for February, 2011

February 13, 2011


February 13, 2011

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February 3, 2011

The over run brake on the trailer involved in the Selby Rail disasater is virtually identical to those used by schools, universities and rowing clubs affiliated to the Amateur Rowing Association when towing a trailer with a mini bus.

Peter W Jones MInstP
I have pasted the blog below into this site because is again “off line.” The latter blog had been visited around 4800 times ( when I last gained access) with the hits greatly in excess of this figure, since publication in April 2007.

(15a) The Selby Road/Rail Disaster
Almost unchanged from my 2005 report to the itai
The investigation by the Police Traffic Accident Investigator (Steven W. Shone of Humberside Police) was reported on in the Spring/August edition (2002) of the Journal of the ITAI (see references section ). Steven Shone wrote that when he went to examine the trailer involved in this accident he found that “When the handbrake was released,the shoes did not return to their normal position, this being due to corrosion within the mechanism.”
Subsequently Steven Shone carried out a very detailed investigation as he was required to give evidence concerning the road worthiness of the trailer. Reports in the media indicate the verdict of the court was that the accident was caused by factors unrelated to the state of the trailer. However, I hope that the Caravan/Trailer industry will read this report with care and take account of the implications for road safety. I was not surprised to read of possible corrosion within the brake hubs as it is very difficult for any one other than the original manufacturer to dismantle the latest ( post 1993) brake hubs ( see Haynes Caravan Manual Page 48 onwards).
The majority of caravans will stand idle over the Winter; some caravans are exposed to a salt laden atmosphere if used in the Winter or kept near the coast; boat trailers are regularly immersed in water. I did not have trouble with brake parts or wheel bearings corroding in the 12 years I regularly used a boat trailer as I kept the wheel bearings well greased, and due to the easily dismantled taper bearings on the wheels could easily apply a little high melting point grease to any part of the brake mechanism that I thought needed it.
Mr Shone did eventually conclude that the brakes of the trailer he was investigating did return to effectiveness after a period of use, but this was a commercial trailer which would be unlikely to be out of use for considerable periods of time.

This report also stated that, “Further examination ( of the brakes) showed that although the brakes would now act on all four wheels, they were not all capable of resisting being turned by hand when the over-run device was applied to its maximum amount of travel.”
In this case Mr Shone was put to an inordinate amount of trouble, because, unlike other road vehicles there is no legally specified test for caravan and trailer brakes. He could only test the brakes on a private road using a special device placed in the car footwell which measured deceleration. He concluded that the brakes did conform to current legal requirements


The Case against Over Run Brakes
I wrote about this in my blog
Starting at paragraph 1e, and in
paragraph 12a
The material in these blogs is an update of a paper I produced for the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators in 2005. This was not published, but most of the material had been well circulated via the private Yahoo web site for Accident Investigators

The Selby Rail Disaster
Some years ago a Land Rover Defender towing a trailer with over run brakes and carrying a fairly large car ran on to the main railway line whilst the driver was sleeping (this was the verdict of the Court) right up to the last short distance to the point of impact with the passenger train.
See para 2c in and para 15a in
I have owned a Land Rover Discovery for 11 years, as well as a Jaguar 21 Sailing Cruiser with road trailer for 19 years. The latter is comparable in weight with the trailer plus car in the above accident. My Discovery is mechanically almost the same as a Defender and as the latter type was not available to the police for testing the trailer which survived the accident (the train only hit the Land Rover) the police used a Discovery similar to mine to do their tests ( my information comes from an article in the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators Journal).
I have towed the Jaguar 21 far enough to learn about towing this weighty object; I towed my previous sailing cruiser (a Bradwell 18) around 8000 miles in 12 years, between various coastal harbours and non tidal rivers in Wales and the Midlands.
I have frequently pulled my current sailing cruiser up a steep shingle beach, and of course gone down the same slope when launching. I need to engage the “locking differential mechanism” and use
the low ratio gear box to do this.
(When I had a Rover 3500 SD1 SE V8 I had to use a long rope and block and tackle to pull the boat up the same slope).
I have looked at railway embankments of different types, from the train, and from the top near roads.
I think that if I had woken up some distance down an embankment when I was driving my Discovery but not towing, I could have avoided getting on to the track. I would first of all have turned at about 45 degrees to continue at a slightly reduced speed due to the reduced gradient. When I reached the bottom I also think that I could have turned again to run parallel with the track.
The Land Rover driver who caused the Selby Rail Disaster was an experienced professional tower of trailers and would be even more familiar than I am with the dangers resulting from turning whilst towing such a heavy trailer with over run brakes. He kept the outfit going straight on as I would have done. Trying to turn would have been a worse option as at the time the train was not in view.
The police spent an enormous amount of time testing the trailer that survived the disaster intact, as the train only collided with the Land Rover. The police proved that the trailer met the requirements as laid down by parliament. If their tests had shown otherwise the man may have been given a lighter sentence or even acquitted.
It has been about two years since I wrote my report for the ITAI and I now think that the police should have run additional tests on the trailer as it may have been possible to show that although it did comply with the law, it could possibly be demonstrated that it was dangerous to turn same in such a situation. This would mean, (if demonstrated in the tests), that the trailer was a subsidiary cause of the accident and that this may have given rise to a different verdict/sentence or a “Rider” concerning over run brakes. (Roll bars are common in vehicles used for off road events, as is the use of full safety harness, so non professional testers should be well protected).
This is very much the “Science of Hindsight” many years after the event. I do not think that at the time of the crash any serious doubts had been raised concerning over run brakes. The brake actuating mechanism was first introduced about 1929 and at the speeds most trailers were pulled at in those days I am not surprised that few problems showed up. It is since the development of fast roads and the increase in the popularity of recreational towing that concern about caravan/trailer safety has increased.
If the defence solicitors had seen any evidence that this was the case I am sure they would have insisted that the matter was investigated.
I do not wish to suggest that the police or any one else reopen this case in court.
However, I do think that all road users will wish to have this matter evaluated if the hypothetical case I have outlined above fits the layout of the embankment at the crash site. If there is not a match and it is felt that the gradient at the crash site is too steep for any evasive action to have been taken, I hope that tests will be carried out on a slope more typical of most embankments, as well as on flat tarmac roads in a testing site. (I am not proposing that a railway embankment is used, unless it is a disused railway and disused railways may have great numbers of trees and not be typical of those in use).
These results would also be available as evidence for future court hearings. The Police Accident Investigators could repeat the tests if they thought it necessary.

As far as I know Bath University were not asked to investigate over run brakes.

In my Blogs (see first reference above after main headings) there is a description of a jack knifing accident, and even though I only obtained my information from the TV news and Radio 4 news, I think there is enough to show that there is a serious problem with over run brakes in the case I quote.
Tests should also be carried out to replicate the swerve made by the driver in the above accident (a) using a trailer with over run brakes and (b) using a trailer with electric brakes.