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Fowler Welch fits air operated fifth wheels

Spalding, UK: Fowler Welch is specifying as standard air-operated sliding fifth wheel couplers from Fontaine Europe following trials carried out at Fowler Welch’s Washington and Newton Abbot depots.

The trials were on trailers from 10m to 15.65m which require constant coupling and uncoupling to MAN TGXXLX and Mercedes-Benz 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.

Fowler Welch aims to reduce driver handling, eliminating two-phase or ‘split’ coupling, and improve safety with air operated fifth wheels

Fowler Welch aims to reduce driver handling, eliminating two-phase or ‘split’ coupling, and improve safety with air operated fifth wheels

An external, green warning light serves as a fail-safe back up to the audible flashing light on the cab’s dash board.  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, 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 operates 327 Euro 5 tractor units and 782 trailers, 570 of which are refrigerated.