Company hopes it has its big brake EBT trying to sell emergency system for tractor-trailers


October 28, 1997|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A tanker truck barrels along I-70 at 55 mph, but suddenly starts skidding. The tires squeal and smoke, and the smell of burning rubber pervades the air.

These are all things that usually precede a horrible accident. But not this time.

The tanker bounces up and down as it slides along the highway, but it doesn't jackknife; it skids in a straight line.

The 150 spectators standing 10 feet away are safe. They break into applause.

The big rig stops in an amazingly short 160 feet. Driver Dorsey Hutchins flashes a big smile as he hops out of the cab. "I had it under control all the time," he says.

What startled other motorists driving along this section of highway just inside the Baltimore Beltway yesterday was a demonstration of an emergency braking system that a Maryland company has been working on for about 10 years.

"Yeah, we're the same guys who came up with this idea back in 1987," said George A. Percy Jr., the 77-year-old inventor of the system, which is designed to prevent tractor-trailers from jackknifing -- even on wet pavement and steep grades.

Percy is vice president of research and development for Emergency Brake Technologies Inc., the Joppa company that hopes to install its auxiliary brakes on rigs worldwide. With the help of nearly $1 million, raised in a private offering, EBT hopes to make its first sale within the next 30 days.

"There are a lot of people interested in this system," Percy said of the $3,895 brake system.

"It has been a long haul," he said, "But we have finally gotten our patent and now we're ready to do business."

Michael K. Coale is president and chief executive of EBT. He also is vice president of Coale Truck Transport Inc., a trucking company in Joppa. He plans to install the brakes on 10 long-haul trucks that will demonstrate the system on highways nationwide.

The brake system consists of a metal frame holding a polyurethane wedge and a treaded rubber flap. When the driver flips a switch on the dashboard, the wedge drops onto the road and the rear wheels of the trailer ride onto the flaps. The flaps scrape on the roadway, keeping the trailer skidding in a straight


The system works with the truck's regular brakes to cut emergency stopping distances by one-third to one-half.

There are about 350,000 accidents on U.S. highways each year involving tractor-trailers.

This has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considering regulations to enhance the braking ability of heavy trucks.

"Holy moly," exclaimed James Kavle, a physician from Philadelphia, after watching a demonstration of the brake used to stop a tractor pulling dual trailers on a wet road. "It's unbelieveable."

Kavle has invested $100,000 in EBT and thinks the company's success rests with insurance companies offering reduced rates to trucking companies with rigs equipped with the brake.

Tfc. Bradley Harold of the Maryland State Police rode in the Ford tractor during the dual trailer test. It made him a believer. "I'm impressed," he said. "It's such a simple device, but it really works. In panic stops, it can be real beneficial."

Lt. Edward Schulz of the state police commercial vehicle enforcement division, called the system "impressive."

But, he said, a truck equipped with the system may stop so fast that a vehicle behind it might not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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